Have you ever prayed that after a long and difficult Sunday or deacon’s meeting? I think most have. We long for a situation we think describes the New Testament Church. Of course, we see that as the ideal NT church and not the really messy ones described in the NT. Was the NT church all that different from many we see today?
The first church (Acts 5) contained a wealthy family whose spirituality was so hypocritical God judged them with death. The Galatian church was legalistic regarding the very essence of faith, the Gospel. The Ephesians continually had issues with governance, leadership (read Paul’s instructions to Timothy), a lack of unity, and worst of all, they left their first love. The Colossian church was filled with the wisdom of this world. The Church at Rome needed a strong foundation. Shall we really discuss the issues at Corinth? And then there are those others in Revelation 2-3.
It seems only two, Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11) and Philadelphia (Rev.3:7-13), were complimented by the Lord. I find it interesting that Smyrna was a persecuted and suffering church. Philadelphia kept the Word of God in obedience and persevered through a time of persecution.
So really, is it any different? Maybe, then again maybe not. There are great churches and great places of service that are life-giving in many ways. Then there are those that are life-draining. It was true then, it is true today.
Most of us abhor slavery. Our own nation experiences today the effects of having enslaved a race of people. It is tragic beyond description. And wrong.
Yet Paul’s favorite term for himself in his relationship to Jesus was “bond slave”. He saw himself indentured to serve the Lord Jesus Christ.
How do we respond when we want to pray, “Lord get me outta here!”?
I recently had conversation with someone who conveyed a story of their church during a very, very difficult period of time. As I recall there was a guest worship leader and sometime during the music portion of the worship service the leader began to softly sing “Tell It To Jesus”. Spontaneously people got up out of their seats and came to the altar to pray. The Spirit of God seemed to hover over that congregation. Today, they have rebounded from those days and it is a thriving congregation once more.
We (myself and colleagues at the SBTC) visit with many pastors. Some are rejoicing in great victories. Others are navigating difficult issues. Two admonitions stick in my mind, both from great men of God.
The first is a statement I heard from Jerry Vines during a SWBTS chapel several years ago. He said, “If you are in this (meaning “ministry”) for any other reason than Jesus, you are going to die a bitter old man.”
The second was in a message by Charles Stanley at the SBC Pastor’s Conference years ago. He said, “Have you ever considered that your green grass is somebody else’s brown grass”?
We must remember who we are in Christ, and whose we are. And yes, tell it to Jesus.