Is Your Church a Swamp or a River?

swamp

This past Sunday I had the honor of teaching through John 17:6-19 at Renovation Church. This is the most powerful, beautiful, and magnificent prayers ever recorded in human history for it is prayed by God Himself – the Lord Jesus Christ.

The last question I challenged my congregation to consider was this:

Q: Am I Mission-Focused or Inward-Focused?

This question flows out of what Jesus says in John 17:18 – “As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.”

As Christians, we are called to be “sent ones.” We are sent by Jesus into our homes, workplaces, and communities in order to share the message of John 3:16 with every possible person.

I want you to think of two bodies of water: a swamp and a river.

“Swamp” Christianity:
A swamp is created when a body of water remains stagnant. Since there is no fresh water flowing into the body, a swamp will often produce harmful bacteria that threatens to kill anyone who enters into the body of water.

That’s a picture of most churches in the United States.

Many Churches (which are made up by individual Christians) have become so inward-focused that they have lost sight of the mission given by Jesus and the lost outside of their doors. These churches spend numerous hours arguing about carpet color, remodeling their organ, and fundraising for the building they can’t afford (among many other things) – All the while forgetting that our mission as a Church and as Christians is to seek and save the lost and make disciples! (see Luke 19:10 & Matt. 28:19-20).

Why is it that, for the majority of churches (especially in small towns), if you do not dress a certain way or use the right language, you are excluded from the gathering? Why is it that churches are more obsessed with maintaining their denominational heritage rather than preaching Christ-crucified and seeking to share the incredible message of the Gospel with lost people? Why is it that, for many pastors, they put the same amount of passion into their preaching as I do when I’m reading cooking directions? (i.e. none!)

I would argue it is because we have forgotten our mission. We have allowed buildings, budgets, music, and various other (good) things distract us from the main thing – making disciples.

“River” Christianity:
A river on the other hand is a stream of ever-flowing water that is continually being funneled to give life to other bodies of water. This is a picture of the Church I believe Jesus is calling us to. I do not think it’s a coincidence that He promises to all of us in John 7:38, “The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”

What if we began to recognize that our churches exist for those not yet there? What if the purpose of our Sunday morning gatherings was to faithfully teach verse-by-verse through the Bible so that the people of the Church would be built up and empowered to share the incredible message of the Gospel with their friends (and enemies)? What if pastors actually proclaimed messages filled with passion because we have the most INCREDIBLE good news to share with a hurting world?

I think we would experience Word-centered, Christ-exalting, and Spirit-empowered revival.

Remember, the church is made up of individuals so let me pose the same question to you. Reader, are you mission-focused or inward-focused? God does not exist for your comfort, YOU exist for His glory. He has given you a mission of making disciples who make disciples. Are you doing that? Or are you distracted by (good) things that do not matter in eternity?

Friends, let’s reject the “swamp” mentality and seek to be rivers through whom the Holy Spirit flows into our homes, workplaces, and communities for the glory of God.

(If you do not have a church you are a part of, I will be preaching on the last section of Jesus’ prayer – John 17:20-26 – this Sunday. We meet on Sunday at 10am at the Garretson School and I’d be honored to have YOU as my guest.) 

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