The Book of Revelation and Church Leadership, PXII

beatitudes-righteousnessRead Revelation 2: 8-11

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.” Revelation 2: 11

Ironically, the city of Smyrna was known for their faithfulness to Rome, but its church started to withdraw their faithfulness to our Lord! So, even though the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia were the only two fully praised by Christ, they still had to heed to Christ and listen or they too will start to fall like the other five.

Jesus earned the right to be listened to. Not just by being God, Creator; conversely, as this passage reminds us, He lived life in purity and sinlessness for our benefit, to enable us to have eternal life and partake in His fellowship. He knows us more intimately that we can imagine and desires that we be with Him and glorify Him fully. Yet, we tend not to listen to Him in our personal lives and how we lead and mange His Church. Many leaders today tend to fill His call with the void of our stubbornness, recklessness, and selfishness.

Yet, Jesus is there, guiding us with a beacon that says I know your pain, I felt your pain, I have experienced your pain and I feel your pain now, too. He has taken our pain away. The tribulations we face are not the things that can derail us from Him; rather, they can form us more of Him in maturity and character.

He who has an ear. God means what He says (Ezek. 33:30-32; James 1: 21-27; 2 Pet. 1: 3-11)! This also means that God fulfills His promises. Do you take His Word seriously, learning and applying it? If not, why not?

Like the style of an O.T. Prophet and the oracles against the corrupt king and priesthood, issuing the call to repentance. Jesus calls to us “let’s get it right”. Jesus directly challenges these early churches with an application us, in how we operate our church, what we doing right, where we are straying away from His call and precepts, what is heinous about us, and what we can do to get back on track. Christ is here, caring, and is present in our church (Isa. 13-23; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32; Amos 2-4)!

“Synagogue of Satan,” meaning being an apostate is referring to the local Synagogue and of Jews who were very antagonistic to the Christians as they refused to acknowledge Christ as the Messiah and who called the Christians a Synagogue of Satan.

Jesus is passionately concerned with what we do and how we do with the leadership of His Church, and wants to be intimately involved (Matt. 7:20; 10:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 John 4:1).

So what does this come down to?

The perspective in each of these letters is not just about future happenings, the Seven Churches were real, actual churches with tangible problems. Thus, the first four chapters of Revelation is also a practical guidebook on how to run a successful church and how to avoid the potholes that make a bad church. Each of these seven churches had characteristics that are a template to any church you can worship in today. These churches were real “alive” and “dead” churches that yours, in its vision and operation, are a footprint thereof. So, which one is yours? Which one are you called to be among today?

In Christian leadership, we are to hunger for righteousness and seeking the depths of God’s love, the Word and virtue, and in so doing, being committed to continue allowing yourself to grow in maturity, to be transformed, and to be renewed. At the same time, it is not allowing personal circumstances to disrupt your faith (Matt. 5:3-6; Rom. 12:1-3; 2 Cor. 8:8-12; Phil. 2:5-9).

Reflection

We have to ask ourselves, are we operating to the opposite tune that Jesus commands as this Synagogue and the church of Smyrna were starting to?

When we seek to engage His church on our own, we turn it into a church of evil, as it will be diametrically opposed to Christ, as Satan is opposed to Him. We may not be worshipping Satan, but when we run the church by our ways and agendas, we are, in fact, worshipping Satan, because Christ is not only ignored, He is being opposed! Just as this Smyrna was a church where people’s agendas were in opposition to Christ’s. They had sufferings to overcome and learn from, but most chose to run the course their way and tarnish His Way.

Let us learn, refocus and always and joyfully point ourselves and church to Christ as LORD!

The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4

Is Your Church Healthy?

health church

Luke 10:25-29; John 4:24; 10:25-30; 17:21-23; Acts, chapters 2 and 4; Romans 1:16-17; 12:1-3; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 1:10; Philippians 2:5-8; Colossians 1; James 4:8-11

Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:8-10

A healthy church is one that is poured out to our Lord. It practices the love of our Lord through worship, teaching, learning, loving, caring, praying, and outreach. It is a church that chooses to be a bag of marbles with different colors and sizes and all working together, each marble seizing its call and exercising its gift for the game. But, in our case, it is not a game. Rather, it is a very serious matter that is joyful. Have you ever tried to play marbles with just one? Not much fun, is it? To play your best, you need more than one, each with a purpose and direction. In spite of that, a lot of churches choose to be the lone marble. Such a church really cannot be used to play any marble games, not because there are too few, but because the marbles just do not get along.

Yet, the more marbles you have working together, the better you can play. And the “more” is two or more gathered in His name, people working together for a common purpose with vision and strength, all striving to give God the glory.

A Healthy Church Looks Like This in Practice 

  • A healthy church will worship Christ first and foremost.
  • A healthy church will enable its people to connect with God and then connect with each other and then connect to their community with the cause and the power of Christ.

To accomplish this, a healthy church will equip and encourage its people to grow deeper in their faith and walk with Christ and further help them facilitate their godly impact onto others. In so doing, expand God’s Kingdom by becoming and developing wholeheartedly, fully-engaged followers of Jesus Christ! For this to come about, a healthy church will be biblically oriented, active, and focused on Jesus Christ.

  • A healthy church will know and practice the supremacy and centrality of Christ, so it glorifies, trusts, and worships God wholeheartedly.
  • A healthy church will be passionate for Christ and then for one another.
  • A healthy church will be genuinely learning and growing in Him.
  • A healthy church will encourage one another’s spiritual formation and be able to bring into being and equip disciples with a teachable spirit who know Him and desire to make Him known.
  • A healthy church will connect with others and in so doing develop vital relationships, working and growing in the Fruit of the Spirit. When a healthy church is functioning, it will be better at mobilizing its people by their spiritual gifts.

Our healthy church will be an effective, generous steward of all He gives us individually and collectively.  Then, our healthy church will have a mission and purpose and be engaged in intentional evangelism, missions, outreach, and meeting key community needs, all led and envisioned by called out, effective, empowered servant leaders who are Kingdom oriented. Sounds like a mouthful, but this can be you in your church, leading others!

We have a responsibility to be obedient to His Word and carry out His call. When we do not carry out our call and duty to be in Him and act within His character, it will be costly.

We must ask ourselves what our inactivity will cost us, and to those around us. When we do not accept our responsibility, the cost will build up and may even overwhelm us. Not because God is without compassion and love, but because we refuse His compassion and love, or we refuse to share His compassion and love. The cost we may accrue is the cost of lost opportunities, “what ifs,” and what could have been. The comparison is of a church that is flourishing and being used by God versus the church that is closing its doors after decades of being there (in a physical building form) but not really being there (for the community and use by our God.)

A church can “be there” with facilities, but “not be there” with heartfelt worship and poured out teaching. Or, it can “be there” as a club, but “not be there” as a church. What are you costing God? Is your church a haven of lost opportunities, or a haven of rest? Is your church surrendered to His will and holiness, or to self-seeking motives and desires?

see sick

Churches that are healthy are filled with people who live in the Fruit of the Spirit.

Unhealthy churches tend to have its people self-focused and who only want to be heard; they either do not want to listen to others or have a conceited attitude or see those who are mature as threats.

The Book of Revelation and Church Leadership, PXI

church of Smyrna

“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer….” Revelation 2: 9-10

 

Read Revelation 2: 8-11 

How would you appraise your church from this letter to the church in Smyrna? 

“Smyrna” is a Greek word for myrrh, a bitter herb used both as an anointing oil, and for embalming, and was one of the gifts the wise men brought to Jesus as a young child (Ex. 30:23; Esth. 2:12; Psalm 45:8; Prov. 7:17; Matt. 2:11; John 19:39). 

The churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia were the only two of the seven that were fully praised by Christ. Even though Smyrna was praised, they were treading on dangerous ground. They were starting to be bitter as their name applies. After facing much persecution, they became belligerent against Christ and turned against one another, forsaking their call and duty. They had the opportunity to learn and grow from their situation, but instead, they chose bitterness and strife. They embraced fearfulness instead of faithfulness.

Like the church of Smyrna, we will all face sufferings and trials. It is not the questioning of them to help us cope, but how we learn and deal with them that help shape our spiritual formation.

The trials we face will be used to enrich our own lives and make us a beacon to help others in their trials, too. When we cave in to our fears, we will only be insolvent in real poverty, bankrupted spiritually because of our opposition to Christ as our Lord and Sustainer.

These letters to the seven churches echo the good, the bad, and the ugly in all churches.

Jesus directly challenges them, and us, in how we operate our church, what we doing right, where we are straying, what is heinous about us, and what we can do to get back on track. Christ is here, caring, and is present in our church! He is passionately concerned with what we do and how we do it, and wants to be intimately involved (Matt. 7:20; 10:16; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 John 4:1).

“Church” means a body of believers who come together for worship, instructions, and to serve. This does not refer to a building. Many churches have many different types of people, liturgies, and government. Many are not always true Christians or have God’s interests at heart; rather, they are driven by personal agendas or trends that are contrary to the precepts of our Lord. Jesus is attacking our placing personal agendas and power struggles over His lead!

Smyrna, now called Izmir in Turkey, was a beautiful, large, prosperous, and loyal city and the center of the Emperor worship practice. Furthermore, there was a tough, antagonistic Jewish Synagogue there, giving the Christians a squeeze in the middle of persecution and hostility. The city officials were betraying and falsely accusing the Christians. The Jews kicked them out of their fellowship, a scandalous act for a Jew.

This Smyrna church was composed of people who were burnt out and were starting to lose their faithfulness.

Thus, instead of continuing to fight the ravages of persecution with trust and obedience to Christ, they decided to ignore His precepts and do their own thing. Even though they professed to worship and honor Christ, they did not do so fully in their deeds and attitudes (2 Cor. 4:4). They were once a vibrant, healthy church, but were starting to die.

This city of Smyrna was destroyed and laid in ruins, then rebuilt, as in resurrected (800-300 BC). The application is that a dead or dying church with faithful, Christ-empowered people can be turned around and resurrected! John’s disciple, Polycarp, became the Bishop there and did resurrect it until he was martyred 30 or so years later (or at this time, depending how you date Revelation-another proof for a late date for Revelation if he is the “Angel”).

So what does this come down to? 

Your church can remain faithful no matter what, if you are focused on Christ as LORD and not circumstances!

The troubles we face can cause us to fear so we seek to cover them up with our pride and/or bitterness. We try to go it alone when Christ is beckoning us to trust in Him, go His Way, and give our fears to Him. When we refuse to heed His call, it will just be a short time until we are thrown away, given to the devil, since we are working for him anyway. Ironically, our sufferings are far less of a venture and sentence than our poor choices.

When we work our lives and church with our corrupt personal power we are in fact abandoning His power and Fruit. Consider this: when we are independent from Christ in our personal lives and in running our churches, we are forsaking and opposing Him. Thus, it is not that much of a stretch or even a job relocation to be a church of Satan, since we are already such a place. But, when we trust in Him, He will give us the strength to endure.

Reflection

How can the fact that Jesus knows us more intimately that we can imagine, and desires us to be in Him strengthen your churches collective faithfulness? What can you do to grow your church in this area and to glorify Him more fully?

When we are faithful, we become beacons of hope and encouragement to others, too. We will become lifesavers, thrown to those who are drowning. Christ will use us in the plights of others as hands to grab on to and pull others up when they are sinking. But, if we are not faithful, there is no outstretched hand, only missed opportunities and an infamy to a community, a life wasted, a church of dysfunction, and a crown of shame instead of a crown of life. God asks us to be conquerors and faithful witnesses to whom and what He is! We cannot do that as a church of Satan!

 

Reverence in Leadership PIII

Reverence in LeadershipBut to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 

Reverence is about submitting to the Supremacy, Sufficiency, and Centrality of Christ as LORD!

In the universe and in the Church, Christ is Creator and God, He is superior over any idea, philosophy, religion, or mysticism. He is over trends, traditions, and even the Jewish laws that pointed to Him. No one can gain salvation or fullness without Jesus Christ, so why even try? How dare anyone foolishly mislead others with false truths or legalism away from the Truth to seek his own over Him. Thus, we must yield ourselves to what the Church is about, how we are to run and grow our church, so we can be our best for His glory and our opportunities (Matt. 5:13; 2 Cor. 2:15; Phil. 1:27; Col.1: 18; 3:11).

How do I know if I am reverencing Christ properly?

Are we robbing God of the opportunities He tries to give us? Do we mix them up with habits, pride, and traditions?

Do we make grandstand pretenses, showing off our faith while we have a heart full of soot?

Do our attitudes, desires, and passions line up with the precepts of His Word, or express our own selfish agendas?

Perhaps you are thinking that this is about passion. Well, this is paramount, but it has to be grounded in God’s truth, not the ideas and desires of man. We must seek initiative and inspiration from Christ, not from traditions.

What can I do to be better at reverence? Do not practice your faith or lead your church through the filter of traditions or habits. Rather, filter faith through the clarity of God’s Word! Prayer will help us navigate through what is selfish and not right to what is of God and is His plan. It is all about being conformed to Him, not to our ideas or desires.

Think about those times of trouble and stress. How is Jesus your source, substance, and Truth in the good and bad times? How must He be for you to not just survive, but to thrive?

We have to reach out to Him; let Christ grasp you so you are not seeing just the sea of what is in it for me. Or be consumed by problems and the ocean of deluge overtaking the ship of your faith and composure in Him. Yes, this is tough; we all deal with this–certainly I do, even now… I want what I want. When times are confusing and we can’t see where we are going or where God wants us, something to consider and pray about is this.

But take this to heart. God is far more concerned about how we are than what we do or where we go. Our lives are a process and a journey, as is our church. Our Lord’s mission is to transform our hearts and minds, the very core of who we are, so that we can live in the Kingdom of God–a Kingdom with His values and purpose, regardless of any opposition we might have, including the opposition others give us. Then, we can lead others properly with a reverence to His Lordship. We especially need Christ in the dire times of life–the times when we have the best opportunities to learn and grow.

So, if you are stuck in your faith or in the spiritual formation of our church, or moving people where they really need to go. Usually, it is our own opposition that hinders us the greatest and is evidenced by our fears and neglect or lack of active faith.

We have to realize that pleasing ourselves (as so many of us pursue) is not the goal of the Christian life either or how we build a church. Rather, we are to follow Christ and be imitators of His character, letting it transform our character. We are to do this through love and the acceptance of others as Christ did with us, even though we did not deserve it.

Reverence in Leadership PII

Reverence-vs-Relevance became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, …” Ephesians 3:7-8

One of the big buzz words we hear thrown about in church leadership is ‘relevance.’ Make sure your message is understandable and it is targeted to the people you are reaching. Of course, as long as the Message is not compromised or watered-down. And yes, that is important. But, how are we with honoring our Lord?

Consider this, the opposite of discipleship is compliancy as in not discipleing or as Dietrich Bonhoeffer puts it, being “ashamed of Christ.”

As the opposite of maturity is immaturity, as the opposite of wisdom is foolishness, and the opposite of good leadership is well bad leadership and all of this will the result to no direction in life or the church brought on by no effectual learning or discernment to us or our people.

This leads to rebellion against God, why it is to be ashamed of Christ, and an attitude to fight against His godly leaders. We with this mindset that comes from a lack of reverence, will lead others away, as well. We will be leading people in hopelessness and despair, because most people cannot discern the difference. How can they if we the leaders can’t? Thus, it is the Christian leader’s responsibility to know their faith, and apply it with correct reverence, knowledge, based on God’s Word to our personal lives first, then to our administration of church leadership and others lives.

Consider this, Paul was motivated from his sense of obligation, not that he had too, but he wanted. Our causes are rooted in our motivations which are rooted in our ideas and expectations. Our sense of obligation will certainly affect all that we do too, so we have to make sure it is rooted in God and not elsewhere too (Rom. 11:13-14; Eph. 3:1-8)!

We need to know that Christ calls us to change our minds like we change the oil in the car. This is what Romans 12 is about, to be a “devotee” to Christ

In other words, we are to be changed persons so we can be authentic, impacting worshippers so we can be change agents to others. Being a living sacrifice living out real reverence for Christ as LORD, as a key aspect of our growth and maturity in the faith.

The purpose of knowing God’s principles and the study of His Word is not just the knowledge we gain (which is very important), but our supreme goal is what we do with that knowledge. His work in us is to be applied, not just studied, or ignored. Our devotion to Christ must be rooted in our minds, then allow the doctrine to translate it to our feet and the rest of our body in between. Our “impacting” will influence our people, the body of Christ, both our individual human body as well as a body of believers in relation to all those around us. It is our duty as church leaders. If not, get out and get well before coming back.

How do I know if I have a proper attitude of reverence? Look at Paul’s prayerfulness it is an expression of his devotion and zeal. His will was conquered with a sense of gratitude and indebtedness to Christ. Are you totally submitted to God’s ways, do you feel indebted, or do you feel owed?

Being “poured out” is to take the focus off yourself and place it on others, as Christ did for us. Paul spent his life to express it (1 Cor. 6:19-20; Eph. 1:15; Phil. 1:6-9).

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