A few weeks ago a good friend passed away. Nancy Gauntlett made life beautiful. Her profession was an interior decorator, but her life’s work was creating beauty. Every event Nancy had her hand on was a work of art, the interiors for the homes she designed were gorgeous and she generally just made things look good. As I was sitting through her memorial service I was struck with the thought that she was an active participant in the mission of God. I don’t know that people always see or appreciate beauty as a spiritual way of life. What Nancy did was to take a run down home and renovate it. She would take broken things and fix them. In the process the main thrust of her life seemed to be inviting others into relationship with their creator.
When God said, “Behold, I am making all things new,” I think Nancy got that in a deep way. She exemplified this verse by taking the broken and run down and breathing new life into it. It was more than a job; it was the most natural thing for her to do. I look back at her life in awe of the way that God wired her. I wish I could see potential in things the way Nancy could, the way that God does. Whether she was aware of it or not, the way Nancy looked at an old sofa that deserved to be thrown in the trash is the same way that God looks at us. I would just throw the sofa away, but Nancy would have re-imagined it and given new life to the once broken sofa.
The way she lived illustrated God’s grace, I’m not kidding I broke her jet ski one time and she and her husband Todd just laughed about it. I still owe them a throttle. The kid who should have paid for the Jet Ski part, the sofa that should have seen the trash, have an element of new life because of Nancy.
Will you epitomize the gospel with your life? Will people say, she/he lived and breathed redemption? When all is said and done will others have felt the warmth of God’s grace because of the grace that you have extended to them?
While studying political science I got to study a lot about North Korea. North Korea’s strongest value that pervades the culture is “self reliance,” in Korean the word is “Juche.” It is literally the value that they have built their entire culture on. The idea is that they can only rely on themselves and no one else. When this is your number one value as a country you could imagine how that might affect trade policy, or international relations. A country that is self-reliant is reliant on no one else. This creates a country that only looks inward.
The town of Laodiciea had a lot of similarities to North Korea. They were a self-sufficient city. They were well known for their city being destroyed by a massive earthquake. The city rebuilt without any government aid. They bragged about their wealth and they loved the fact that they could take care of themselves.
Most of the churches that are talked about in revelation have the same problem. They take on the image of their community rather than the image of Christ. The church in Laodiciea was so self reliant that they stopped needing Jesus. Jesus famously scolded them because they cut themselves off from Christ the same way they were cut off from their water supply. Their water supply was six miles away and by the time it was piped in it was it was dirty and lukewarm. Jesus gave the line “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot, I wish you were either one or the other.” The geographer Strabo, once rephrased Jesus’ words like this: “Were you hot for bathing or cool for drinking, you would be useful; but as it is I feel toward you the same way you feel toward your water supply, you make me sick.”
Not only were they so cut off that when it came to the church services Jesus was literally knocking at the door asking to come in. In a seminary class a professor once asked us to list everything our church did. Then the professor asked us to suppose that there was irrefutable evidence that showed that Jesus wasn’t real, which programs would survive? The sad answer was that we could probably still run everything, although we shouldn’t.
So in terms of “what makes a good church?” Laodiciea tells us that a church that is Christ-reliant is a good church. A church that is not cut off from its source of life is a good church. The temptation to do it all yourself will often leave you isolated and cut off from your source of life.