Last week, the elders and I went to an Embers to a Flame conference in Memphis, TN., and the embers in their hearts have caught fire. It’s been wonderful to watch because they finally are beginning to see that God may not be through with this congregation as of yet. When I arrived back in November, they were ready to throw in the towel. Now they are looking forward with hopeful expectation to see what the Lord may do through them.
And why not? The Lord is in the business of taking that which is or seems dead, and making it alive again. Why would He not help turn our little congregation around for His glory? All we need to do is respond in faithfulness and obedience to His word. He is the One that will cause the growth!
This is one of the main points of the Embers conference, and what I have been conveying since my arrival. We must be faithful to what He has called us to, and let God worry about the growth. Our duty is to respond to Christ out of a heart of obedience. This will manifest itself in many ways, but it is to be to God’s glory not ours.
Now the reason I posted the picture above is because it represents a church that did not respond to God in obedience and it has become a relic to the past. The biblical term for this is “Ichabod!” meaning, the glory of the Lord has departed. This is what is happening to churches all across Europe and in America. These old churches are becoming relics to the past, mere artifacts for us to look upon and lament the unfaithfulness of those who went before us. However, if we do not look back to Christ in faith, our congregations will go the same way. These artifacts are a reminder that God will do what He warned the churches in Revelation 2-3, if we do not return to our first love, He will remove the lampstand. This is death to the church. It doesn’t matter what you say the lampstand is or represents, the end result of having it removed is the same: death.
I don’t want that to happen with GPC here in Jackson. Not while it is yet Today! (Hebrews 3:7-14). This is why the heart of the Embers conference message resonates so well with me. They base their message upon Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. This verse is encouraging in three ways. First it shows us that the revitalization of churches is a reality. All churches need to be revitalized and remember their first love. We may be doing what we have always done, but without our first love being centered upon Christ and His love towards us, then we are nothing but clanging symbols.
Secondly, we need to not only remember our first love but also look at how Christ has worked throughout the years in our congregation. As believers, we should never ignore the past and how God has worked in the history of the church. This is a grave mistake that many in the emergent-church movement are doing today (it was also done in the Dispensational movement as well). As a body, we are still connected to the past by His hand, especially since our faith is rooted in History. Not that we idolize the past, but we should not forget it either. God has worked throughout history and is still working today, which will be tomorrow’s history. To ignore history is to ignore His mighty works.
Third, we are to repent for our shortcomings in being the church we should be. The elders and I here in Jackson gave the subject 5 minutes in the conference (all the time we were given), and we came up with a list of things that we, as leaders in the church, needed to repent of. Nothing scandalous mind you, but still, just given that we are fallen we quickly realized how we have fallen short in many areas. To say you have no reasons to repent, is to take 1 John 1:8 to heart and live it. John writes: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. This is a harsh pronouncement for the man or woman who claims there is nothing to repent of. That means that Christ is not in you, and you are not a believer. We all have areas where we need to repent, whether we are in leadership or not. As long as we walk on this side of glory, this will be true. We might as well accept it and be faithful to the need to repent, so that we don’t become as the church above: nothing but an artifact and monument to someone’s faithlessness.
Is your church becoming an artifact? Remember Revelation 2:5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. We are and will as long as I am blessed to be in leadership.