I am sometimes amazed at how most of us feel we, in our freedom to do anything we want, feel that our freedom allows us to deal with God flippantly. Paul knew this when he said that everything was permissible but not everything is profitable (1 Cor. 6:12).
Some of you are wondering where I am going with this. I was talking with a member of our congregation and we were both thinking about how people in other cultures and other countries pursue their faith in God passionately and with a hunger for God's Word. Statistically the Church is growing rapidly in many cultures around the planet and that is wonderful. But it begs the question, "Why is the Church contracting in the nation with the most freedom, the greatest blessings, the best opportunities and the most talented/trained pastors?" This is a good question that should cause all of us to listen to God's Word. Sunday I will be teaching from Revelation 3, the Letter to the Church in Laodicea. This church, and all of the churches in the Revelation, would be in modern day Turkey. Want to know how many of the churches from Revelation are still in existence? Zero! None! They have all disappeared. Why?
I think the answer is both complex and simple. The complex part is the inner-workings of history, people's choices, politics and time. But I think the truth and the message here might be starkly simple. All of the letters to the churches end in these words ... "He who has ears, let him hear." Maybe the demise of the churches has something to do with people (and a culture) being unwilling to listen to God and His warnings, His encouragement, His wisdom and His messengers. One cannot heed the Word of God if one is not present to hear the word of God. One cannot heed God's Word if one is not engaged in a Lord/Servant relationship with God (He is Lord, we are the servants).
Most churches have large rolls of people that dwarf their usual Sunday attendance. Most churches have 80% of the work of the church done by 20% of the people. Many people in our country have decided that church is not that much of a priority. Yet we wonder why so many faith-related parts of our nation are not where they should be. I have a suggestion ... the problem is that if good, Christian people fail to make God a priority, there is no one with authority to carry the flame of the Gospel into our world (or our country).
Here is my challenge. Will YOU make God a priority in Abbeville by being present to hear God's Word? Will you do this with persistence and passion and a faithfulness expressed by Luke when he described Jesus as being in the synagogue 'like he always was (and remember Jesus was not comfortable, welcome or encouraged in the synagogue).' When the "roll is called up yonder," where will you be? "Those who have ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" ... not my words but the very words from the mouth of Jesus. Do you think for one minute what happened to the Asian Churches in Revelation cannot happen to the church here? "Faith comes by hearing" (Romans 10:17). Pastor Randy