At Grace Church Barrow we’re journeying through Revelation 1-5 this term. As well as being actual churches in first-century Asia Minor (what is modern-day Turkey), I’m convinced the seven churches identified (chapters 2-3) are also representative of all churches in time and space. Therefore as we read Jesus’ letters to these churches there will be aspects of challenge and encouragement for all of us in each one.
So as we go through the seven letters to the seven churches, I thought it would be personally helpful to myself to write a prayer responding to each letter each week from the perspective of being the pastor of that church…
The fifth letter in Revelation is to the church in Sardis (3:1-6). You can read it here.
How challenging it is to hear your diagnosis on our church: that though we have a reputation for being alive, we are dead (3v1).
Without a doubt, that’s a verdict that makes us sit up and take notice.
We’re sorry that we have trusted too much in our reputation and neglected our own spiritual life. We have cared about our Facebook presence and our Google ranking and whether we have a regional or national profile as a church. We have put our trust in our budget and our programmes and history.
And yet for all that people might see us as ‘the place to go’, the reality is that our deeds have been found ‘unfinished in the sight of God’ (v2). We have settled, stagnated, got comfy.
So you tell us to ‘wake up!’ And we say, ‘help us!’ Thank you for your patience. Bring us back to what we had ‘received and heard’ (v3) – take us back to the gospel. We want to ‘hold fast’ to your message of repentance and faith. We want to never stop turning from our sin and throwing ourselves on your mercy, living active lives of faith, hope and love.
We give you thanks for those amongst us where there is spiritual life, for those who are walking the walk, rather than just ‘talking the talk’. We’re sorry where we’ve become ineffective and have been shaped by the culture around us (v4). We praise you for your promise of being dressed in righteousness for all those who turn back to you.
Help us to always care more about what your verdict of us, rather than our reputation. To value as more precious that we are written in your ‘book of life’ and that you will acknowledge our names before your Father (v5). You are the one who gives your Spirit to your church, and each of us is dependent upon you.
We hear the words of your Spirit in this letter (v6).