S WIFT CHURCH IS SIMILAR to many other churches. Most other churches. We can point to exceptions. Attendance is not what it used to be. Involvement is down. Programs don’t work like they used to. We’re not where we want to be in mission and ministry. Then there are concerns we’ve not thought about.
Reality is that people leave. Pick a church, any church. People come and go. The other reality is that we don’t do much to attract new folks. And let me say nobody appreciates being invited to attend church because we need more people to give more money.
There are lots of ways to attract people to attend church but still the most successful is a personal invitation. But people can be connected through Facebook and the church website and YouTube and other media. People can see our ministry in the community and want to be part of something bigger than themselves.
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SWIFT IS IN A TIME of challenge. I tell you challenge scares me. I like being comfortable. But comfort, maybe complacency is a better word, in a congregation leads to eventual death of that congregation. Maybe not in a year or five or ten. Only when we address the challenges we face do we find life.
We will work over the next months to address Swift Church’s challenges. Some we know. Some we don’t know. We have geographic challenges. We have size challenges. We have age challenges. We have vision challenges. We have challenges we don’t even know we have. But we are going to work to address those challenges. In that process we will decide whether we want to take on challenge or stay comfortable.
But today, right now, at the beginning of this long process, it is essential that we are rooted in Christ. Right now, it is essential that the work we do is built on the foundation Jesus Christ.
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PAUL WRITES ABOUT THIS to the Colossian Christians:
You have accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord. Now keep on following him. Plant your roots in Christ. Let him be the foundation for your life. Be strong in your faith, just as you were taught. And be grateful.
The problem for the Colossians was people were making Christianity more complicated than it had to be. Not unlike today. “Real Christians” were supposed to follow certain laws and cultivate a sophisticated spirituality. “Real Christians” eat this, do that, and shun something else. “Real Christianity” becomes so complex that Christians tie themselves in knots trying to do and be all these things. Paul says “relax.”
These verses use two images to direct us toward a simple disciplined life: Remember whose we are and remember who we are.
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WE BELONG TO CHRIST. We are rooted like a tree to Christ. Jesus shared the parable not about a tree, but about seeds planted. Probably wheat or barley seeds, maybe you can imagine an oak tree. Some seeds die in the heat. Some seeds are swallowed by thorns. Some seeds sprout but don’t have deep roots and die. But some seeds produce roots deep into the soil resulting is a great harvest.
If that analogy doesn’t strike you. Paul also says we are built up like a secure structure. Again, Jesus shares a story of two home builders. One builds a house on sand. Now around here we know the challenges of building on sand. Sand shifts. Tides come in and undermine a foundation built on sand. The home collapses. The other house is built on pilings deep into the earth. A sure foundation that stands strong in the face of rains and winds. An established faith, Paul calls it.
When challenges come, we have something firm on which to stand. When we disagree on the solutions or even disagree on the challenges, we have the foundation of a faith in Jesus Christ that sustains us and unites us. First and foremost, we belong to Jesus.
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WE ARE SWIFT CHURCH. The geographical boundaries, our culture, our traditions, the people, our strengths and the weaknesses are all part of who we are. We are saved by grace. We struggle individually and corporately to be faithful to our Savior, Jesus Christ.
When we’re rooted and built up in Christ, then we Live in Christ, abounding in thanksgiving. The energy of discipleship. Walk in Christ is a better translation of verse 6. There’s movement. There’s action. There’s living and breathing organism, morphing, maturing, and spreading. We constantly move toward the kingdom.
If all we have is roots and foundations but have no movement, then we are caught in the quagmire of doing nothing — or doing nothing of significance.
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A FIRM FOUNDATION and a get-going attitude. That’s hard work. It’s much easier just to debate what makes a person a “real Christian.”
Walk firmly with Jesus into ministry and mission. Live in Christ. Face the challenges a world different from what we’ve ever known.
— Keith Cardwell