I ended the previous post with a bold statement. I’d like to take a moment to develop the suggestion that the Dead Church of Sardis bought and sold believers by the millions to enlarge its own names and ministries across the earth.
Jesus began this letter by saying, “You have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” I can’t imagine a clearer way to say he is speaking about the period of Church history in which the focus of a believer’s life in Christ became the name of his particular church. The first thing one believer asks another is, “What church do you go to?”
At the tender age of nineteen, I went to French Polynesia as a missionary for the Mormon church. Unfortunately, everyone in French Polynesia already belonged to one of the existing churches. The only way to “convert” anyone was to steal them from another denomination. This is what I mean by saying that believers have been treated as if they were little more than livestock.
As a church member, am I valued for the spiritual gifts God has invested into me? Not really, because we have a professional pastor to do that for us. I don’t need to know the Bible very well, or preach, or evangelize, or heal the sick, or prophesy. All I have to do is show up on time, agree with his doctrine, let him feed me, and pay tithes and offerings. This is what a good “member” does. If I begin to prophesy in church, I might be ushered out or excommunicated. As long as I act like a sheep, I’m OK.
Being a good member renders me ineffective as an agent for Jesus and his name. I must focus my efforts on spreading the name and ministry of my pastor or denomination instead. Going to college to become a pastor only qualifies me to use my natural gifts. If the leaders are only qualified in the natural, what happens to their followers? They have a name, but are dead.
When pastors meet, the first thing they ask one another is, “How many members do you have?” In the old world, a person’s worth was determined by how much livestock he owned.
Suppose I was to meet Jesus disguised as a stranger.
I say, “What church do you go to?”
He says, “I walk in the midst of the seven golden lamp stands – I go to all of them.”
Recognizing from his learned answer that he must be a pastor, I say, “Well, how many members do you have?”
He raises his arms to each side and spreads his fingers.
“I have all my members.”
“See, I have two hands with ten fingers, two legs with feet and toes, two eyes, two ears, nose, mouth, neck, chest, belly, everything.”
“I am perfect and complete.”
I reply, “No, no, that is not what I meant! How many tithe payers do you have to support your ministry?”
“I do not receive honor from men. But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes only from God?” – John, 5:41-44