How sad it is that so many congregations of the Lord’s people are dying. Sadder still, that much of it could be prevented. Major health problems often advertise their presence through minor symptoms. Doctors recommend routine health screenings to look for signs of trouble. In many cases, if symptoms can be identified early then steps can be taken to prevent any major problems. The health of the church operates in the same fashion. By looking closely at symptoms, one can get an idea as to the overall condition of the congregation.
Revelation begins with addresses to 7 congregations scattered throughout Asia Minor. Each one receives commendation and/or condemnation for matters occurring in their midst. These churches stand as a perfect model for congregations today. Over the past several weeks we’ve noticed the indicators of good health. But we must also pay careful attention to the symptoms of disease because the symptoms that existed in the first century still occur in the 21st, and if we can identify them we can treat them.
An unhealthy congregation is one that leaves its first love (Rev. 2:4). A congregation of God’s people can be as straight as a gun barrel in matters of doctrine but empty as an abyss in matters of the heart. This is what we find with the church at Ephesus. They were hardworking, dedicated, steadfast, and faithfully opposed error, yet their heart was not in the right place. They had left their first love. They did all the right things for all the wrong reasons.
God is concerned both with what we do and why do we do it (Matt. 6:1ff). Our labor is to be an outgrowth of our love (1 Thess. 1:3). Without love what we say, what we have, and what we give mean nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3). All things are to be done in love (1 Cor. 16:14). A congregation may have great numbers and engage in many good works, but without sincere and zealous love for the Lord, those things are meaningless. Thus, we should take time, periodically, to examine the work that we do. It is so easy to become so busy doing that we take no time to think about why we do it. Is our heart in the right place? Are we working out of love for the Lord?