The last words in Matthew 28:16-20 are, “16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Let’s look closely at the things Jesus commands his followers to do: Make disciples. Baptize them. Teach them to obey his commandments.
If we’re not careful, we’ll completely ignore this passage at Snake Spring Valley CoB. Right now, our congregation is growing in numbers. This is a great thing. To those who are new to Snake Spring Valley and to those who came back after drifting away, we say, “Welcome! We’re glad you’re here.” However, Jesus didn’t say to grow the church by bringing in people who are already Christians. He said to go out among those who don’t know Jesus and bring them in.
How are we doing with this? Do we make an effort to share Christ with those who don’t know Him or are we living in a Christian bubble?
In his book, They Like Jesus But Not The Church, Dan Kimball writes there are Four Phases Christians Go Through.
Phase 1: We become Christians. We come to have faith in Christ, understand God’s grace and get excited about Jesus. Research shows new Christians tell 20 people about their new faith.
Phase 2: We become part of the church. This is a good thing. New Christians should become involved in a local congregation. However, they begin to slowly lose touch with non-Christians. The longer we are Christians, the fewer non-Christian friends we have. We no longer befriend, pray for, and get involved in their lives.
Phase 3: We become part of the Christian bubble. Evangelism becomes something the church does through events instead of through personal relationships. That’s what the Evangelism Team is supposed to do. We become more excited about going on mission trips than serving in the mission field right around us.
During this phase, Christians start “going to church” instead of “being the church”. We don’t hang out or go to movies with non-Christians. All of our radios are set to Christian music stations. We start to speak “Christianese” by using words like backsliding, prayer warrior, fellowship, quiet time and traveling mercies. Unchurched people have no idea what these words even mean.
Phase 4: We become Jonah. During the time of Jonah, the Assyrian Empire was violently oppressing Israel. Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Jonah 1:1-3 says, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Jonah didn’t want God to grant mercy to the Assyrians so he ran in the opposite direction.
By the time we’re in Phase 4, we do the same thing. We begin to complain and point out the terrible things in the culture instead of engaging it. We run from what Jesus tells us to do. Christians in this phase place more emphasis in making sure the church gives them what they want over trying to reach those outside of the church community. Dan Kimball states, “We get into a retreat mentality in which we think of the church as a protection-from-the-world social club.” The church becomes more about programs than following the leading of the Holy Spirit.
At this point, we don’t realize we are living in a Christian bubble because everyone around us is also living in it.
Are you living in the bubble in some areas of your Christian life?
When we live like this, two important things take place. First of all, we lose focus on reaching the lost. We’ll talk about doing evangelism. We just never get around to actually doing it. There’s always something more important to do. Meanwhile people around us keep dying in their sins. We go on with our own lives and don’t care. The sad truth is when we do this, we’re telling people, “Go to hell” because that’s where they’re going to end up if they don’t know Jesus.
The second thing which happens is the church becomes about “us.” It’s not about reaching the lost, serving the community or stepping out of our comfort zone. It about keeping us comfortable. The ministries God has given us become our personal projects instead of calling from God. We have to hang onto them at all costs. We’ll use anger, threats of quitting and gossip if necessary. If someone else isn’t doing their ministries the way we think they should, we’ll worm our way in and take over because we can do it better. This can lead to bickering and gossiping about each other. After all, if the church is about “us”, then we should have what we want.
It’s easy to say, “That’s not me. But I hope sister/brother so-and-so hears this.” If you think this message doesn’t describe you, let me ask you some questions:
1) Do you pray on a daily or even weekly basis about the ministry God has given you?
2) Do you try to tell other people how to do their ministry?
3) Do you get angry when someone challenges you?
4) Do you act as if no one else can do your ministry?
5) Do you pray for God’s guidance or do you assume that nothing will ever need to change?
6) If God is calling for change, do you refuse to be a part of it?
7) Do you make an effort to share your faith with others?
8) Do you hang around with non-Christians so you can be a witness to them?
The way we answer these questions shows whether or not we are living in a bubble. According to the Bible, living in a bubble is sin. God calls us to repent of isolating ourselves from those who are outside of the church or acting like our God-given ministries belong to us. 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 says, “14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”
Please spend some time reflecting on how you practice your faith. In what ways are you living in a Christian bubble? Once you discover these areas, are you willing to repent?
Next week we’ll look at how to get out of the bubble.