December 8, 2010

I'm a Recovering Laodicean

I didn’t think too much about it as they approached the front to give their short presentation. Any number of people were scheduled to make presentations at the church-planting conference this past November in San Antonio, Texas. But it’s what this humble, “sold-out,” and committed couple said when they stepped before the microphone that caused all of us in the audience that Sabbath morning to gasp, sit up, and take notice.

The Texas Conference, more than any other, has been out front in advancing the church-planting movement. Under the leadership of its young, passionate, church-planting director Tom Evans, the Texas Conference has planted more than 100 churches in the past few years. That is phenomenal! It’s nothing short of an apostolic move, the kind described in the book of Acts.

2010 1539 page23This couple poured out to the audience years of living a comfortable (and dangerously typical) Adventist lifestyle: attending a comfortable church, enjoying comfortable potlucks, and, for this couple, pretty comfortable living. But over time they grew increasingly uncomfortable with being comfortable. And it was at their point of comfort that God confronted them in what they described as their “seriously Laodicean state.”

This move of God in confronting the comfortable is graphically on display in Luke 18, when a young business executive approaches Jesus, seeking validation of his personal righteousness and fitness for eternal life. In a direct revelation of his greatest need, Jesus says to him, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor. . . . Then come, follow me” (verse 22).

God has this piercing way of confronting us at our level of comfort. But He makes it strictly our choice as to how we will respond. In the case of this young executive, the price of putting everything on the line for the kingdom was too high. “When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth” (verse 23).

Whenever the price gets too high to follow Jesus out of our comfort zone into total kingdom commitment, our growth stops at that point, and the aroma of being Laodicean begins to seep into our lives.

In Texas God called this couple to go plant a church—away from majestic organs, tightly scripted bulletins, finely crafted sermons, and all the usual trappings of congregational comfort. God instructed them to serve Him far outside their personal comfort zones. Two fully addicted Laodiceans were finally on the path to recovery.

When they finished sharing their amazing journey toward sold-out kingdom service, they pointed to the political campaign-style buttons they wore over their hearts that explained their journey: “I Am a Recovering Laodicean.

What God’s kingdom needs now, more than ever, is some recovering Laodiceans; believers who are willing to answer the call to step out of their personal space of comfort—prepared to become committed followers of Christ.

I couldn’t wait to meet this couple. During a break in the afternoon seminars, I did at least get a chance to meet the husband—one of the most humble men I’ve been around in a long time. Without pretense he spoke quietly of his faith in God leading him and his wife. As I affirmed the impact their testimony had on me, especially the part of being recovering Laodiceans, he said simply, “We’re still recovering.”

In other words, they were taking nothing for granted. They realized they could slip back into the blaze of Adventism that had consumed their lives for so long. And as any recovering addict knows, unless you follow your “program,” you can slip back—overnight.

So to keep them on point they wear as a “badge of remembrance” that they are recovering Laodiceans.

At some point, every one of us needs to go into recovery. My prayer now is that God will confront all who read the words on this page at your level of comfort, and that this becomes your day of intervention, when you start the journey of becoming a recovering Laodicean.

It starts right here, on our knees right now!

Fredrick A. Russell is president of the Allegheny West Conference, with headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. This article was published on December 9, 2010.