Summary: Some churches and some Christians can be like a vortex sucking the life out of their community. Here’s how you can be a church that doesn’t suck.
The most powerful influence doesn’t have anything to do with what we have; but it has everything to do with who we are. That’s why Jesus started his Sermon on the Mount by teaching us about the kind of people we ought to be. Next, Jesus builds on that idea and goes on to teach about what we must do in order to influence society.
1. ENGAGE THE WORLD (Matthew 5:13-15)
Jesus said that … "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? (Matthew 5:13)
God sent Jesus to get involved in people’s lives.
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35)
Jesus gave life to people – he wasn’t a vortex sucking the life out of his community. Jesus wasn’t a consumer in his community – Jesus was a contributor.
If you don’t want your life to suck; if you don’t want your church to suck – then you have to take a stance that assumes that engaging with people outside the church is normal – and that retreating into your exclusive circle of Christian friends is an occasional but necessary feature of your spirituality.
2. BE DISTINCTIVE (Matthew 5:13)
Just as Jesus calls us to be “in” the world, he warns us not to be “like” the world.
But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? (Matthew 5:13b)
Jesus calls his followers to live radically different lifestyles than that of the world around us. But if you think this stops at not smoking, not drinking and not swearing, then you have missed the point. These things make you distinctive because of what you DON’T do. How about being distinctive because of what you DO do?
Everyone knows what Christians stand against. Christians are distinctive because they are against Abortion; Sex before marriage; Co-habitating; Drug abuse; Evolution; Homosexuality etc.
Now of course we do stand against these things – I’m not suggesting that we don’t. But wouldn’t it be far better for us to be distinctive because of all the good things we can contribute to the community we are in – rather than what we want to take out of it?
If you don’t want your life to suck, if you don’t want your church to suck – then you have to be distinctive; not because of what you DON’T do, but because of what you DO do.
3. GO PUBLIC (Matthew 5:14-16)
To have an influence in our families and in our community we have to let our light shine. When Jesus prayed, fasted and gave, he did it in private, - Jesus did retreat on a regular basis, and so should we. But when it came to doing good works, Jesus went public.
… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16 NIV).
The light that some Christians give off is like the moon – it gives light, but it’s pretty dim. So dim in fact that you can look directly at the moon without it effecting you. You can’t look at the sun like that. But this is the kind of light that is needed. The sun light’s up everything; nothing is hidden; sunlight changes things through osmosis; sunlight brings warmth; sunlight stimulates growth. So when the light of your good deeds shines through in public, it’s effective. People see God revealed and it changes things.
Having confidence to go public with your faith
We serve a “prevenient God.”
The fact that God is prevenient simply means that God goes before you to prepare the way. God even goes into the most irreligious places and tills the spiritual soil into which your good deeds can be sown. So to ‘prevene’ is to go beforehand and prepare something in advance.
He has made everything beautiful in it’s time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
God has gone ahead of you and set eternity in the hearts of men and women. And it’s the eternity in our hearts that draws people into a search for God. Knowing that God has already prepared people gives us confidence to “Go public” with our faith and witness.
"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him … (John 6:44 NIV)
If you don’t want to suck as a Christian then give up hiding and go public with your faith.
God doesn’t suck – so neither should you or your church.
For God so loved the world that he GAVE – (John 3:16)