Building your Emerging Church from Matthew 5: 13-16
What direction are you headed and who and what is your navigational beacon? Our call is to lead His Church, our local "emergent church," to anchor our line to fix on Christ as Lord. One of the concerns of our movement is we as a whole seem to take ideas from a variety of sources and many of whom are not good. We are not truthful and discerning as we are called to be. We are not to anchor our churches to changing trends, just to be relevant. We may glean ideas from them, but they are not our god-Christ is. Even the people we are to reach are not our prime task; His glory is! Peter is seeking to help them remember who they are in Christ and the wonders of Him, not the lusts and desires of the flesh. God wants us to live lives that are worthy of being given grace and to show excellence in our character for His glory and for our contentment in Him. Drop your anchor into the sea of God's faithfulness! Steer your helm to His Light! Do this with a pure mind, undefiled by the filth of false teachers and faulty trends so we can be better prepared (Matt. 24:42-44; Rom. 12:1-3).
Matthew, chapter five is telling us to take His Word to new generations; they are not to be feared or ignored. The Church must reach out or die. It must take the Message of Christ with love and dialogue to those of our time, and be proactive, listening and keeping the faith. Our faith is formed in Christ; His Truth remains steady. Our application is how we are shaped by our world without the compromise of His Truth and communicating His precepts to be what they need, even when they do not want to hear it. Our faith-that is firm, factual, and in commitment-will be the tools Christ uses to reach the youth cultures and those who are disenfranchised. Our faith is not to be emended in the culture. Rather, we are to be the salt, and not lose our saltiness.
Salt and light are two essentials to life, especially so in the ancient world. Salt was more than just a spice for seasoning, it was an essential preservative they used before refrigeration so people could eat unspoiled food, and it was also a means of commerce as the Romans paid their solders in salt. Light was and is the needed medium for us to see. When the lights are out we cannot see; when we turn off the light to His Word, how can it impact or instruct us? This transfers to the power of the illustration that Jesus is saying to us: what good would a disciple be if he did not live as he was called to; he would be like salt that falls in dirt-useless! Or, if a city turned out its lights, how could people find it? This Matthew passage is the application to the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12). What good would it be if they were just read or placed in a frame on the wall, but never adhered to or put into practice?
The Christian leader's role in the world is to be an influencer of the world-not to hide from it, or ignore it, or alienate it from us! We are not to hide our church or compromise the Message, but engage it in our culture and time effectively. We have to find a way to influence it (Matt. 24:14; Rom. 10:18; Col. 1:6; 23; 2:20-23) without being influenced negatively by the sin and corruption ourselves (Matt. 6:19-24; 32; Luke 12:13-21; I John 2:15-17)! Just as salt is not just a seasoning, we are not to be just sitting in a pew with our correct doctrine and never do anything with it! Nor are we to make up faulty doctrine to please others. As salt is needed and put to use, so are you and your church needed and to be put to use! Salt enhances flavor (Job 6:6), thus we are to help others see their role in Christ and society. Pure salt never loses its flavor unless it is diluted with impure substances. So we must be careful not to be influenced by the people we are called to flavor! Salt also preserves, so we are to preserve not only our own faith but that of others as well! That means we are to hinder the corruption in the world by being examples and instigators of action and involvement with virtue and morality, tempered with love and care.
Now look at Jesus' warning, "but if the salt loses its flavor "refers to what good would we be to be given the greatest gift ever conceived and do nothing with it! We as the church are to bring Christ as the Gift! Jesus warns against losing our ability to be flavoring and preserving, or else we can't do that!As Salt, we are to help make the world more "palatable," that is livable and manageable to know God, and to help others. This is what a good Emerging Church is all about. It can even mean we are to take the "distastefulness" (wickedness) away to please His wrath (Christ role is the ultimate wrath appeaser), and desire to judge and annihilate it, although some theologians disagree on this. We have to bear in mind Satan's influence too (Luke 4:5-7; John 14:30; 2 Cor. 4:4; I John 5:19), and be diligent to countermand evil.
This passage ties into the last "beatitude" where Jesus warned us that the attitude the world will take (offence to the things of God) and the attack on us for following truth and righteousness is because they do not want to be reminded of their sin nor convicted of it. So, they turn it around on us, as if we are in the wrong and they are merely exercising their freedom of the will (Matt. 5:10-12). As Christians, we are the light for the world, Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12; 2 Cor 4:6; 9:12-13; Eph. 5:8-9; Phil. 2:14-15; 1 Pet. 2:9-12).We are called to arise and shine to the world! That means we receive His light and then pass it on to others around us (Isa. 60:1-3; Luke 1:78-79; Eph. 5:14; Rev. 21:23-24). Even though the world is in darkness, we are still to give light to it in morality, conviction, and care (John 1:15; Col. 1:13; I Pet. 2:9).Even though we may be persecuted, and they turn around their sins and try to pin them on us by falsely accusing us of being evil, we are still to shine His light to them, as our Lord did to the people before the cross (Luke 23:32-33). Do not give up!
As we are called to impact and influence the world, we are not to become influenced or impacted by the world ourselves. Because we are citizens of the kingdom, we are called to give the world "flavor" and that flavor and light must be from God's point of view and character-not from our presumptions and fallen thinking!This means we are to keep ourselves from sin and be in Him (1 Co 15:33; Eph. 5:3-7)!
What happens if you feel that you have lost that flavor or light? Remove the impurities, the sin of focusing on the wrong things and that which goes against His Word and character! Warning! If you chose not to, you too may be thrown out! No, we cannot lose our salvation. But, unless you never came to Christ, you can lose blessings and rewards to come (Psalm 51:10-15)!As light, we are to Worship Him as a lifestyle and attitude, then radiate and proclaim the praises of God (you have to be converted and convicted before you can spread it) to family, friends, and the world. Look at the word"lights;" we live in a dark world, so we are to pass Him (the Light) onto others. For light to be light it must be visible! Just as in the salt illustration-what good would it be to hide that light from others (John 13:35; 17:21)?
Putting it all together: Although our hope is in eternity and this earth is our temporary home, we are still to do our best while we are here (1 Pet. 2:11). We are not to withdraw from it or become like the world. Rather, we are to engage it. This is what a real emerging church should be about (John 17:5; Titus 2:12)! We are to be different and set apart only in our thinking and virtue. We are to still to be involved in our society in building relationships and a better society and world. We also need not be afraid to confront sin and evil, but always do it in the parameters of the Christ-like character of love, care, and hope while not losing our stand or dignity as His child (Rom. 12:1-3; Eph. 4:17-5:17; Col. 3:5-11)! In so doing, we are to proclaim the Word as evangelists in our spoken words and modeling deeds (Matt. 28:19-20; Luke 24; I Pet. 2:12)!
We are to influence our culture and creation, (that is our society and environment: Gen. 1:28-30; Psalm 8:6-8) for the positive! By being salt and light, we are glorifying our Father in heaven (Luke 16:9)!
Questions to ponder:
1. How is your church seasoning? What do you do to be a positive influence to those around you?
2. Why did Jesus use this illustration to apply the Beatitudes?
3. Why are salt and light essential to life? Why are they essential to the life of the Church?
4. What good would it be if all we did with our Christianity was just read about it or place it in a frame on the wall, but never adhere to it or put it into practice?
5. Why would some Christians believe we are to hide from the world and ignore it?
6. As salt is needed and put to use, so are you and your church needed and put to use! So, in what ways can you and your church be put to use?
7. In what ways can you and your church help others see their role in Christ and society?
8. In what ways can you and your church help others by hindering the corruption in the world by being examples and instigators of action and involvement with virtue and morality, tempered with love and care?
9. Why would Jesus warn us against losing our ability to be flavoring and preserving? After all, how many Christians do you think actually follow this passage? Is it a big deal? Does it apply to me and my church?
10. What would it mean to make the world more "palatable?"
11. What are some of the "distasteful" aspects of the world that may cause you to cringe while trying to apply this passage to your life?
12. What about the distastefulness the Church (maybe even your church) has left in some people? What can you do about it?
13. How can you and your church get over your fears and apprehensions and embrace your call and duty?
14. How would a church be diligent to countermand evil?
15. For Christians, what does it mean that we are the light for the world?
16. As citizens of the kingdom, we are called to give the world "flavor." Where must that flavor come from and how can you make sure it keeps coming and not lose its enhancing and preserving ability?
17. How can our presumptions and fallen thinking get in the way of being real salt and light?
18. What do you need to do if you feel that your church may have lost that flavor or light?
19. We have to find a way to influence the world without being influenced negatively by its sin and corruption. What are three ways your church can do this?
20. We are to also influence creation-that is, the environment for the positive! Yet many Christians ignore this. How can you make sure you and your church do not ignore God's creation and your role to be good stewards of it?
Remember by being salt and light we are glorifying our Father in heaven (Luke 16:9)!
© 2002 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org