1“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.
“‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy…….
14“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
15“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
This passage should sound like your wake up alarm. It should sound like warning bells ringing.
Pastors, this morning (I wrote this on a Sunday) remember that you are not only to call the people to whom you preach to individual and personal repentance, but your local church body as a whole. In scripture whole local bodies are called to account for the way they represent or fail to represent the gospel to one another and to the world.
What do you truly think Christ’s message would be to your local body? What collective sins of omission or commission might your local body need to repent of? Please do not leave these admonitions out of your preaching and teaching this morning or try to solve them just by attempting to fix them in the background without acknowledging them openly with the body. Very often pastors are quick to remind people how much they need to be part of a local church, but are slower to call those same local bodies to self-examination and repentance of collective sin patterns, largely in part because they too often tie their own worth to how their local body appears to be doing. This is pride, one of the most common, if not *the* most common, pastoral temptation.
Pride never stops beating at the pastor’s door. And remember, the flip side of pride is self-loathing. (Friends, pray against these things for your pastor… chances are good that he’s feeling chased by one or the other much of the time.) Pastor, your worth is tied to the goodness and grace of Jesus alone. Believe that this morning. You are not accepted based on how many butts are in the pews. “Your” church is not yours… it’s Jesus’s. You are not accepted because of how many programs your church has running. You are not accepted because of your preaching style. You are not accepted because you use the right amount of water in baptism or because you won the wine vs. grape juice battle of communion. You are not accepted because of your eloquence. You are not accepted because you pastor one of the few churches in your area who really “gets it.” Your righteousness is as filthy rags, my friend. You are accepted because of the blood of Jesus alone. You are as broken as every soul you address this morning. So don’t be afraid to call your own church to repentance. Lead on your knees, my friend. Yes, broken people need the body. But they need a body that knows its collective brokenness and desperate need of The Good Shepherd.
Recently I was deeply blessed by something a pastor said from the pulpit. He talked about what the church as a body was called to in a particular area, an area of perceived possible weakness. He didn’t try to divert or distract attention from the weakness by pointing out that body’s greatness in so many other areas. He said something that I think many pastors would be afraid to say out loud from the pulpit. He said (paraphrased), “Friends, if we aren’t doing this/prioritizing this… we are not even a real church. Do you hear that? If this is not a priority for us, we are not even a church.” The humility displayed there; the desire to collectively acknowledge blind spots, error, brokenness, and areas of weakness is a display of the gospel.
Pastor, want to show me how much I need Jesus? Show me how much you need him. Show me how much we need him together. “His power is made perfect in our weakness.”