Jump Start # 2448
Revelation 3:8 “I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have kept My word, and have not denied My name.”
Our verse today is the Lord’s description of the church at Philadelphia. Open doors, power, following God’s word—great insights and great goals for any congregation. It is fascinating to notice what the Lord notices and what you and I tend to notice. Often, it’s not the same things. There are seven churches listed in Revelation two and three. We do not know the sizes of those congregations. Oh, that is important to us. When I travel, one of the first questions folks ask, “How large is the congregation back home?” That didn’t seem to register with God. Notice, nothing is said about where these Revelation brethren were meeting. Likely, they did not have a church building. Our buildings consume much of our energy, resources and talk. That didn’t seem to register with God. And, what about the financial stability of these seven Revelation churches? Were they self supporting? Had they paid off the building? Did they have their own preacher? Again, great concern for you and I, but it didn’t seem to register with God. The Lord was concerned about faithfulness to His word and walking closely with Him. Tolerating falsehood made the list. Being lukewarm or dead made the list. Losing their first love made the list. Having open doors made the list. All of this reminds us that sometimes we focus upon the wrong things and not upon the things that really do matter.
Recently I took a Sunday off. It’s hard for me to do that. I needed to, I could tell. We’d come home from a vacation and the question came where do we want to worship on Sunday. I love my home congregation, but to be there, I might as well teach, preach and I wouldn’t be taking it off. That decision was hard for me. I have preached in Indiana for more than 25 years. It’s hard to go some place and not be known and in so many of these places I have preached meetings there. The last thing I wanted was to be asked to preach. I wanted to be encouraged. There are several smaller congregations in the area, many do not have preachers and that didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t want to be discouraged by see fighting brethren, a spirit of lukewarmness, or apathy. Where to go?
One thing led to another and we wound up deciding to go to a congregation that I really didn’t want to go to. I had always assumed that they were dead, stuck and going no where. But the clock was ticking and we had to go somewhere. So we went to this one place, in a small community. The congregation was small. I’ve had classes back home that were larger than this congregation. But what a surprise I found. First, the building wasn’t dirty, mold filled and run down as I expected. The people were very friendly and I knew many of them. The congregation had elders that seemed to be true shepherds. This small church offered a choice of several adult Bible classes. That amazed me. I knew the preacher so I went to the class he taught. It was encouraging, heart felt and truly helpful. I was amazed. In worship, the singing was great. The sermon was detailed and helpful. We stuck around and talked to just about everyone there. I left thinking this is a great church. They were a bright spot and a real source of encouragement and just what I needed.
That worship made me remember some important principles that I had forgotten:
First, the size of the crowd does not reflect the size of the heart. Everyone wants big crowds, but more important than big crowds are the hearts that fill the air with love and devotion for our Savior. As the preacher delivered his lesson that morning, I looked around and saw people turning in their Bibles. Some were taking notes. They were engaged, connected and learning, just the things every preacher loves to see. We must move past the idea that “I’m better than you are, because my church is bigger than yours.” Among the people of God, we are on the same side and the same team. We are not in competition with each other. Size doesn’t make one better than others.
Second, our preconceived ideas are often wrong, as mine was. I walked in anticipating a dry, dull and painful worship. I have sat through worship in dead churches before. A minute seems like an hour. Few people talk to you and everyone stares as you walk in as if you are trespassing. But not to the place I was at on Sunday. This group had it together. You could tell they were putting their all into the Lord. What a refreshing and uplifting experience that was. That tells me a person can’t go by what others have said and people, as well as congregations change. Some change for the better and others for the worse. Don’t typecast a group because something someone said decades ago. Find out for yourself.
Third, the honor of God is what worship is all about. It’s not about my experience or what I get from it, or how I feel about things. Was our Lord honored, His name praised and His word preached accurately? I can be in a mad mood, not feeling so well, have a chip on my shoulder, have my mind filled with all kinds of worry and sit through a worship and leave unchanged. Does my experience determine how well the worship was? No. Others may have been encouraged. Some may have been challenged to obey the Lord. While I can sit there in my misery, thinking only of myself, others around me are worshipping God as they ought to be. One person’s reaction does not mean that is the Lord’s response. One person can declare that a church is cold and unfriendly and the next person think it’s the friendliest place on earth. We carry a lot of baggage, issues and stuff with us when we come to worship. We must be careful what we say about a place. Our perspective may not be true. How I feel may not be how God feels. I may have problems that keep me from seeing clearly and worshipping God as I ought to. I may have gone to church but I may have failed to worship. The two are not the same.
If you get an opportunity to go to the community of Seymour, Indiana, I’d encourage you to worship with the brethren there. They are a bright spot in that area and lifted the weary heart of this preacher who was looking for a place to worship on a day off. They also taught me some lessons that I needed to learn.
Thank you, brethren.