“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. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3:1-2 ESV)
Does a dead church exist today? Absolutely! In this passage, Jesus is shaking up the church in Sardis, telling them to “strengthen what remains.” I don’t know what he saw, but apparently didn’t like it. Perhaps, its leaders and members have lost their zeal and started doing things in rote. Maybe they are physically in church, but their minds are elsewhere. Could it be that they have heard every possible sermon that could be preached with a “been there, done that” attitude? Did the repetitive reading of God’s word go stale? Did their faith go into a dry spell?
Many years ago, I was in a church service and the priest tried encouraging its members to get involved and serve. He challenged everyone to “not be lumps on a log and do nothing.” It was a tough message, and it was met with tougher resistance. In fact, I don’t think anyone was motivated at all. The silence was uncomfortable, but I knew what he was trying to do. He even started clapping during worship, which was awkward for a church locked into a traditional stance of singing hymns over piano and organ music. It was a lifeless a church and it probably represented what Jesus saw in Sardis.
He doesn’t want our faith to weaken or fade. And he doesn’t want to receive heartless praise and worship. In fact, it is downright offensive because it conveys that we assigned him very little value. Everything else, whatever those things may be, have become way more important than him.
Have you ever had a student or a colleague that just wasn’t into being present with the class or team? They just took up space and brought nothing to to table, not even an ounce of effort to appear interested. I think this is what Jesus is warning Sardis about, and the rest of the church for that matter.
So how should you respond? If you carried any of the attitudes that I described, then it’s time for you to wake up. Revive your energy and zeal for God! Start by recounting every blessing and grace he’s thrown your way. And if you get stumped, remember that breath you just took now; he gave that to you.