I’ve often lamented what I call the loss of the “functional” authority of Scripture in the body of Christ in our day. Most Christians are diligent to affirm that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, the only infallible rule for faith and practice. But you could never tell that from the way they actually structure their churches or formulate their beliefs or cast their vision or shepherd their sheep. In other words, there is a vast chasm separating their theological affirmation of what the Bible is, as God’s Word, and how they employ the biblical text in shaping the strategy and expression of ministry. All too often, the Bible bears a token authority that rarely translates into a functional guide and governor, so to speak, that dictates and directs what we are to believe and how we are to be God’s people in a postmodern world.
So, when I say that certain folk don’t appear to care much about what Christ thinks of the church, I have in mind the way in which they elevate sociological trends and marketing surveys and demographic studies, together with the “felt needs” of the congregation, above the principles and truths of Scripture itself. That’s not to say we can’t learn from the former; only that an undue focus on them often leads to the neglect of Scripture and even the abandonment of clear biblical guidelines on how to “do church.”
I feel considerable energy on this point because of what I see in Revelation 2:1. There we read, “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.’” . . . These letters are the direct and explicit address of the risen Christ to his people. . . . We would do well to heed what he says!
The lordship of Christ over his people is not passive, distant, or indifferent. It is active, immanent, and intimate. Our Lord patrols the churches with an intense and ever present awareness of all thoughts, deeds, and activities. . . . He is never, ever absent! No service is conducted at which he fails to show up. No meal is served for which he does not sit down. No sermon is preached that he does not evaluate. No sin is committed of which he is unaware. No individual enters an auditorium of whom he fails to take notice. No tear is shed that escapes his eye. No pain is felt that his heart does not share. No decision is made that he does not judge. No song is sung that he does not hear.
How dare we build our programs and prepare our messages and hire our staffs and discipline our members as if he were distant or unaware of every thought, impulse, word, or decision! How dare we cast a vision or write a doctrinal statement or organize a worship service as if the Lord whose church it is were indifferent to it all!
Do you care what Christ thinks of the church? Or are you more attuned to the latest trend in worship, the most innovative strategy for growth, the most “relevant” way in which to engage the surrounding culture? Yes, Jesus cares deeply about worship. Of course he wants the church to grow. And he longs to see the culture redeemed for his own glory. All the more reason to pray that God might quicken us to read and heed the “words” of Christ to the church in Ephesus then and to the church now, whatever its name, denomination, or size. It obviously matters to him. Ought it not to us as well?
Adapted from Sam Storms, To the One Who Conquers: 50 Daily Meditations on the Seven Letters of Revelation 2-3, Kindle Edition