Jump Start # 2255
Revelation 3:2 “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.”
When we read the N.T. there are some powerful congregations that were doing well. Jerusalem, where it started, was growing fast. Antioch, was the shinning light for all to follow. But there were other congregations that were not doing so well. Corinth was plagued with all kinds of moral and doctrinal problems. It would have been an elder’s nightmare. Ephesus became loveless. And, Sardis, where our verse is connected with, was dead.
Have you ever noticed that dead things do not need much attention. You don’t have to mow a yard that has dead grass. Dead plants do not need to be watered. Dead pets do not need to be fed nor walked. A dead tree never grows any taller. And a lifeless, dead church doesn’t add any value to one’s spiritual life. It’s easy to kill things. Just ignore them. Don’t water your plants and in time they will die. Don’t feed your pets and eventually they will die. And, with a congregation, doing nothing positive, encouraging or Biblical will lead to death.
Our verse is written to the members of Sardis. It’s the plea for them to do something. It begins by waking up. They were asleep at the wheel of life. They had no idea where they were, nor, where they were going. It’s time to water the plant. It’s about to die. There was still a bit of hope. God says, “strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die.” If you do nothing, everything will be dead. A ghost town. An abandoned work. There was still hope, but they had to get at it.
We have been looking at a mini series connected to the start of the year. This is the time of resolutions, goals, plans and dreams. We’ve looked at: “What can I do to help myself.” Yesterday, our thoughts focused upon, “What can I do to help my family.” Finally, today, we look at “What can I do to help my congregation?”
First, understand, that those in leadership roles, the shepherds and the preachers, are often the stopping blocks of all ideas. Too often they are content with nothing and nothing is what they always get. Attempts to do things can be perceived by some as a power shift and you being a Martin Luther, the reformer, who is attempting to nail your complaints to the church door. Things didn’t work out too well for Luther. And, often, it may not work out well for you.
Being open and putting all the cards on the table is the honest thing to do. It takes away what may be perceived as a threat to their position. Let them know what you would like to do and why. Be transparent and not evasive. Your ideas may be shot down. If so, don’t give up. That’s not the only thing you can do. Some are jealous of other places and fear all change leads to becoming progressive and walking away from the Bible. Because of that, some would as soon stay in the 1970’s and steer clear of all technology and modern ways to promote God’s word. Fear, jealousy and a touch of laziness is all that is necessary to make up a whole batch of nothingness. And, nothingness leads to death.
Second, all of us can practice hospitality. Now that doesn’t have to cost a zillion nor does it mean putting yourself out for weeks. Clean the house up a bit. Buy some food. Invite a couple of families over. Have fun. Play some games. Sing some songs. Get to know each other. Some rarely get invited. Some believe that no one would come, even before they do the inviting. Give it a try. Togetherness outside the church building connects hearts, builds friendships and is something everyone enjoys. Now, there are some dos and don’ts when you have folks over. Don’t gossip. Don’t turn the conversation negative. Don’t talk about how dead the church is or how out of touch the elders are. Those things may be true, but your intentions are to strengthen what remains. Encourage. Make it a good night. If you can’t cook, order pizza. You don’t have to repaint the house before you can do this.
Third, have a Bible study in your home. Invite a few families and study something exciting and special. There are some great videos that can be used as a background to get your study going. Strength comes from our faith. Faith building is something that you can do.
I’ve had folks complain about how pitiful the Bible classes are in the congregations that they attend. Cry about it. Complain about it. Or, do something about it. Have your own class in your home. Make it challenging. There are many good books that you could use as a book club.
Fourth, so, the church building looks like a bomb went off. Dirty. Cluttered. Dusty. You can complain. You can point those things out. Or, you can get over there on a Saturday with your cleaning supplies and give the place a real spit shine. Toss papers. Clean the place top to bottom. In Spring, get over there and pull weeds. We have a couple of different folks that do that to our place. Nothing is ever said. They come, pull weeds, plant flowers, and leave. I notice. It makes us look nice. And, that’s the way you must do it. Don’t be giving the treasurer a bill for your time and your supplies. Don’t toot your horn about how nice the place looks now. It may be that no one even notices, but you will, and so will the Lord.
Fifth, when you hear of good ideas, share them with the preacher and elders. Now, they may do nothing. They may feel jealous and threatened. But, the manner you present these may be the beginning of some needed life. Rather than saying, “Here’s what you need to be doing,” include yourself. “Can we do this, and I help you?” I love ideas from other people and places. None of us have the complete market on all ideas. Share the Jump Starts with others.
Six, always pray. Pray for the congregation. Pray for the preacher and shepherds. Pray for the teachers. Pray for growth. Pray for strength and faith. Pray for yourself and your attitude.
Sardis was dead. Any hope of changing the place had to come from within, from among themselves. No one else was going to be their savior. Too busy. Too tired. Too indifferent. That’s all it takes to turn off the lights and close shop for good. Strengthen what remains.
Some of our readers are blessed to worship in large congregations that are very busy and active. Do not coast because of that. Don’t just enjoy the ride. Be a part of what they are. Other readers are in small struggling congregations. For some, the outlook is bleak. I hope these words touch your hearts and instead of waiting for the preacher or someone to rise up and change things, you can see that you can be doing things now.
Strengthen what remains…