Building your Emerging Church from Matthew 14: 22-36
Jesus Walks on Water! So can your church to a postmodern generation! If we keep our eyes on Him, we succeed; if we take them off and think we can do better on our own with our faulty ideas, we sink! Here is a picture of how our Lord intercedes for us, comes to us, and shows us the way of faith. When we fail, He gives us His hand and places us where we need to be. The way to open this door so He can work is to put our key of trust in the keyhole. He is the keyhole; He is the door. He gives us the key of faith to open His treasures, and secures us through the storm.
If we lead our emergent churches from flawed old methods that scare people away or do new trends that dilute or weaken the Gospel, we will soon realize they are both wrong. We must keep our eyes upon Christ, not the ocean of cultural changes or feel-good, meaningless messages or resources that are weak and ineffective. We need to teach the basics, showing the person and precepts of our Lord to a sinking generation. If we are sinking too, if we are a drowning person or church, we can't lift up another; we will both drown. We are called to swim deep into Him!
After Jesus was interrupted from His needed rest and went to minister to over five thousand families, teaching and feeding them, He sent them out to continue their lives and put into practice what they had learned. We are not told what the long term effects were on those people. Did their lives change? Did they become Christians after Jesus' resurrection, adding to the Church? Or, did they just go back to their lives with a great story to tell, but with no impact, no application, and no real meaning? Results are not our responsibility as a church-only our obedience and willingness to strive our best for His glory. Jesus then returned to His rest and His much needed solitude with the Father. He sent the disciples across the lake; He will make His way to them later. A storm of such magnitude that it frightened even sea-hardened fisherman, came up abruptly. Jesus went to the rescue of the disciples, cutting though the storm, and literally walking on water to them. Do you know He does this with us? Do you see Him as you steer your church through stormy cultural waters? The disciples are astonished, seeming to have forgotten the impossible nature of their Teacher, even after a magnificent miracle. Once again, they leave out faith and trust and only see their situation. Then they realize, for a time, that this is Someone to be feared and worshiped.
Does Jesus need to send you away-for rest, recharging, or to get your life and will rooted in Him and away from what is false? As the Teacher, He controlled the audience; he also needs to control your vision for your church. Teachers had more respect and influence then. It is not so much that way now, but we are still to teach. Jesus was not rejecting them just to get some rest; rather, He was sending them off to put into practice His message. Do you put in to practice His message or do you cherry-pick at it?
What does Jesus do? By Himself to pray. Most pious teachers would often go alone to pray. The customary length of time in this culture was two hours a day for rabbis and Pharisees. Some teachers did this to show that they were pious, while others actually sought after God. We can't let our faith be a pretence; it has to be real for this new generation that needs authenticity! Here, we also see an image of the intimacy of the Trinity as well as a model for us on the importance of prayer. The mountains then were often used as a place to get away from the crowded towns, and retreat to recharge the spiritual batteries-just as we do today. Be recharged; do not let burnout or pride get you!
Are you tossed by the waves? Just as the passage of Matthew 8:23-27 shows, storms would come up suddenly through the mountain passes to the Sea of Galilee in the valley below. Likewise, crises will come to besiege you and your church. Do you see Jesus in your life and ministry? The Disciples cried out, it is a ghost. Just as today, ghosts were a part of the cultural-folk mindsets, imaginations, and superstitions, but not the religious theology. Jews believed the dead are taken to "Abrahams Bosom;" no one stays behind. However, just as many Christians today believe in ghosts when the Bible emphatically teaches otherwise. Here is a typical, scary scene of a dark, powerful storm in the middle of a large lake, and it does not take much imagination to picture their plight. So, when they saw a man walking on the sea, it must have caused considerable fright-especially since Jesus was not with them, or so they thought. But, Jesus was there, and they had to recognize Him before they could trust Him. Do you know He is in and with you and your church? What are you doing about it?
This passage is also a reflection of God creating the world as He hovered over the waters-"Trod" (Gen 1:2). Jesus reflects the Father and walks on the water, showing us His Deity, power, and care! Moses, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha all did water miracles; however, they did them by God's power. Jesus is God, showing us His power.How do you see His power and control for you and your church? How must you see Him to really grow your people into the depths of His Living Water? Do you see Him in and for your church? He, says, it is I. This literally means, the self revelation of God, "I AM," as the name God used to reveal who He is to Moses (Duet. 32:39; Ex. 3:14; Isa. 41:4; 43:10-13, 25; 45:18; 52:6; Hos. 13:4; Joel 2:27). A step of faith was needed, which is easy to do when we can see, but, in a storm, we usually cannot see. We cannot wait until it clears up; we have to step out and obey His precepts, regardless of the weather or what others say. Do not let doubt and fears adjoin to the storm; see Jesus cut across the storm, so you can see His hand! We must obey with joy (John 2:5)!
Peter gets a bad rap from most preachers, but the fact is… he walked. Most Bible teachers like to emphasize Peter's lack of faith when he sank. But, this passage also shows his strong sense of faith, as he does a miracle of Old Testament prophet proportions. He did walk on water; did the other Disciples? When was the last time you did? Despite failure, Peter did trust and obey. But, like many of us, as soon as his eyes were off Jesus and his attention was on the storm, he sank. Then he cried out in desperation without exercising much faith. Now Jesus says, come, which points to a picture of how Jesus rescues us. We all need to be rescued. He reaches out to us; we all need to respond to Him by taking His lead (Psalm 69).
The response? Worship, as in awe and praise, was a proclamation of respect given to a king or an idol (1 Sam. 24:8; 25:23). Jesus, being God who rescues us, deserves our utmost respect, awe, and praise. This praise must not be given to anyone or anything else! We, as Christians, need to know that storms will come; storms always come. Either you are in a storm, coming out of a storm or in the middle of the eye of a storm-surrounded by a storm, but, not seeing it. We all will experience rough times, either because of our disobedience, or, from the misdeeds of others affecting us. Since most of humanity is interconnected by just two or three degrees of separation, all of our actions and decisions affect one another, for the good or for the bad. But, even in a storm, He takes us to the shore!
Many were brought to Him, touched, and made well, as He will do with you and your church. Will you let Him in? Here, Jesus continues to exercise His Godhood and compassion, taking the time to heal people who probably were only there to get something, not there for deeper spiritual things or to know the God of the universe. Jesus loves us even through our frailties, and even when we are chasing the wrong things in life.
Again, the disciples must have known that Jesus was more than an ordinary teacher. After all, He had performed many greater miracles thus far, such as the feeding of five thousand and their families from one person's lunch just a day before. How often do we receive His blessings or see His miracles work, then forget it the next time; or, go on, not trusting Him, even though Jesus has brought us through so much. Complacency is the evil of our will that does not recognize what He has done before, so, we do not look ahead and trust Him. We become stuck in ourselves, perhaps too comfortable, too fearful, or we just do not care. We have to see who He is, and what He has done so we can see ahead for what He will do for us personally and our church that we are called to steward. He knows you; He knows your situation, your needs, and He cares! We have to know firmly in our mindsets and in our faith that although Christ may seem absent from us, He is not. He is watching; He is near. In fact, He is right beside us, walking on water. Forget your will; forget your past; forget your failures, forget your fears, and forget what you may not be able to see. Reach out and take His hand! He will lead you and your church with joy, lift you up, and place you in His will. This us what the emergent generations need and your call to do to them as Christ has done for you. Be the "Vicar" of Christ to them!
What we are called to do in our emerging churches is simple: point out Jesus Christ, LORD and Savior, and draw others into a deeper, more meaningful personal relationship with Christ. Use the Scripture to be drawn in closer yourself and to draw others into Him. The Bible is not a club meant to pound on people, nor is it acid to burn people. Rather, it is a container of His love, hope, and principles for living, for knowing our Lord and getting our lives on His path for a great, enjoyable journey. If we do not engage His Word, we cannot engage our Church to be in Him effectively, and we miss what we are all about as Christians. If we ignore His wonders and precepts, we ignore Him and will end up doing our church our way and not His Way. Guess which way is wrong?
Questions to ponder:
1. If you were in a boat, and someone came by, walking on the water, what would you say?
2. How has our Lord interceded for you and/or your church in the past?
3. Have you ever considered that Jesus secures us through the storms of life? How so? Why not?
4. Why do you suppose the Disciples were astonished? Are you? Consider the many miracles and the power Jesus had demonstrated prior to this event.
5. Why do you go alone to pray? Or, do you? Should you? What would that do for you as a leader? What will that do for the people you are called to lead?
6. Some people pray to show that they are pious, while others seek after God. What is the difference, and, which does God delight in?
7. What is it that emergent peoples need from you?
8. A step of faith is easy to do when we can see; but, in a storm, we usually cannot see. Why is that?
9. What steps do you and your leadership need to make to be more impacting to young people?
10. Why do most Bible teachers like to emphasize Peter's lack of faith when he sank? Do you think he lacked faith? Yes, he did, or he would not have sunk; however, would you have stepped out of the boat?
11. What boat do you need to step out of?
12. Do you believe and have faith, even in the storms of life? If not, what stops you? What takes your eyes off Him so you sink?
13. Read Psalm 69 (if too long, choose the first three verses). How are you represented in this Psalm? How can you see yourself more in this Psalm? How can you know more about yourself here? In knowing your plight in life and your role in your church, how can you stretch out your hand more to Christ as your Lord?
14. Why should we, as Christians, need to know and prepare our hearts and minds as well as our church folks that storms will come? Storms always come. What happens when we do not prepare?
15. Jesus, as our Lord and example, took His time to heal and minister to people who probably were only there to get something, and not for deeper spiritual things. How can this motivate and encourage your church to reach out without expecting results? Remember, the results are in the hands of the Holy Spirit-not us!
16. Jesus loves us, even through our frailties, and even when we are chasing the wrong things in life. How can this fact encourage you and help you encourage others?
17. How often do we, as Christians-perhaps even you-receive His blessings, or see His miracles work, and then next time forget it?
18. What can you do not to let doubt and fear adjoin to the storms of your life so they become worse? How can you see more clearly that Jesus cut across the storm?
19. Complacency is the evil of our will that does not see what He has done before, so, we do not look ahead and trust Him. What can you do so complacency does not rule in your heart or your church leadership?
20. What do you need to believe and do, so that you are able to forget your will, forget your past, and forget what you may not be able to see, and reach out and take His hand in life and lead your church where He wants you to go?
© 2005 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org/