One of the “high points” of a trip to Israel is actually a low point—the Dead Sea. At 1,385 feet below sea level, it is literally the lowest spot on the globe. We had a ball floating in the Dead Sea. Because the Dead Sea has no outlets, all the minerals flowing into it make it, by far, the saltiest body of water in the world. It is 36 times saltier than the ocean. As a result, you can’t sink in the Dead Sea. You just lay back and float.
And as you can see from the picture, it is SUPER relaxing. I think I could have happily floated along in the Dead Sea for an hour or more. That is, until a wave sent water up my nose, and I felt my nostrils burn 36 times worse than they would at Orange Beach. And that’s when I began to think about the fact that we pay a price for floating along so easily. Let me explain in a way that will hopefully give you some things to think about for the church.
First, there’s a reason why it’s called The Dead Sea. One of the reasons I could lay back and relax in this picture is that there is no life in the Dead Sea. Nothing can grow there. That means I never had to worry about sharks or jellyfish. On the other hand, I would never see dolphins at play, or sandpipers scurrying up and down at the waterline. There are no fishermen. No hermit crabs digging in the sand. It may be peaceful, but I think I would prefer some signs of life.
Lesson: We can have a calm, quiet, peaceful church, or we can have a living church. But if we choose life, then we have to accept some disruption and some chaos.
Second, the Dead Sea is dead because nothing flows out of it. While the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea, nothing flows from it. It has a multitude of resources coming in, but nothing going out. And without an outflow, the minerals pile up and choke out life.
Lesson: The church must be outward focused to stay alive. We can and do have lots of resources coming in to the church. But if there are no outlets for those resources to bless our community, advance the gospel, invite friends, preach the word, and change lives, all the inflowing resources won’t matter. We will die without outflow.
Third: the Dead Sea is Disappearing. As Israel grows, more and more of the Jordan River is being diverted for irrigation, drinking water, and cultivating crops. Add to that the evaporation that happens when a body of water has no outlets, and you have a shrinking body of water. The Dead Sea actually recedes about 4-6 feet every year. Our group could tell the difference from where we were just four years ago. We were nearly 30 feet further away from the water!
Lesson: An inward-focused church will not be around for the next generation. People tend to stop pouring into a church that isn’t pouring out into the community. God is under no obligation to continue to bless a church that does nothing with the gifts He has already given it. Think about the third servant in the parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30).
In the coming months, our church will be looking at some major changes. Staff realignments. Increased scrutiny on policies and procedures related to the safety of our children. Bold requests for budget allocations to help us move into the future. And we have a choice to make. We can either embrace the disruption and chaos that comes with being alive, or we can relax and float along peacefully.
Just remember: “Rest in Peace” is not a mission statement. It’s an epitaph.