I grew up in the country. I know what a dead animal looks like. And smells like I know what a living animal looks like. Sometimes the living animals don’t smell much better than the dead ones. There are times when the line between living and dead is hard to discern.
Biologically, living things possess these properties.
Metabolism is taking in air and fuel and disposing of waste. This is prayer, Bible study and confession. Which of the three is most important? All of the above. All three have to be functioning for us to be spiritually alive.
Growth. None of us have to tell our children to grow. If they are healthy, eating, drinking exercising like they should, they will grow. Really, we only worry when they don’t grow. In our spiritual life, how many of us are in the same place we’ve been for the last 2, 5, 20 or more years? We should be growing in the fruit of the Spirit daily and in a year’s time, we should see more maturity in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Reproduction. If a species doesn’t reproduce, it doesn’t last long. Spiritual reproduction is seeking new converts for Christ’s kingdom. We should be relentless in sharing the gospel. We should use every opportunity to share the gospel.
Adaptation is changing to survive in a changing environment. The gospel never changes, but we must change our language to be understandable to the culture. It doesn’t matter how good the message is (and the gospel is a great message) if the hearer cannot comprehend what is being said. Know the culture or today ‘cultures’ around you. Know what clicks. Look for examples of the gospel in their lives and share the truth of the gospel in their language. My son was saved after we talked about LEGOs because that is what he understood.
Response. Living things respond to an external stimulus. That opossum in the road doesn’t change position with a poke of a stick because it is dead. If the church—and we are the church—doesn’t respond to the situation of the world, we are dead. We do not have the ‘social’ gospel, we have THE gospel. However, if we see injustice, evil, marginalization, hunger, belittling and a host of other social ills and respond only with words, how can we call ourselves living? The church should be known for getting things done.
If you are a believer in Christ, there should NEVER be any question that you are alive.
(This post was adapted from an address Jon gave to the annual meeting of our local association of churches. He is an engineer by day, seminary student by night, runner and handyman by weekend, and an amazing husband, father and man of God all the time. One of the few things he doesn’t do is write his own bios.)