Jump Start # 3142
Revelation 2:5 “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; for else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”
Our verse today makes a major implication. Did you catch it? God says, “do the deeds you did at first.” Implied is that you are not doing them at the present. Currently, you are not acting like you once did. And, this is seen through several of these seven churches in Revelation. Ephesus had left their first love, which was the Lord. It’s rather hard to start a congregation when love for the Lord is missing. Sardis was called dead. Lifeless. You won’t get anyone to show up when they are dead. Imagine trying to start a dead church. “We are starting a new church. Would you like to be a part of it? You never have to come. You don’t have to give. You don’t have to do anything. Stay just the way you are. Would you like to be a part of us?” Dead churches end. They do not start. And, then there is Laodicea. Lukewarm. Indifferent. Ephesus, Sardis and Laodicea all changed.
But, that’s true of most churches. In fact, that’s true of life. Things change. Little trees grow and become big trees. Puppies become old dogs. Babies are born. Later, they grow and move out of the house. We work. We retire. Life is very fluid and changing often.
What this presents to a spiritual leadership is how to navigate changes in the church. People move in. People move out. People die. Kids go off to college and do not come back, except for the holidays. People retire and the contribution changes. A cycle of many babies are born or a time of many seniors graduating. I have literally cried when some people moved. I wanted them to stay with us and to stay with me, forever. But things happened, opportunities opened, life changed and they moved.
How do we navigate through the changes in the church? This is something that is often tossed upon us without any time to think things through. This is not something that shepherds sit down and talk about. Maybe they should.
Here are a few thoughts:
First, it’s not the end, when changes come. A funeral. A family moves away. Yet, the work and the worship of the church carries on. There are people to be taught. There are people that need to be shepherded and led. Emotionally, we may hurt because some are gone, but our work carries on. God has provided all the tools necessary to do His work.
Second, often adjustments must be made. Sometimes that means knocking down walls to make larger classrooms. It may mean combining some classes because of dwindling numbers. It may lead to some empty classrooms. Leaders must be flexible. A congregation may have to tighten it’s belt financially. What was done last year may not be able to be offered this year. We do this personally. Our budgets may tell us that we can’t go very far for a vacation this year. We make adjustments. It may mean that we have to cut back on eating out or cancel some things because we can’t afford them. Many couples have a conversation about downsizing when the last child has moved out of the house for good.
The Joseph principle is a good one to remember. Through the good years in Egypt, they stored up grain. When the lean, famine years came, they not only survived, but they could help others. That helps us face coming changes that may take place.
Third, the history and cycle of a church can be good or it can be very sad. In my area, there was a time several decades ago that congregations numbered three or four hundred. Not today. Some of those congregations have closed the door for good. Others are struggling. A family can move in and turn everything positive and encouraging or a family can move in and get everyone to hating each other. Good leadership will notice these things and it will work hard to keep things right.
Loveless. Lifeless. Lukewarm. Those Revelation churches didn’t start that way. They changed. What helps is staying close to the word of God. Keep preaching lessons that are needful and practical. Keep returning to the book. Experience, faith and hope truly help.
Most older couples can look back and realize that they didn’t have much when they were first married. Cheap furniture. Going home to visit the family was the vacations. But today, it’s a different story. Things change.
Congregations change. Realizing this makes you count your blessings when things are going well. It makes you look at what really matters when things aren’t going well. Don’t take for granted that the way things are today will be the way they are in another decade. Look to make things better. Lay a foundation of legacy for others to follow. Don’t give up when things are tough.
There were a few at dead Sardis who continued to walk with the Lord. They did not die like the rest of the church. They made choices that reflected life and hope.
Navigating through the changes in a church. Such an interesting and needful topic.