3 “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.2 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. 3 Remember, 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. 4 Yet 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. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
we have all read about fresh expressions and all the other types of church being trumpeted in the U.K today. Bishop’s write endless articles for the diocesan magazine talking about growth but we are seeing real substantial longterm growth of any significance. This left me asking a question why? Then I started to prepare to preach on this passage.
A key issue in the church in Sardis was that the city had twice been captured by an enemy because they where asleep at the watch tower believing the place impregnable. As the established church are we not the same living in a lie that no one can challenge us and that we will hold on to our place in the world and national order. But we see a creepy enemy. The church times wrote recently:
“It is abundantly clear that a strong State Church runs the risk of being both excluding and exclusive – as, indeed, does a strong state. A weak State Church has the capacity to be more accommodating.”
But accommodating of what? The church appears to have a great reputation with its equivalent of the food bank, and the outreach to the homeless and the poor, the cafe and drop in centres. They ran the equivalent of great all age worship and holiday clubs but they where at their heart dead. They are churches that as 2 Tim 3:5 puts it are having the form of godliness but the are denying its power. There was a deadness of spirit. An example of this was the Bishop of Loughborough’s sermon at the Chrism Eucharist on Maunday Thursday. There we were gathered in the Cathedral waiting to hear the gospel and we didn’t really hear reference to be bible, save in passing. You could zone in and out and miss nothing important or inspiring. I felt like we where on the edge of death.
We are in danger of kidding ourselves that the church has life in it, the church of England needs to see that if it fails to repent and turn (v3) then Christ will come and judge the church. He will come to the church in its self satisfied security and remove as one commentator says the mercies and joys we have.
There is an encouragement to all churches in this passage. I led a very small group of churches for 13 years where a good Sunday would meand we might have 35 in church. Jesus says here to the church in Sardis there are a few faithful people and only a few but the will be rewarded with white robes. So preach brothers, preach remember what 2 Tim 4 says:
4 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge:2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Remember as it says in verse 5 your names in the book of life and will stay there. Our church is at a turning point, will it compromise with the secular culture and the enemy will come and capture it or will it wake up and smell the mustard. to wake up it must actively repent and I believe remove bishops from post. It must require of its Vicars and Rectors full acceptance of te 39 Articles of Religion. It must stand firm against inovations intorduced to placate the secular demands of Parliament.
The Gardian reported that the authors of Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy found that on all measures, the growing churches “held more firmly to the traditional beliefs of Christianity and were more diligent in things like prayer and Bible reading,” Haskell said;
- Only 50% of clergy from declining churches agreed it was “very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians”, compared to 100% of clergy from growing churches.
- 71% of clergy from growing churches read the Bible daily compared with 19% from declining churches.
- 46% of people attending growing churches read the Bible once a week compared with 26% from declining churches.
- 93% of clergy and 83% of worshippers from growing churches agreed with the statement “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh-and-blood body leaving behind an empty tomb”. This compared with 67% of worshippers and 56% of clergy from declining churches.
- 100% of clergy and 90% of worshippers agreed that “God performs miracles in answer to prayers”, compared with 80% of worshippers and 44% of clergy from declining churches.
The study also found that about two-thirds of congregations at growing churches were under the age of 60, whereas two-thirds of congregations at declining churches were over 60.
We are in grave Danger of being the church in Sardis