This post is part of the weekly series on effective prayer.
I find the book of Revelation to be one that I studiously avoid, mainly because I struggle to understand the bulk of the details. I only study it when challenged to do so. Even then, I always get a little knot in my stomach if I don’t know where the teacher stands on the overall message of the book. I have been blessed to have two excellent teachers on Revelation, and it is thanks to those two men that I at least have a grasp on the overarching theme of the book. (Thank you Brent & Cecil!)
I bring up Revelation, because at the very beginning (chapters 2 and 3) messages are given to the seven churches of Asia that are relevant for the Lord’s people today.
5 out of 7 churches had issues. They were commanded to make things right. The two strong churches were warned of coming trouble and the need to stand firm:
- Ephesus—left its first love
- Smyrna—Was to be tested.
- Pergamum—held to the attitudes/practices of Balaam and the Nicolaitans.
- Thyatira—tolerated immorality and and fail to put a stop false teaching, allowing some to stray from the faith.
- Sardis—the dead church.
- Philadelphia—needed to hold fast.
- Laodicea—not cold or hot, but lukewarm… ready to be spit out.
While it is true that each individual must give an account to God for their deeds, that same individual needs to help their local church in whatever way they can. The church as a collective group has great sway on individual souls. If a church is going the wrong way, it can destroy even the strongest Christians if they are swayed by it. That is why it is so critical to maintain purity, truth and love within our congregations.
Anytime a group of people come together as a group, a clash of personality and purpose is bound to ensue at some point, even among Christians. There is a vast range of knowledge, backgrounds and issues that all meet up in one place. There are people seeking power, people seeking to protect, people afraid to speak out and people who just don’t know what to do.
The church is made up of people, and people are not perfect.
As a part of a local church, each of us has a job to do. It does not matter if we hold a leadership role or are just a young teenager.
First and foremost, we need to keep evaluating ourselves to make sure we are following the Word and will of God. Second, we need to find ways to serve and love each other. There are always going to be personalities that are difficult to love, but part of loving God is loving our brethren unconditionally. Finally, we need to pray for our local church. Constantly.
For the next seven days (and hopefully beyond) pray the following for your local church:
- Pray for the church to hold tightly to its first love. The Church is the bride of Christ. It’s first love should be Jesus. If your local congregation has lost that love, it needs to be rekindled.
- Pray for those who lead to be diligent and vigilant. Leaders are supposed to be sheepdogs. Even when sheepdogs are resting, their senses are on high-alert, ready to spring into action at the slightest smell of danger. Pray for leaders to lead according to the Word of God and to confront any who would try to attack the church.
- Pray for the church to stand strong when troubles come. Troubles come in many guises. Sometimes it’s external persecution, sometimes it’s internal strife. At other times, it’s a slow and steady straying from the truth. Pray that no matter what troubles come, the church will band together and cling to God.
- Pray for conviction in the church. Moral relativism in society has crept into the church and now shouts down truth as being disgusting. People who are convicted and passionate are often viewed as judgmental (admittedly, there are times when this view is justified because of the attitude of the individual). What ends up happening is we stop confronting sin when it crashes into our midst for fear of what people will think of us. We let this or that slide hoping that it’ll all blow over… but it never does. Apathy is a church killer. We need to be passionate for purity. If you perceive that the leaders in your congregation are failing to act, approach them with humility and love. They may be acting on it without your knowledge. Maybe they are not aware of the problem. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” We need convicted Christians to function as a convicted church.
- Pray for the truth to be taught. False teaching can sink a church. They may have the name over the door, but the people inside don’t belong to Christ—they belong to themselves. If truth is taught with love and consistency, the church will grow.
- Pray for the church to be alive in Christ. Dead churches. It sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it? Quiet, reverent worship does not equal a dead church; loud and joyous worship does not equate to a live church. A dead church is one that has stopped serving God. They may serve others, but teach things contrary to God’s Word. They may teach truth but fail to show love and compassion. To be a live church, we have to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. The two go hand in hand.
- Pray for the church to be hot. When I think of heat, I think excitement, energy and enthusiasm. When I think cold, I think bundled up, isolated and dispassionate. Excitement is not necessarily a Tigger-like enthusiasm. Some of the most dedicated Christians I’ve known were quiet, meek and outwardly unremarkable, but they lived every day of their lives for Christ. They were like a blue flame—extremely hot and very controlled. (Blue flames burn at a hotter temperature than orange flames.)
- Pray for people to learn to work together in love. People outside the church always like to point to our bickering as a reason to stay out of the church. I can see their point, and yet conflict is part of togetherness. In marriage, if one spouse isn’t behaving properly (i.e. alcohol/drug abuse, disrespect, gambling, avoiding the family), it is a good spouse that lovingly addresses the problem for the good of their marriage. The church is the same way. Love is NOT the absence of conflict. Love is seeking the best for the one loved, bearing up under foibles and communicating respectfully.
- Pray for immorality to be stopped and corrected.
- Pray for the growth of the church. We need to keep bringing people to Christ! Our congregation just started working to train members to more effectively share the gospel with others and I think it’s a great endeavor. We need to seek the lost until we take our last breath. We also need to deepen our collective commitment to Christ through knowledge of the Word and strengthening our love for each other.
Let’s pray for our congregations to great effect this week!