Falling In Love Again
The topic for this issue is “The Basics of Revitalization.” To answer the question I had to answer what is the basis for revitalization? Is it just trying to get the saints revived, or is it something much more. We all know that our Country and the world for that matter, needs a great revival. By that I mean the Church has to come back to its first love in the Lord Jesus Christ and desire to live holy consecrated lives. If the Church will get right, then there is the possibility for the communities, countries and world to become awakened to the sovereignty and Kingdom of God Jehovah. I began to ponder, really, what is the basis of revitalization. I thought I might write about some of the tenets of how revitalization needs to be approached or possibly talk about the requirements that need to be in place before revitalization should be attempted. But neither of those resonated with me. I didn’t want to talk about the pragmatism or the philosophy of revitalization; there are already enough books and articles to cover those topics. Instead, I think the most basic issue in revitalization is the subject/object itself – the Church. This is what drives me in revitalization attempts – the Church. We find that scripture supports revitalization. When we investigate both Old and New Testaments, we find that the Father is brokenhearted about Israel, his people failing in their commission to bring glory to Him and the Gospel to the nations. The same is said by Jesus when He gives John instructions to “write to the Churches” in Revelation. I will note two of the Churches and the message or ultimatum they are given later.
Israel was the Bride of Jehovah in the Old Testament; albeit a very unfaithful one. The Church is the Bride of Christ; Ephesians 5:25-29 is clear about what Christ desires the Bride to look like. The Church is the body of Christ in the world, just as Israel was the “Bride” in allegory in the book of Hosea. The ministry of revitalization in its fundamental goal is to restore the Bride of Christ to a healthy loving Bride to the Bridegroom. Scripture informs us that the Church belongs to Jesus, the Bridegroom; and that he will build the Church. There are great examples in scripture where the Church was triumphant [Especially in Acts]. There are glorious stories of how the people of Israel overcame great odds and enemies to win victory after victory through the power of God at work within their midst. When Yahweh is supremely worshiped by His people there is great wonder and power displayed. But – Oh that word, Israel did not remain true to the Father. It seems that mankind is always wandering and looking for some new adventure. Instead of being satisfied and content with the God of the universe, we look for cheap imitations or an easier way to being religious. It doesn’t take long for the Church to drift from God – Israel lasted only 40 days before they replaced God with a Golden Calf idol in Exodus 32-34. The book of Judges is a vicious cycle of faithful and unfaithfulness by God’s people. Surely, with Jesus the Son as the head of the Church; we New Testament Believers will learn from our Old Testament brethren, right? Wrong! For we find in Revelation 2 and 3 that there is another message, Jesus will in fact snuff out the Lamp of a particular local church if it is not representative of Him.
Jesus isn’t the only one that is passionate about the Church, the Apostle Paul filled his epistles to the “churches” with instructions and admonitions to live and act rightly according to the holiness of God. It is the local church that needs revitalization. There are so many books and models that have been developed to try and bring the local churches back to life. But just as Jesus addressed different “I have this against you” issues; so each local church must come to a “new reality”. Obviously the local churches did not see, or rejected the problems in their church, or Jesus would not have had to address them. NOTE: by now many of you have begun to debate with me about possible interpretations of the Revelation 2-3 passage. You may take a different position on why and how Jesus wrote to the churches, even taking a “they are examples” of church issues. Whichever way you want to address the passage I have referenced, you must acknowledge that JESUS WROTE TO THE CHURCH! The Church represents Christ, when the Bride no longer “loves” her groom; the Groom has every right and responsibility to call the Bride to account.
So the basis of Revitalization is about the Church body or Bride whichever metaphor you like, becoming alive again and falling in love with the Bridegroom, Jesus the Son of God. Revitalization is about recognizing the drift and departure from the Word of God; admitting that it is not on task of pleasing the Master; that it has become internally driven rather than outwardly; seeks its own will rather than the Will of the Father.
In Church Revitalization, there are three different audiences – plateaued, declining or dying Churches. The difference is, only a matter of degree of departure and remaining “Life” left in the Body.
In Revelation we are given seven Churches with varying degrees of problems and tribulations. Some are under attack, but most have “settled” for their particular state of being. In addressing the Church at Ephesus, the problem was it had lost its first love. Now we must remember that this church was founded by the grand Apostle Paul, was pastored by the great missionary pastor Timothy, Paul’s protégé. It was also the home church of the Beloved Apostle John and I believe the final resting place for Mary; Jesus’ mother. One would think with all that notoriety and prestige, surely this would be a Church that would be steadfast in faithfulness. But Jesus says, “I have this against you, you have lost your first love.” In other words, you have forgotten Me. Something every Church has to be careful about is the purpose for their existence. I would call Ephesus an Orthodox Church. They believe right, are solid on doctrine and truth, but have become mechanical in their worship and love for the Lord. It’s almost like an old married couple that forgot what brought them together in the first place and have settled for an EXISTENCE instead of a RELATIONSHIP. Ephesus was in need of a second honeymoon. Jesus spells it out this way – REMEMBER-REPENT-RETURN. The fire had got out of the marriage with Jesus! Ephesus had to get back that “Lovin Feeling.”
In the second church I want to address the church at Sardis. It is the DEAD church according to Jesus. But they think they are healthy and alive. This is a grave situation that needs a serious “Wake Up call.” The Church doesn’t even know they are dead, how sad a commentary! The Church had a Name in the community and among themselves that they were alive and healthy. An unreal reality had entrenched itself in the church. In Revitalization, the first order of business is KNOWING SOMETHING IS WRONG. A fresh, but honest assessment of the true condition must be diagnosed and embraced. Sardis is an “Unfinished Church.” It had been alive at one time, and there was still hope, but the cure is “Strengthen that which remains.” Usually in a Church there is a REMANANT that God can use to restore the Church, as was the case at Sardis. But in restoring the Church revitalization does not mean return it back to its heyday, but return it back to ministry for THE CURRENT DAY. Too many Churches live in the past. This is true of a lot of Brides. They remember their beauty and slim figures, but time has taken effect on their bodies. If you think about this a little, there is a great illustration here.
Churches that need revitalization are those “whose love have grown cold.” In both Churches, it was time for them to Repent – the first step after conviction of sin and departure. It takes humility and a willingness to swallow our pride. Most Churches can do Church, but then again Doing Church was never the task – the Bride was called to faithfulness to the Bridegroom – Be the Church, that all Our Savior wants.