Last week I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting. It was a blessing to be able to participate as a messenger and represent Trinity at this year’s meeting. I listened and watched and voted knowing, how this being my first year, I was a small fish in the giant sea called the Southern Baptist Convention. These past few months had not been pleasant for many in our convention, due to the behavior and ill advice of some in leadership within our seminaries. The media was hard, and the world’s judgment was even harder. Many thought, “how can we ever recover from such a disgrace” or “has the #metoo movement finally reached the mighty SBC?”
As I listened and observed, I thought to myself that many of our churches and leadership have forgotten the nature of the gospel and the love it requires of all of us in the service to the Lord Jesus. That led my thoughts throughout the meeting, back to our vision and our goal to be a church that is always Christ-Centered and Gospel-Focused.
Mark 2: A Church that is Christ-Centered
At the heart of our Vision, and any church that desires to be healthy is Christ himself. The world, and sadly many Christians judge a church’s health by many things other than Christ being centered. Many will look at a church, and the size of their building, their yearly budget, how many people attend their services and judge to themselves that this is a healthy church. Yet, size, budget, and attendance are never ascribed as a means to judge the health of a local church.
In the book of Revelation, Jesus himself speaks to the nature and health of the local church. In each of the churches that he commends, each is one that the name of Jesus is firmly planted and centered among them.
To the church at Ephesus, Jesus says,
“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. 3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.”— Revelation 2:2-3
And to the church at Pergamum he says,
“I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. Yet you hold fast my name, and you did not deny my faith even in the days of Antipas my faithful witness, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells.” —Revelation 2:13
And to the church at Philadelphia he says,
“I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. —Revelation 3:8–9
Each of these churches that Jesus commends, his name is at the center of their tribulation, suffering, and ministry. If we were to look at the other churches in the list, Jesus speaks harshly to them because many of them have forgotten their first love, or turned from the name that had saved them.
Looking at these examples in Scripture, a local church can be content in the size of their building, or their meek yearly budget, or the size of their congregation. We can be content because Christ doesn’t look at those things to judge the health of a local church—the world might, but not the Lord.
I believe our Vision is strong and solid. I believe this because our Vision is not built on our own skills, or wisdom, or finances, but instead on the Word of God. And because of this foundation, we strive each week to be a church that puts Jesus at the center of everything we believe and do. There may be many things the church will answer for on the last day, but let us not be found lacking in this area.
Let us learn from the words of Jesus when he says in Revelation 3:1-2, “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.”
Let us be found alive when Christ returns or calls us home. May the Name of Jesus be gladly praised in every room of our church. May Christ be the center of every sermon, every Bible study, every song, and the center of every life.
May Jesus Christ be praised. When morning gilds the skies, My heart awaking cries: May Jesus Christ be praised! Alike at work and prayer, To Jesus I repair; May Jesus Christ be praised!