As another year winds down it is natural for a pastor to evaluate the state of the church at year’s end. But Christ’s evaluation of a church exceeds all others. In the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation Christ sent a message to seven local churches in Asia Minor. These churches were specially selected and arranged to illustrate characteristics New Testament churches through the centuries would reflect. They also likely illustrate churches themselves throughout history. With that in mind how would Faith Baptist (you/me/us) compare?
The church in Ephesus was commended for its hard work, for not growing weary in serving God, and for condemning false teachers. However, though their doctrine and works were good they had abandoned Christ as their first love. Jesus wanted their hearts, not just their heads and hands.
The church in Smyrna is commended by Jesus for enduring their afflictions well, and for being rich spiritually though they were very poor financially. They were apparently being persecuted by religionists under the direction of Satan. Religionists have offered some of the greatest persecution of Christ’s obedient churches throughout history. This church received no rebuke from Jesus.
The church in Pergamum was recognized by Christ for their difficult situation. They lived “where Satan has his throne” and “where Satan lives.” They had been true to God under very ominous circumstances and conditions. However, they were rebuked by Christ for embracing some morals that were cultural rather than biblical as well as for accepting some pagan doctrines.
The church in Thyatira was commended by Christ as growing in the areas of love, faith, service and perseverance. However, they were rebuked by the Lord for embracing a self-proclaimed “prophetess.” She was teaching sexual immorality which Jesus called adultery, and they were eating food sacrificed to idols. Jesus said all who followed such would suffer intensely.
The church in Sardis received only one word of approval from Jesus, which was actually a word of rebuke. Jesus stated they had a reputation for “being alive.” Other churches viewed them as an effective church. Jesus rebuked them by stating they were dead. He stated He had not found their deeds complete in the sight of God, and they were to wake up from their spiritual slumber, exhorting them to remember…obey…and repent.
The church in Philadelphia was commended by Jesus, who knew of their deeds. Jesus said He had placed an open door before them that no one could shut. He also commended them for not denying His name. There was no rebuke for this church, but Jesus said that though they had kept His word He knew they had little strength.
The last church was in Laodicea. No word of commendation was given to them because both they and their pastor were lukewarm. Though materially wealthy, successful and self-sufficient Jesus told them they were actually pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Many theologians believe the Laodicean church represents the church in the last age. It is frightening how closely it resembles many churches in America with our wealth, pride, carnal doctrine and desire for worldly approval.
That leaves us wondering where Faith Baptist Church is at the end of 2019! A few thoughts I have as pastor:
- I am hopeful that Christ would commend Faith Baptist in a few of these areas. Our adherence to God’s word/doctrine, spiritual richness and generosity, and ongoing growth in the areas of love and faith are areas in which I would commend our church. Some areas we might be rebuked for is our abandonment of Christ as our first love, a slumbering and avoiding sacrificial service/deeds to Christ, and feeling we are “hot” when in reality we are “lukewarm” in many areas related to Christ and His kingdom work and purpose.
- I grow increasingly concerned at how easily we miss or drop out of church and our worship together. Many Christians believe they can sufficiently love, serve and please Christ apart from the involvement in church Christ taught throughout the New Testament. Churches have pastors, elders/overseers and deacons. We have clear instructions on accountability and discipline of members. Individuals are commanded to use their gifts for “the edification of others.” The younger are to submit to and learn from the older and wiser. Christianity is lived out individually. However, it was created on earth and will be experienced in eternity in the context of community (living stones, a kingdom of priests, parts of the body, branches on a vine and family). It is interesting that our early service with predominantly older, mature believers does not remotely experience the weekly worship attendance swings we experience in the late service. A very small percentage of our early service may miss worship together on a Sunday, but our late service can experience a 35% attendance difference from one week to the next.
- Faith Baptist is only as pleasing to Christ as the sum of its individuals. When overseers protect, plan and lead the flock, and deacons show leadership through serving as Christ served, and children/youth workers catch a vision of the impact they leave one Sunday at a time on our young people, and directors “shepherd” their departments, and teachers impart God’s word/doctrines/commands, and people lead with gifts of service, mercy, evangelism, giving, administration and such, our church garners the praise and commendation of Christ. When we don’t individually contribute, our church is rebuked by the Lord.
I am very proud to pastor Faith Baptist Church. We are a vibrant, spiritual and Christ-seeking church! But we are also flawed and sinful humans who can fall into the comforts and approval of our world than into being the set-apart, holy and sacrificial lives Christ called His disciples to embrace.