Church Revival Part II – A Beautiful Mess
(I have borrowed the term “Beautiful Mess” from the book “Messy Church” by Ross Parsley)
Main readings Ezekiel 34:11-16 and Rev 2:12-17
We are in the topic of Church Revival and when I preached last time, we saw the message from Jesus Christ to the Church in Smyrna. We looked at the flow of the message (Viz; Commend, Comfort, Point out areas of improvement and then Reward). We also saw the 3R principle of revival (Viz; Repent, Return and Recover).
Today, let us look at the message to the church in Pergamos. We will see the same flow in this message also. Jesus commends them in v13 Revelation 2:13 (NKJV) I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. He comforts them by revealing who he is in v12. Revelation 2:12 (NKJV) “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write, ‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: He is the one who has the two edged sword with him. A two edged sword that can protect the believers and slay sin and sinners. It is God’s word. This identity of Christ, the one with the double edged sword, is very relevant to the Church at Pergamos, The church of Pergamos was infested with men of corrupt minds, who did what they could to corrupt both the faith and manners of the church; and Christ, being resolved to fight against them by the sword of his word, takes the title of him that hath the sharp sword with two edges. This is comforting to the believers in the church that they need not fight the corrupt in the church by themselves, but Christ, the one with the double edged sword, will fight for them. Jesus then proceeds to pointing out what is the problem with the church at Pergamos, and lastly explains the reward that is awaiting them if they revive. So the flow of commend, comfort, point out areas of improvement and reward is applicable in this message also. Since we have already dwelt on it last time I preached I would like to look at another aspect of revival this time.
Let us look at the condition of the Church at Pergamos for a moment. In v14-15 He tells the church what he knows about their sins and shortcomings. The congregation has, among them , those who teach corrupt doctrines, that it is ok to have small incursions, it is ok to have impure worship. That is what Balaam did to the Israelites. So what was happening in this church was that corrupt practices and corrupt worship was leading to corrupt conversations. In addition, there are those who follow the teachings of the Nicolations. There are different interpretations of this phrase. One of them is that teachings of the Nicolations means dominating over people, as against the teachings of Balaam which is seducing the people. In short in the church of Pergamos, there were people who were dominating over the believers or seducing the believers to wrong worship practices. In short, using a modern terminology, the church at Pergamos was a mess.
What about our church? Don’t you get the feeling that sometimes we are in a mess? It might not be as big as wrong worship practices or seduction or domination, but yet there are times when we are entitled to think that we are in a mess. There are times when we do not have enough people in the pews to deliver a sermon to, there are times when we do not have enough children to run a Sunday School class, there are times when we do not have any youth members to lead the singing, there are times when we do not have any one to play a musical instrument, there are times when we scramble to get enough participation in events like special meetings or cottage prayer meetings, there are times when we see people leave our church and can’t do anything about it, there are times when one member criticizes another member for an act. There are times when some sermons do not measure up to someone’s standards. There are times when someone believes that their spiritual needs are not getting met through this congregation. There are times when someone gets offended by a particular point in a sermon. There are times when someone believes that our worship is not lively enough. There are times when someone feels that we spend too much time and money in eating rather than listening to the word. There are times when we do not have enough money in the bank; there are times when we delay the payments due to that. I can go on and on, but I think I have made my point. We as a church have got problems, or in other words, it would not be an entirely wrong if I say that we are in a mess!!
Have you ever been to a home with little children? Now a days, it is difficult to find homes with too many kids, but in olden time there were houses with five or six children. I come from a family of six children, so does Leslie. Imagine to condition of our houses when all the children were young, separated by may be, an year or so. Imagine how our mothers would have handled the situation. Sanjana does some work for me, and hence I have regular calls with her. During our calls, I can hear Nathan and Jude screaming and shouting in the background. I can hear things being thrown around. I can well imagine that if you walk into her home anytime, you might well describe it as a mess. The same could be true for Mareen’s home. Whenever she speaks with Leslie over phone, even I sitting beside her can hear Angel’s screaming. Their house could be in bit of a mess. But ask Manohar or Sanjana, ask Nidheesh or Mareen, they would probably agree, “yes it is a mess”, but they will surely add, “but it is a beautiful mess”. Nowadays due to WhatsApp and Facebook, you might have seen many pictures or videos of little children eating and making a solid mess of it, but we love it isn’t it? We love it because it is a beautiful mess!!
This morning, I am convinced that, that is exactly how Christ sees our congregation. It is a bit of a mess. We all come from different backgrounds. Some of us come from mainline churches which could be much more organised and orderly. Some of us come from Charismatic congregations which could be more lively. Some of us might be coming from bigger churches where there are many more folks to speak to. Yes our congregation does not measure up to the orderly, or lively or numerical standards that we might be used to. It is a mess when we look at it from those standards, but it is a beautiful mess in Jesus Christ’s eyes. He loves us the way we are. It is His body that we are part of. We make a beautiful mess in his eyes. God loves us and hence we are a beautiful mess in his eyes!!
Can we get out of this mess? Can we grow up? Of course we can!!. Not because of what we can do, but because of what He can do.
Let us turn our attention to the words of the Lord spoken through the prophet Ezekiel. Ezekiel 34:11-16 (NKJV) says ‘For thus says the Lord GOD: “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land; I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, in the valleys and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel. There they shall lie down in a good fold and feed in rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,” says the Lord GOD. I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick; but I will destroy the fat and the strong, and feed them in judgment.” Isn’t this a beautiful promise. A promise that the Lord will take care of His flock even when we royally mess up. This is a promise that the Lord will seek out His flock even when one has wandered far off. At the right time, his hands will fetch the flock home into His abounding grace. And after seeking out the flock and bringing them back to the fold, the Lord will provide for them and protect them and give them rest. We see this promise repeated in Psalm 23. We see this repeated in Jeremiah 23:3-4 (NKJV) “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the LORD. And we see this promise being sealed once and for all in Revelation 2:17 (NKJV) He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” The Lord is not only promising that He will revive His church, despite the mess we make of it, but He is promising the revived church everlasting manna and the white stone. The white stone represents two things. In ancient Greece, the Jury used to hand over a white stone when an accused is acquitted and a black stone when the accused is convicted. In Rome, the victor of an athletic contest was awarded a white stone with his name inscribed in it. This stone used to act as the ticket to the special awards banquet. Something like the “after party” in IPL. Jesus Christ is promising you and me that we are guilt free because of His finished work on the cross and he is offering us the ticket to the ultimate banquet in heaven, the eternal victory celebration.
So what must we do to receive this ticket? There are no five step process by which we can build a mega church out of Bangalore Bible Fellowship, but there is a 3 step process, the simple 3Rs that I spoke about last time, Repent, Return and Recover. The 3Rs might not overnight transform BBF into a mega church but it will certainly make us into a Body of believers making a difference as light and salt at the work place and in the community, under the Lordship of Christ. When we do that, we will not see the church as a messed up place, but will be see it as a beautifully messed up family. When we see ourselves as a family, we will not be talking about the mess we make or the failures of our brethren. We will then be not building a religion, but we will build a family of God. We will then be part of the body of Christ and be a family that helps build each other into a community of believers that is more authentic, connected and fulfilling. And we can reach that stage by truly submitting ourselves as sheep to the great Shepherd who has promised to take care of us despite our tendency to mess up again and again.