The rise out of ashes sounds like a good title for a Zombieland sequel, but it is something supernatural. If something is dead and it comes to life again, then the supernatural is the only explanation. Before you go all Poltergeist on me, Sardis was a dead church but had the chance to be alive again. Many of our churches today are declining, dying, or in fact are zombies as you can read here and there, in addition to Ed Stetzer’s blog.
Jesus holds out hope but it involves our choices. Look at what Jesus said to Sardis and, essentially, to us today.
2 Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before My God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent.
How can the church that is declining or dying see new life, otherwise known as revival? Revival is defined as process of reviving somebody: the process of bringing somebody back to life, consciousness, or full strength. Jesus gives us the following:
- Be Alert – the church must wake up and have honest awareness that something is wrong. Much like the ostrich sticking her head in the sand, the church is trying to deny a problem. If people never address the issue then they can continue to believe there is no issue. While many of us may hate numbers, they do tell a story. Reducing numbers, reducing money, reducing involvement point to issues that must be discussed. Far too often churches blame the leadership and assume the “new guy” will be the fix. While there are times that pastors fail, I do not believe they should take sole ownership of a corporate problem. The church must awaken to the reality that every person in the body is responsible for growth or decline. Paul told the Romans that we weep with the weeping and rejoice with the rejoicing. We are a unit.
- Strengthen – in almost every situation there is a remnant of people holding out hope for the preferred future that God has given them. If you are in this group stay strong! Through prayer, unity and fellowship can strengthen. The body draws strength from God and one another. As the body lives out the Gospel God will bless. We must strengthen our resolve to not just profess faith in Christ but practice that faith as well. The gospel does not end with the cross but with you taking up your cross in discipleship.
- Remember – it is good to check our spiritual heritage. However may we not gaze longingly into that rear view mirror too long. If we stare too long we have taken our eyes off of the road ahead and risk crashing. The collateral damage of continuing to look back and not forward is great. The church and community suffer when the church is too busy trying to be what they once were more than living out the gospel in the context of today.
- Repent – live and lead from a pure heart. John tells that church that she has sin and it must be dealt with quickly and regularly. Confession and repentance are a clear teaching from scripture. We should not only pray for our own cleansing but for a forgiving heart toward others. Before bitterness, anger, rage, and more takes root in the heart it must be eradicated with the precision of a surgeon removing a tumor. Do not wait. Do not linger in sin. Repent. Those who have ears should hear what the Spirit is saying.
God will not negotiate a settlement. These are His terms. We refuse and die or follow and live. God is greater. God is stronger. I suggest we follow Him.