Reputation Doesn't Cut It
Recently I was in the middle of my morning Bible reading when I encountered something that floored me. I’ve been finalizing the manuscript for my new book, Good or God?, and I wrote about what I learned that day in one of the chapters.
That morning I strongly sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to read Revelation. I had started reading it a few weeks earlier, but I’m sad to say I lost interest. I returned to the place where I’d left off and began reading Jesus’s words to the church in Sardis: “I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive—but you are dead.” (Revelation 3:1 NLT)
Jesus identifies this church as having a reputation of being alive. What would give this impression?
Here’s an idea. Could it be the church is growing and popular? Or the meetings are exciting? Maybe the atmosphere is electric? These are great things, but do we stop at creating a cool environment? Can we inadvertently substitute a good atmosphere in place of God’s presence?
That’s a sobering thought. The good news is that this error can be avoided. But we have to know the right questions to ask.
One important question in deciphering whether a congregation is alive or dead is, are we obeying the words of Jesus, or are we developing a tight-knit community that is actually straying from His commands?
Here’s another question we should ask: are we proclaiming truth that addresses the condition of the heart, resulting in changed behavior, or messages that stroke our emotions and stimulate our intellects?
These aren’t easy questions, but I believe they’re worth asking. I travel all over the world, and I see God at work in remarkable churches whose services are indeed dynamic. They have great music, amazing stage designs, and powerful messages. But most importantly, they are filled with the presence of God. That’s the goal, isn’t it? More than anything, we want to encounter the living God.
Have you ever been tempted to settle for a good reputation? What might we miss out on if we stay at that level?