You are never going to find the perfect church. Why? Because they are made up of people. Not all people enjoy the same things. What makes good preaching, good music, good outreach, good stewardship? The answers will be different depending on who you ask.
The messages Jesus is sending to the seven churches will dig deeper and look at the heart. Each of these messages will have a similar pattern. In fact, you might even want to make a table and take notes so you have a dandy reference tool after we’ve read all seven messages. Your headings would be “Church” “Description of Jesus,” “Praise,” “Rebuke,” “Challenge,” and “Promise.”
Jesus starts with the church in Ephesus. You may recall Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. This is a church that is familiar to us as well. For the Church of Ephesus, Jesus is portrayed as the one who holds the seven stars and walks among the seven lampstands. He praises them for their hard work and patient endurance. He rebukes them for losing their love. Jesus challenges them to turn back to him lest they be removed from their place among the churches. And the promise is to eat from the tree of life.
What do we see in that for us? Jesus cares for his churches. It’s easy for churches (and us in our own personal walk of faith) to lose the flame. How many times have you gone to a church service and walked away not really sure what just happened? We can get stuck in the rut of routine and just start going through the motions. That can happen in our lives and relationships as well.
You might think of a marriage relationship. People often say that it’s hard to keep a marriage strong. Why? Because it takes work, commitment, nurture, and attention. So, too, for the church. Because it is made up of people having relationships with each other and with God, it is critical to nurture those relationships to keep the fire burning.
How do we relight the flame if it’s gone out? Jesus suggests in our text, “Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” Remember when you were first introduced to Jesus? Remember the giddiness of knowing you were loved no matter what? Remember the devotion you had to making your ministry a success because that’s how more people would know about Jesus? Remember the thrill of newness? You can kindle the flame with these memories and do those same works again.
I remember church staff meetings lasting hours as we would think through what would keep people engaged. How could we be doing ministry so that love and zeal for the gospel message didn’t die out? This is precisely what Jesus is saying to the church in Ephesus. It’s not only a message for them.
Take some time today to pray for your church. If you are not attending a church right now, or if you church is not meeting due to the pandemic, reach out and you can join in with us and our online church. Everyone is welcome. We are doing our best to keep the flames burning bright!
Let’s pray. Lord, I thank you for the opportunities you have given me to serve you. Help the fire inside me stay burning bright. I want others to see you living inside me. I pray for our mission church. Sustain us during this time. May we sense you in a new fresh way and have clarity on how we can serve and make an impact here. In Jesus’ name. Amen.