What Kind Of Church?
Revelation 1:10-13a, 20
Resources: McGee; Vines; Criswell; Robertson; eSword Software
I’m here to tell you this morning that I miss being together with my church family. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that sentiment over these last few weeks. In the New Testament, we are told to love one another; serve one another; bear one another’s burdens; be kind to one another; comfort one another; edify one another; provoke one another to good works; and assemble ourselves together with one another; exhort one another. Love one another is found no less than 13 times in the New Testament alone. Jesus said that would be the overarching identifying mark of true disciples.
While so many of you are still doing all you can in, for, and with our church family, we we cannot meet together, it is nigh unto impossible for a church to function apart. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that we can stay connected through the means of technology. But also don’t forget that everyone doesn’t have the same technology available, and some are limited in their ability to use it. Some have not seen their church family for more than a month even on a screen of any kind. Techno-church doesn’t meet the biblical definition of a church – a called out assembly of believers. Inherent in that definition is that a church meets together. If it doesn’t meet together, it’s not a church.
Now let me say that every believer needs a church home. Pew Research found that when American who identified themselves as Christians are looking for a church home:
- 83% say the quality of preaching played an important role in their choice of congregation.
- Nearly as many (79%) say it was important to feel welcomed by clergy and lay leaders.
- Almost three-quarters (74%) say the style of worship services influenced their decision about which congregation to join.
- Location also factored prominently in many people’s (70%) choice of congregation, with seven-in-ten saying it was an important factor.
- More than half (56%) cite the quality of children’s programs,
- Just under half, (48%) having friends or family in the congregation or the availability of volunteering opportunities as key to their decision.
Sometimes people are involved in the process of finding a church. Some of you watching the service online are looking for a church and you’re looking us over. Maybe you’ve moved and come to a new location. It’s a really big deal to evaluate and examine a church and its ministry to see if that’s where God wants you.
People have a variety of things on their shopping list. For some, first is the theological belief and doctrines of the church. For some, its how much the people seem to care about each other. For some it’s the preaching, for some its the music, for some its the buildings or programs.
When I was a kid there were signs all over the country that said, “Attend the Church of Your Choice.” I’ve come to believe that’s bad advice. This morning I want to talk to you about the importance of a church. We know that Jesus founded and built the church. He said “Upon this rock I will build My church.” It is His church, and He is building His church.
When you study the New Testament you will find there the family of God. God’s family is made up of all born again people. Every person who has received the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Savior becomes a child of God. We are born into His family.
But it is important when you study the Bible you will also find that the New Testament talks about the ekklesia, the assembly, the local church. When people receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, the teaching of scripture is that they should become a part of a local congregation of believers. That’s why I’m talking to you about the importance of being a part of a church. If you are saved you are a part of God’s family, but God intends for you to be a part of a local assembly of believers as well, a church.
In the book of the Revelation is a series of letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor. You can look at them from a literal point of view. There were seven literal churches in Asia Minor. We can look at them from a historical point of view. You can see here a panoramic view of church history from the days of the apostles to the days of the rapture when believers are taken up.
You can also look at these churches from a practical standpoint also. You can see in these seven churches seven types of churches that are current in the world at this present time. There are some churches that are Ephesian churches. There are some churches that are Pergamos churches. There are some that are Laodicean churches.
On the inside of those churches you can find in virtually every church Christians who would fit into the category of one of these seven. In any given local church you may find Ephesian members who have lost their love for Jesus. You may find Smyrna believers who are faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. You may find Laodicean members in the church who are lukewarm and indifferent in their relationship to the Lord. We’re going to look at these seven churches and learn from them the kind of church you ought to want to be a part of, and the kind of church we want to be.
I’m thinking about our high school seniors and our college students. If you will remain right here. I hope you will continue to come to church. Some of you may be going off to other places to school. My prayer for you is that you will find a Bible preaching church there and be a part of that church wherever you’re going to school.
I want to talk to you about choosing a church, and we’ll do it on the basis of what we learn in this first chapter of Revelation. This morning I want to show you three aspects of a church you need to consider if you are looking for a church home, and three aspects of our church that we need to be sure we get right in the eyes of God. The first aspect is:
I. THE CHURCH’S LOCATION
John says in Revelation 1:10, “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day.” In v11 he was told to write in a book to the seven churches that were in Asia Minor. That’s where they were located geographically. That’s modern Turkey today. If you study the geography of these seven churches, you will discover that they were in a circular route.
The location of our church geographically is in east central Springfield. The location of a church is very important. Matters of distance are important. There are people who come a lot of distance to our church. We have some people who live in Marshfield, Strafford, Monett, Fair Grove, Billings, Willard, Republic, Ozark, Nixa, Sparta, Fordland. Some people drive more than thirty minutes to church, and they’re here every service.
There is not only the location of the church in terms of its geographical location but also in terms of its cultural location. These seven churches were located culturally in the first century of the Roman Empire. If you know anything about that particular time, and if you want to find out about it look in Romans 1 and read there, you know that it was a time that the drama and music were degenerate and it had produced a morally degraded society. It was a time of humanistic religion and multiplicity of religions.
A historian said about the religions of that day that, to the people, all religions were equally true; to the philosophers all religions were equally false; and to the politicians all religions were equally useful. That is kind of like we are in our world today. We are living in a morally decadent culture. We are living in a time when the culture has made its impact on religion.
We are a local church in the midst of a particular geographical location, in the midst of a cultural location, and in the midst of a spiritual location also. Each of these early churches had certain spiritual identities. We are living in a day where a church must take its stand in the midst of its culture. The convictions of a church are very important in this day. When you are choosing a church you need to ask yourself a question, where does a church stand on the issues? Where does a church stand on the Bible and on Jesus? Where does it stand on the moral and social issues of the day? The church of the Lord Jesus Christ must be a church of conviction, a church that takes its stand on moral, social, ethical, and spiritual issues based on the solid foundation of the Word of God!
Don’t choose a church on the basis of convenience. Choose a church on the basis of conviction and where the church stands on the truth of God’s Word! We have been standing for 60 years on the truth of God’s Word. Although our country has changed, our location has changed, our methodology has changed, God’s Word has not changed. CSBC must remain a church built on the Spiritual location of the unchangeable truth of God’s Word.
II. THE CHURCH’S INTENTION
What is a church intended to be? You will notice that it says in Revelation 1:12 “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks.” These would have been lamp stands in the times of the New Testament. The reference here is the Old Testament Tabernacle or Temple where there was a golden, seven branched lamp stand. Each of those branches would have a bowl with some oil in it and a wick. They would light that wick and that was what gave the light in the Tabernacle or Temple. That tells us what the intention of the church is supposed to be. The church is intended to be a light. Lamp stands gave light. Churches are intended to give light. That is the purpose of the church.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” The church is to be like a city set on a hill. The church is to be a bright light in a dark world. That is the intention of a church. It is to show forth the light of truth.
The scriptures say in Psalm 43:3 “O send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me.” Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:130 says, “The entrance of thy words giveth light.” The intention of the church is to give out the light of truth.
When you choose a church you have to ask yourself about the messages you will hear. Are the messages built on the teachings of the truth of God’s Word or is it just good advice? Could you get the same thing watching Dr. Phil or Oprah? Does the church you’re choosing give out the light of the truth of God?
There is the light of His testimony. The Bible says in Philippians 2:15-16, “Among whom ye shine as lights in the world. Holding forth the word of life.” The church is intended to be a light.
As we study these seven churches, you will discover that there are some problems related to the light of the churches. In chapter 2:5 it says, “Remember therefore from whence thou are fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy lampstand out of its place, except thou repent.” These are churches of the first century, barely into the inaugural stages of the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ, and there are some problems.
Lamp stands can have problems. They can get low on their fuel. When their wicks need trimming they can become very smoky and filled with soot. Problems can develop in the light of a lamp stand.
Problems can develop in the light of a church. Sometimes people get the idea that when you read these New Testament churches that all of them were models of perfection, that these early churches had no problems whatsoever. Yet we will see that these seven churches had all kinds of problems: false doctrines, immorality in the membership, and inconsistency on the part of the members of that church. All kinds of difficulties arose in the churches.
As you are looking for a church, you will discover that there are problems. If you think that any church is a perfect place and that there are no problems you are living under a false understanding. The very best churches are filled with sinful people, all of whom are at different places on the road to spiritual victory in their lives. In a church that is consistently and effectively shining His light to a dark world, there are going to be new believers being born into God’s family and growing Christians who, at times, all struggle in their faith and walk with the Lord.
God says in His Word that there comes times when a church’s testimony has to be removed, when its light has to be removed. I’m so thankful for the testimony of our church. Our church is a church that is known for standing for the truth. I am thankful for the testimony of our church in this city. God is under no obligation whatsoever to continue to bless Cherry Street Baptist Church unless we are true to the Word and unless we allow God to do through us what He wants to do.
When you begin to check out the churches, or if you are a member of a Bible preaching church, if you find something you don’t like, don’t let that necessarily cause you to go somewhere else. A Barna poll from a few years ago showed that more than one in seven adults change churches annually. Then it says one in six adults have a carefully chosen handful of selected churches they attend on a rotating basis. They float from church to church. That way you don’t have to get involved. Some people have belonged to many, many churches. If you stay at a place only as long until you find something you don’t like, then you run somewhere else, it won’t be long before you find something wrong there and go somewhere else. The churches of the New Testament weren’t perfect, and the churches of today are not perfect.
Through the years of my ministry I have seen people who didn’t love Jesus the way they should love Him, and I have seen people who love Jesus with all of their heart. I have seen people who are inconsistent in their Christian testimony, and I have seen people consistent in their Christian testimony. In these seven churches of the Revelation, five had problems and two the Lord Jesus commended. That is the way it is in any church. The intention of the church is to be a light but don’t ever think it’s a perfect place. If you should find a perfect church, please don’t join. If you do you will spoil it!
This church doesn’t have a perfect pastor. Just like you I have my own struggles being everything the Lord wants me to be every day. If you’ve got problems, you are welcome in our church. We are not a perfect church. If you’ve got a mixed up life, come on in. We’d love to have you here. If you’ve got problems in your life, come right on, you will find fellow strugglers ready to encourage you and be encouraged by you. If you’re hurting and bruised, if life has knocked you down, you come to our church. Our church is not a museum for the display of perfect saints, it is a hospital where hurting sinners become saints and and hurting saints can get well and be what God wants them to be.
The location of a church should be the solid ground of the Word of God. The intention of the church is to give the light of God’s truth in a dark world so that the lost and hurting can be reached and helped. The final aspect to consider if you are choosing a church, and what we want for our church is:
III. THE CHURCH’S ATTRACTION
You will notice that it says when John turned he saw those seven lamp stands, and it says in Revelation 1:13 “And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man…” That’s Jesus Christ.
Jerry Vines once said, “What makes Heaven Heaven, is Jesus.” We would all have to say that in the light of the New Testament, “What makes a church is Jesus.” We live in a world in which people make much of God but almost ignore Jesus. They ask “Do you know God?” The attraction of a church is what they make of Jesus. What does the church think about Jesus?
We live in a day and time where you can go to a church and hear about everything except Jesus in a service. When you are choosing a church, you better ask the question, “Where do they stand on Jesus?” John said I turned and saw one like unto the Son of man walking in the middle of the churches. In v18 Jesus said, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen.” Jesus was saying “I was alive, I died.” Two thousand years ago He died and now He’s says “I’m alive forevermore.”
That means that Jesus rose again from the dead and He is alive. Two billion years from now Jesus Christ will be alive. It was wonderful that Jesus was alive two thousand years ago when He came out of the tomb. It is more wonderful that He is alive in 2020, and He is walking in the midst of His church this morning and He is active. Even though we can’t meet together, He’s working in this church. He is comforting brokenhearted people. Jesus is alive and active in this church. He is calling young people to serve Him not just while they are in the youth group, but for their whole lives. He is helping brokenhearted people. He is working and saving the lost in through our ministry. Another man was saved on Friday night. We got people ready to be baptized, and we are going to make that happen.
A church must make Jesus preeminent. He loved the church and gave Himself for it. He died to give us life. He founded the church when He walked the earth. After He ascended to Heaven, the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost and empowered the church that Jesus started. The Holy Spirit’s power was given to them and is given to every believer since – in order that we might be witnesses to the lost world about the salvation that is available to them in Jesus Christ.
Find you a church where Jesus Christ lifted up, and where you can see the evidence of His work and get in it.
CONCLUSION: “Attend the church nearest you.” That’s bad advice. Attend the church more consistent with the convictions taught in the Bible rather than the church nearest you. “Attend the church of your choice.” That’s bad advice. Attend the church of God’s choice for you. That church will be a church that is located on the solid ground of God’s Word. It will be a church where the light of God is intentionally shining into a dark world. It will be a church that makes much of Jesus and you can see His work evidenced by changed lives.