A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going.
After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.
Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.
After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination.
As the one lone ember's flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and "dead as a doornail."
Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.
Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.
As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday."
It has been said that the New Testament shows us the founding of the church (in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 16, verses 13-19):
13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will bed bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
It has also been said that the New Testament shows us the flourishing of the church (in the Book of Acts, chapter 2, verses 41-27). After the Apostle Peter finished preaching on the day of Pentecost, the Bible records:
41Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
But alas, the New Testament shows us a little of the faltering of the church (in the book of Hebrews, chapter 10, verses 23-25):
23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Scholars tell us that the Book of Hebrews was written in the latter decades of the first century – most likely after the first Roman persecution of Christians under the Emperor Nero in 64-67AD, and before the second Roman persecution of Christians under the Emperor Domitian in c. 81AD.
Hebrews 10:32-35 show us that one persecution had already unfolded – perhaps that of 64AD. Hebrews 13:3 indicates that one is being endured even then, perhaps the aftermath of the events of 67AD. And Hebrews 12:3-4 ominously foretells that an even worse persecution awaits them – perhaps that about to unfold under Domitian. It is worth noting that the Flavian Amphitheatre, more commonly known as the Roman Coliseum and where Christians would one day be fed to the lions, is very likely being constructed even as the Book of Hebrews is being written – c.72AD-80AD.
Under such tremendous pressure, it appears that a great many Christians were ceasing to be faithful to the church. For this reason, God obviously directed the unknown author of the Book of Hebrews to admonish them to be faithful to His church.
I share all of this for two reasons. First and foremost, Christians need the church. Christianity was never meant to be practiced in a vacuum. No believer is an island unto him or herself! Coming together as a church family, we find enhanced opportunities for worship, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and evangelism.
Second, the church needs Christians. Any church family is no stronger than the commitment level of its individual members. Indeed, without individual Christians coming together, there could be no church! And when those members have a strong level of commitment, the church thrives – irrespective of the circumstances. But when those members have a weak level of commitment, the church herself stumbles and struggles.
And so, my friend, if you are a believer, remember these two things: you need the church and the church needs you! Without a fire, the ember soon burns out; and likewise, without its various embers, a fire itself also soon dies out!
May Christians ever be faithful to the church! And may the church ever be faithful to those Christians who comprise her!
STORY SOURCE: This story has been related by numerous communicators over the years. See for instance: ttp://www.inspirationalarchive.com/texts/topics/evangelization/lonelyember.shtml.
SCRIPTURE SOURCE: http://biblehub.com/. (Just key in any Bible verse in the search bar.)
SEE ALSO: http://thirdmill.org/seminary/lesson.asp/vs/HEB/ln/1.