iCLT News Rivers of Hope

July 20, 2023
by Duane Beck
Consultant to Pastors on Leadership and Local Ministry

Rivers of Hope

Everywhere the river flows (Clap), everything will live (Clap).
Everywhere the river flows (Clap), everything will live (Clap).

This chant of hope from Ezekiel 47:9 with its catchy, rhythmic cadence was introduced to me by J.D. Walt in Seedbed Text. Say it out loud. Repeat it often. Turn it into a cheer, and let hope seep into your soul.    

Before he spoke, Ezekiel sat stunned (in wordless silence) for seven days among the exiles beside the river Chebar (2:15).  He heard the exiles’ cries of lament, saw their suffering, and experienced their drought of God’s absence. Their “spiritual bones” were rattling in the exile. Only after sitting with their pathos could Ezekiel hear God’s word for the people. Only then was he able to see the vision of God’s mercy and faithful love restoring life to God’s people. 

In this vision of hope, Ezekiel is taken to the Temple (Ezek 47) to see a trickle of water coming from the temple. In a quarter-mile downstream, it becomes ankle-deep. then knee-deep, and then waist-deep. The water is too deep for walking; swimming is necessary. This trickle becomes a life-giving river that flows into the “sea of stagnant waters,” bringing life to the Dead Sea (47:8-9).

Everywhere the river flows (Clap), everything will live (Clap).

Jesus stands in the temple and shouts, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-39) Jesus is the new temple. The trickle of living water flowing from Jesus becomes a river bringing life wherever it flows and the Bible ends with a great burst of hope, “The leaves of the trees that lined the river were for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 22).

Everywhere the river flows (Clap), everything will live (Clap).

This past year I have been somewhat stunned by our differences and divisions. And yet, I have heard life-giving stories of missions flowing from our Conference churches. It gives me hope. 

Everywhere the river flows (Clap), everything will live (Clap).

Churches have stepped into the life-giving water and are involved in

  • Ministry with people in prison and with the formerly imprisoned. 
  • Walking alongside immigrants. 
  • Building relationships in their neighborhood. 
  • Multicultural and multi-racial relationships. 
  • Touching the lives of children. 
  • Discipling youth. 
  • Providing transportation and childcare. 
  • Advocating for good public transportation and childcare. 
  • Involved in local schools and with students’ parents. 
  • Tutoring. Teaching English as a second language.
  • Food distribution.
  • Spontaneously caring for neighbors in crises.   

And I have heard of the gifts in our churches for equipping the church body.  

  • Successful small group ministry. 
  • Gifts for inner healing and prayer ministry.
  • Experienced church planters.
  • Gifted preachers.  

I also wonder 

  • Who is discipling young adults? 
  • Are there churches with 12-step recovery groups, or grief groups? 
  • Who is experienced with relational evangelism? 

I have a dream that we can share these gifts of ministry among our churches.  One church’s mission becomes a gift to other churches sensing God’s call to a similar mission. We can learn from one another and be a resource and encouragement to one another.   

In my limited experience, the mission never originated with a committee. Mission sprung from someone’s passion that caught God’s compassion. Others joined them. Together they stepped into the river of life and they became the eyes, ears, feet, hands, and heart of Jesus.  

In my observation, churches that prioritize local missions tend to exhibit a more profound and vibrant expression of their faith and way of life. 

Everywhere the river flows (Clap), everything will live (Clap).

PS: Are you a creative entrepreneur who thrives on generating ways to put vision into motion? I need some help to develop simple ways to connect this rich gift of people and churches in our Conference. If you enjoy designing new solutions, you likely have some ideas to help this happen. I would love to hear your thoughts. 

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