First in a series
When people are searching for a church to join, they usually have a set of criteria in mind. These criteria can revolve around sermon delivery or personality of the preacher, stance on the Bible, mission activities, local outreach, social awareness, church programs, music or the friendliness of the people. I understand this is not an exhaustive list, and this list may not include the characteristics you look for in a church.
In Revelation 2:1-7, the apostle John describes the church at Ephesus. He compliments this body of believers on some wonderful characteristics that we have come to desire in our church.
John says the Ephesian church was working with patient endurance. There were many difficulties and persecutions that were happening in the first century. Despite these circumstances, the church at Ephesus was not running from the task, but continuing to serve the Lord.
They also would not tolerate evil coming into the church. They had standards of life taught by the Apostles, and they were holding one another accountable. Furthermore, the church held their leaders to a higher standard.
Verse 2 says they tested those who said they were apostles. This church didn’t just assume a calling had been placed on a life, but tested each life for that calling. Churches continue this same practice today through testing and in many cases, ordination of leaders.
The church at Ephesus sounds like the perfect church.
This church would be consistently mentioned in denominational papers, and its leaders would headline the major conferences. However, there was a problem. At first glance, this problem may appear to be small, because not much is said about it.
It simply says that the church had left the love they had at first.
But what does it mean to lose your first love? We often say their love for Jesus had simply grown cold. The church at Ephesus was busy doing the Lord’s work, but their worship diminished. This can happen quickly in our lives. We want to serve the Lord and we work as hard as we can, but we forget the warmth and sweetness of the relationship.
While I’m sure that was part of their problem, I don’t believe it’s the whole story. When you read about the Ephesian church in Acts 19-20, you see a church willing to risk it all for the spread of the gospel. They were so passionate about sharing the Good News, riots broke out in the streets. Their love for the Lord was a passion more than it was a duty. They didn’t care if it cost their lives, they wanted everyone to know about Jesus Christ.
Perhaps this is the first love they were missing.
Is this the kind of love that describes our church? Is this the love that describes our state convention?
Are we willing to risk everything so those who’ve never heard the name of Jesus can hear the gospel and place their trust in Christ?
Let’s not be so busy doing church that we stop being the Church. Let’s find that first love and renewed passion in our lives.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – This article is part of a series on the theme of the 2018 North Carolina Pastor’s Conference, “7 Churches of Revelation.” This year’s event will occur Nov. 4-5 in conjunction with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina’s annual meeting. Visit ncpastorsconference.org for more information. Marty Jacumin is senior pastor of Bay Leaf Baptist Church in Raleigh. Each column in the series will be written by a different N.C. leader and refer to one of the seven churches in Revelation.)