They had works.
They labored.
They showed patience.
They could not bear those who were evil.
They were able to detect false teachers.
They demonstrated perseverance.
They labored for the name of Christ and had not become weary.
And yet, according to Jesus Christ—the Great Physician, Who is able to accurately diagnose the heart, this group of Christians in Ephesus had left their first love. (Revelation 2:2-4)
What treatment plan did Jesus give this group of people? He first told them to “remember from where you have fallen.” In other words, reflect back to why they came together—go back and look at what your original priorities were. Spend time reflecting on the true mission of the church. Then He commands them, “repent.” Too often, Christians who have been baptized look at the word “repentance” as a step of salvation. Yet, Jesus here was addressing Christians—telling this sick church that if it wanted to get better then they needed to repent. Lastly, He tells them to do the first works. This group of people was busy working and laboring, but they had moved away from the things that were truly important.
The Great Physician then revealed what their fate would be if they did not follow his medical treatment: “or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Revelation 2:5).
I suspect this exact same diagnosis could be given to hundreds of congregations across our nation today. We are busy with works. We are laboring. We don’t bear with those who are evil. We can identify false teachers. And yet, we have left our first love. Our focus is no longer on Christ and what He has done for us, but rather, our focus is on the next big program or event—in order to please the masses and get numbers up. We’ve detached ourselves so far away from our sin that we don’t spend much time actually reflecting on where we would be without Christ and the cross.
What many modern congregations have actually done is created vast “social clubs” or “country clubs” full of people who want to be surrounded by moral people of the same socio-economic status. We want to feel like we are doing good, involved in lots of works, and have someone to go to lunch with on Sunday. Sure we love God, but deep down we have grown comfortable. We have built massive buildings, all the while we are surrounded by thousands who are lost and hurting—yet, these people will never hear the Gospel because our social club is too busy with internal programs. Our mentality has become, “We will build bigger buildings and they will come to us.”
Don’t believe me? Take a moment to consider how much time, energy, sacrifice, and money are spent actually going out into your local community. Now compare that to how much time, energy, sacrifice, and money are spent on “internal” programs—programs for people who already know about the saving blood of Christ. We wave the banner of “edification” broadly, as justification for these programs, but the reality is in most cases these programs are simply tools that keep the church convinced they are busy and active. A serious look reveals a much deeper problem—Christians who have lost their first love, and no longer desire to “go” and reach the lost.
I have probably heard every excuse in the book: “Door knocking doesn’t work anymore.” “We don’t think advertising in the local paper will work.” “We don’t really know how to reach the lost in this technological age.” Etc. So instead of trying something, we add a few more internal programs and comfort our guilty consciousness. Or maybe we justify it by saying: “We stream or record our services for everyone on the internet” as if there are thousands of people sitting by their computers or televisions who will stumble across our site with the intention of learning the Truth.
Yes, in too many cases we have become country club churches. It’s with tears in my eyes that I point out this truth. I love the church. I love the people who make up the church. But the truth is we are comfortable. We are busy in the building. But we are about to have our lampstand removed. It is time leaders and members repent and get busy doing what God really expects us to do. It is time we return to our first love. It is time we get out of our comfort zones and do the hard things.
As for me and my house? We’re tired of social club church. We desperately want to serve. We want leaders to blaze a trail into our community. We want to stop wasting money on frivolous internal programs. We want to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty. We want the waters in our baptistery to be rippling every week—rather than growing stagnant. We want to return to our first love. And that, my friend, is what we shall do. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
By Brad Harrub, Ph.D.