Summary: Building God’s Church through Faith(Bob Russell - When God Build’s a Church)
Have you heard the one about the rabbi, the priest, and the minister? The minister was new to town, so the rabbi and priest decided to take him out fishing so that they could get to know him. The had just gotten to the fishing spot not far from shore when they realized that they had forgotten to bring put the bait on the boat. The rabbi says “No problem, I’ll get it” and he hops out of the boat and runs across the top of the water to shore. He picks up the bait and comes back the same way. The minister is awestruck, but the priest doesn’t seem surprised so the minister says nothing. Later the priest says, “Anybody thirsty? I think I’ll go gets some drinks from the cooler.” He hops out of the boat, runs across the water, gets the drinks and comes back. An hour or so later they decide it is time for lunch. The minister, believing that he has as much faith as these guys says “I’ll get it.” He hops out of the boat and sinks like a rock. The priest turns to the rabbi and says, “Do you think we should tell him where the rocks are?”
This is the second in a series of 10 sermons about Building God’s Church. This series is loosely based on a book by Bob Russell called When God Builds a Church. Last Sunday we talked about truth. Today’s is about faith and risk.
When we talk about faith as part of the foundation of the church, people are less than surprised. Of course faith is important. In fact, it has become fashionable to refer to folks who believe in God as “people of faith.” It has become the PC term because it makes no reference to what that faith might be and it avoids the use of the word “religion” which some see as having a negative connotation. Of course the church should be founded on faith. Duh.
Obviously, our personal faith is crucial to who we are. The whole goal of the church really is to make disciples and that centers on the experience of personal faith in the saving work of Christ.
What Bob Russell is talking about here is not personal faith. He is not even talking about personal faith expressed in a corporate setting. He is talking about faith as the foundation of mission. That’s why I chose the Great Commission from Matthew as the text. I know this is a familiar text, but there is a line that is often overlooked here. Listen to these words.
When they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.
Have you ever noticed that before? Here are the disciples, Jesus closest followers, with the resurrected Christ standing in front of them, and still some doubt. All of these guys are going to give the rest of their lives to the mission that Jesus is about to give them. Most of them will be martyred in the process, but here on this mountain top they still have doubts.
Normally we talk about faith as a relationship. That is certainly true. But faith as relationship can be viewed as totally passive. In fact, that is how many of us in the church view our call. We see ourselves as called to live in communion with Christ. We construct sanctuaries where we can spend time in meditation and where we can sense the presence of God. The Greek word for “church” means “called out” and we view ourselves as being called out of the world. We seek the peace of God and we go on retreats to find it. We invite others to come along with us to find what we have found.
The truth is that there is nothing wrong with those ideas as part of the Christian experience. Jesus himself of went off alone to pray. The problem happens when this “me and God against the world” view of faith becomes our dominant view of faith.
Let me switch gears for a minute. We are often told that the best way to achieve something is to set SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time.” If you are setting a goal for yourself, if it is clear what you want to accomplish, if you can measure your progress, if it is within your ability to achieve, if it is relevant to your objectives, and if you have a specific timeframe in which you plan to accomplish it – if you do all those things you maximize the probability that you will meet the goal. One of the keys here is achievability. Setting a goal that you can’t reasonably expect to accomplish is just setting yourself up for failure. Right?