“To the angel of the church in Sardis, write this: “The one who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says this: “I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.
Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.
If this is what the Lord is saying to a church back then- to a community of believers that actually saw or knew a guy who saw the Risen Lord- then I have nothing but trembling for myself and parishes today. What I am continually convicted of is that, as a church, as a professional church worker, and as a husband, father and man, we are not collectively and I am not personally praying hard enough.
I don't mean I'm not praying enough as in quantity, though that is surely lacking.
I mean I'm not praying hard, praying from that painfully deep place in my heart and life where I let few or no one else in. I'm talking about repenting from my sin so secret I consciously try to keep my conscious mind away from it. I've been ignoring the hard prayers because I don't want to change. I love my sin more than I love God. I have to confess that. I have to own that, because if I don't, I will never change, my ministry will never change, and souls will never be saved. They will be impressed. I will be applauded. And I will have traded my soul for an eternity for a few minutes of applaus. Seen this way, it is just not worth it anymore. I cannot hide from the hard truths anymore. Neither can the church at large, or the parish next door.
The church in Sardis was a happening Church. Things were happening. People were engaged. It had a reputation, and it was a good one. It was alive.
- In the eyes of the world, it was alive.
- In the eyes of the self-satisfied, it was alive.
- In the eyes of the proud, it was alive.
- In the eyes of the bean counters, it was alive.
- In God's eyes, it was dead. Insufficient. Disobedient. Ungrateful. Ungraced. Dead.
I just don't know anymore. I just don't know how we can go about business as usual after reading words like these in God's Word. Directly due to our lack of humility we miss this about ourselves and our parishes. The truth slaps us on the face while we are so consumed with distractions and the nothing-importants of the world that we miss it. We miss Him.
Do you really think, I mean really think, that this word to the Church of Sardis has no application for us? Do you really think that big numbers and even bigger dollars mean that we are alive in Christ? God commands us to be fruitful, but do we decieve ourselves when we see large numbers that it automatically means they represent the authentic fruit of the Spirit? Could it mean, and I might be going out on a limb here, but could it mean that large numbers are here just because of demographic shifts?
Or possibly, just possibly, could it mean that we've sold out the Gospel to the mediocrity of the world. That we've compromised the saving truth and exchanged it for pleasant niceties that anyone can swallow down on a Sunday morning?
What if we asked something other than "How many people and how much money?" and asked these questions instead:
- "How much repentance is going on?"
- "How much fruit of the Spirit is taking root in service?"
- "How many times have people in our congregation did something radical for Jesus Christ?"
- "How many vocations have we produced?"
If we have large numbers, did that mean we had huge conversions, or is this simply the closest church that meets their needs? Is it conversion or convenience that draws people in?
Is it us or Christ?
However, you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; they will walk with me dressed in white, because they are worthy. “The victor will thus be dressed in white, and I will never erase his name from the book of life but will acknowledge his name in the presence of my Father and of his angels.
“Whoever has ears ought to hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”