Living Water for a Thirsty Land
Do we live in a Christian land? The national census says Christianity is the major religion in the UK. Politicians, like David Cameron, say that Britain is a Christian country. The queen, Elizabeth II, says that Jesus is the king she serves. So, it is tempting to believe that we live in a place where Christianity is alive and fulfilling its mission, right?
Well, believe it or not, the decline of Christianity is an ongoing trend in the UK for many years. However, although Christianity continues to decline in the UK, according to the British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey for 2018, the number of those identifying as Muslim increased from 1 per cent in 1983 to 3 per cent in 2008, and 6 per cent in 2018. Researchers also found that an overall 55 per cent of the population express some sort of belief in some kind of God. Many of these are migrants from a different religious background.
As the UK gets more secularized and diverse, Christianity loses its social and cultural significance among those living here. As a result, many churches decide to just prolong their existance (or death) instead of accomplishing their mission. They become reservoirs instead of rivers. Let me explain.
Do you know what a dam is? It is a reservoir, a barrier built through a river to store water. This is greatly beneficial for farmers, especially during a dry season in some countries, because they do not need to rely on the rain to have their crops watered. But besides the positive effect, there is a negative effect as well. When the water is over accumulated, it prevents the flow of the river to other areas in its course. The result is that almost nothing can grow or survive in these areas due to lack of water.
In a similar way, our local churches can operate as spiritual reservoirs. Churches that enjoy Jesus among themselves, but do not share him with others. The result of this inward focus is terrible. People are dying spiritually speaking even though there are churches near them. We need to allow Jesus, “the living water” to flow in the UK. But how can our churches do it? Many people will listen to the gospel in the UK if we simply break down three barries. Let us see what these barriers are and how to break them.
Firstly, break the territorial barrier through a missional approach.
This barrier is related to places we do not want to go to share the gospel. So, instead of going to these mission fields, churches send out evangelists or missionaries. I am not saying that we should not send evangelists or missionaries out. That is not my point. My point is that we should not rely on others to do what we all are meant to do. To make disciples. Jesus gave us this example in John 4:1-4. He took his disciples to Samaria, a place avoided by the Jews. Was that an accident? I do not think so. Jesus wanted to break the territorial barrier so that people could hear the gospel.
We need to copy Jesus. We need to break the territorial barrier through a missional approach. In Mathew 28:19, for instance, Jesus tells his disciples to “go”. In other words, we are not meat to expect people to come to us. As Ray Comfort says, “A church that is waiting for sinners to visit their building is like the police waiting for criminals to visit their station”. We need to go. We need to be missional.
Secondly, break the cultural barrier through a multicultural approach.
This second barrier is related to the people we do not want to share the gospel with. So, instead of engaging with people from different from us, we pick and chose those we want to engage with. However, that is not what Jesus taught us. In John 4:5-10, Jesus engaged with a Samaritan, a group of people despised by the Jews. He engaged with a woman even though that was culturally unacceptable. Was that an accident? I do not think so. He knew what he was doing. He broke another barrier, the cultural barrier.
We must follow Jesus' example. We can break the cultural barrier through a multicultural approach. In Matthew 28:19, Jesus commanded us to reach the “nations”, a word that could also be translated as “people groups”. In other words, people groups made in God’s. People groups separated from God because of sin. Muslims and Jews. Hindus and Buddhists. White and black. Poor and rich. The elderly and the young. People groups who need to be reconciled to God through Jesus.
Thirdly, break the spiritual barrier through a biblical approach.
The spiritual barrier is the subjects we do not want to talk about when sharing the gospel with non-Christians. Many people avoid as much as possible any kind of conflict. So, they are ready to say that God is love, but they avoid as much as possible to explain that those without Jesus are sinners who deserve hell. They are ready to share the good news, but not the bad news. However, in John 4:16-22, Jesus used a different approach. He pointed out the Samaritan women heretical theology and her moral wrongdoing. Jesus knew that diplomacy and political correctness can save friendships but cannot save friends from hell.
So, we need to be kind and compassionate with people, but we also need to be bold and biblical. Jesus himself, in Matthew 28:19-20, commanded us to teach everything. Therefore, we need to confront sinners with the truth. We need to communicate the bad news before sharing the good news. We need to be like doctors who gives the diagnoses before suggesting the treatment.
We all know how hard it is to break these barries, right? However, in John 4, many people were able to understand the gospel because Jesus was willing to break barriers. Isn’t it worth breaking these barriers? If so, let us get to work. Let us go to places where we normally would not go by being missional rather than attractional. Let us relate to people, we normally would not relate to by being multicultural rather than monocultural. Let us share the gospel by being gospel-centred rather than people-centred. Are you ready to break the barriers that prevent our healthy growth in our churches?