|How Do You Measure Up?
by Jim Schlottman
Recently, I spoke to a pastor who shared that his church was going through a time of evaluation of programs and church ministry. He said as they have been going through this process many of his church lay leaders have been looking at statistics to measure the success or failure of the church.
However, he told me that when Jesus gave His evaluation of the seven churches in the provinces of Asia He didn’t mention any statistics.
The Men’s Bible Study that I attend has just begun a study of Revelation. So as we read the early passages that talk about the seven churches, I thought about this pastor’s comments. I’m sure you’ve read these passages many times and you may have even used them in a sermon or in evaluating your church. The evaluations are very direct.
The first church mentioned is the church in Ephesus. Jesus states fourteen measures of this church. Eight are their good traits, followed by one of the worst accusations they could have heard – “you forgot your first love.”
Then He tells them how they can get back in God’s favor, followed by a warning and the reason why they deserve a second chance.
First the good traits:
1. Your deeds.
2. Your hard work.
3. Your perseverance.
4. You cannot tolerate wicked men.
5. You have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.
6. You have persevered (that is the second time this is mentioned).
7. (You). . . have endured hardships for my name.
8. (You) . . . have not grown weary.
Now the bad thing:
9. You have forsaken your first love.
Then He gives them advice how to get back in His favor:
10. Remember the height from which you have fallen!
11. Repent and do the things you did at first.
And finally He gives them a warning:
12. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.
But there is still a chance for the church in Ephesus because:
13. But you have this in your favor:
14. You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
That is just the first church. How does your church measure up so far? Have you lost your first love? Have you forgotten the “things you did at first?” How often we are like the proverbial frog in the pot. We very slowly slip away from the first things, the first love. If you find yourself there right now, stop and go back.
Then we come to the church in Smyrna. I have mixed feeling about being compared with the church in Smyrna. What He lists is how bad off they were. However, although things were tough at Smyrna, Jesus gave them one of the greatest promises He could have given – “I will give you the crown of life.”
The Smyrna list:
1. I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich!
2. I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.
Then He gives them an encouragement or what could even be called a charge:
3. Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer.
He goes on to tell them what they are going to face. You know sometimes I would just as well not know what is going to happen. It only causes me to worry.
4. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you
5. You will suffer persecution for ten days.
At least there was a given time limit on their persecution.
And again with the charge:
6. Be faithful, even to the point of death
But then the big finish. They are told what the reward will be:
7. I will give you the crown of life.
We could make lists about each of the next five churches. Each church was very different in the good things they did and in the bad things. Which one does your church come the closest to resembling?
Even if your church is not currently going through an evaluation, it won’t hurt for you and your leadership to take one of your meetings to stand your church up against one of the seven and see just what Jesus would say about you. Remember it would be worth making sure you measure up well. Remember the reward is to be given the crown of life.