The Church Composite

Bible Book: Revelation  3 : 22
Subject: Church, Seven
Series: Revelation

(The message covers Revelation, Chapters 2 and 3, however, verse 22 is listed as the theme verse in order to keep the messages in the correct order online - The Editor)


Sam Gore is a national treasure. He was head of the Art Department at Mississippi college for forty-two years. Sam Gore is not only one of the most gifted artists around, he is also one of the greatest art teachers, as the award for the national teacher of the years would attest. Sam has been my friend since 1955 when I moved into Crestman Hall at Mississippi College. Sam was head of the Art Department, which he established. He signed his own Master’s Diploma! He and Margie, his wife, were Ratliff Hall dorm counselors whom I met as soon as I arrived on campus when my parents spotted Sam’s father, John Gore, on the steps of Ratliff Hall. Sam’s father had baptized my father when he was the Director of Missions in what was then Riverside Baptist Association in northwest Mississippi.

Years later, my son told me about Dr. Gore’s sculptures. He had been commissioned to do a sculpture of Senator John Stennis which is displayed at the Stennis Office Building in Washington. Sam was then commissioned to sculpt THE STUDENT NURSE, which is prominently displayed in the foyer, or the little museum off the foyer, of the Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi, where his daughter, Judy, was a pediatrician. I remember Judy and her brother Paul as a pre-schoolers riding her tricycle in the lobby of Ratliff Hall.

Sam was then commissioned to sculpt the AMERICAN FARMER, which is on display in front of the Mississippi Agricultural Museum in Jackson. I will never forget the time Sam took me downs to the basement of the Art Building at Mississippi College and showed me the sculpture while he was still working on it. He and I had enjoyed a long discussion about what Francis Shaeffer had to say about the influence of art on our culture.

Sam told me that he had been interviewed for a publication for professors in Christian colleges and universities. He went over in detail every aspect of the sculpture, from the very conception to the completion of the project. There was the farmer, dressed in overalls with the top button unbuttoned so that the top of the flap flopped over - I have seen it many times. The farmer was seated on a stump with his Bible in his left hand, his small dog curled around his feet. He had taken a Beagle down to the basement, fed and watered it and then waited for it to go to sleep. Then he did the small clay sculpture which would become his model for the final product. He pointed out that the dog was curled around his master’s feet, at perfect peace because he trusted his master - just as his master was trusting in his Master.

THE AMERICAN FARMER was a composite of various people, but the principle model was his own father. At one point Sam had stopped and looked at his farmer, now in bronze, seated on the stump with the Bible resting in his left hand and realized that he had to make a change. So he removed the left hand and built a larger, stronger hand. He explained, "The hand that holds the Bible should not be a wimpish hand."

If THE AMERICAN FARMER is a composite, THE STUDENT NURSE is even more so. Mississippi College is well known for its school of nursing, so he had many young ladies to chose from when he needed a model. The only problem was that Sam did not want to use one model and have everyone know who his model was, thus distracting from the theme.

Sam chose a number of student nurses, using one for the hands, one for the feet, one for the profile, one for the front of the face (nose, ears, and so on). THE STUDENT NURSE is a composite of many student nurses. No doubt those nurses today walk by that sculpture and think, "Those are my hands," or "that is my nose." Many nurses are represented in that sculpture - but there is but one STUDENT NURSE.

I love Sam Gore. I worked with him, fished with him, visited with him in his home and in ours. I have invited him to come to two churches to present a program in which he sculpted THE HEAD OF CHRIST, or THE MOTHER AND CHILD (Mary and the baby Jesus), or CREATION, in which he has three faces on one piece of clay - Caucasian, Negroid, and Oriental. When I sit at my computer I can looking over my desk at an oil painting of a John Deere tractor with a cotton trailer attached, parked on the scales of a cotton gin at Rosedale, Mississippi. In my living room I have one of Sam’s THE HEAD OF CHRIST sculptures, an awe inspiring piece any Christian would be honored to have. He has demonstrated his techniques before international audiences, and in worship services throughout America and in South America he has reverently sculpted THE HEAD OF CHRIST and other works. I have a sketch done by my friend hanging in the hall.

When I look at the Letters to the Seven Churches in Revelation, I am reminded, not so much of THE HEAD OF CHRIST, as THE MOTHER AND CHILD, THE STUDENT NURSE, and THE AMERICAN FARMER for they are composites. I think you will see that Jesus has given us an amazing portrait of His church in Revelation Two and Three. In these two chapters, He addresses letters to seven different churches, each is a real historical church and He addresses each one independently. Yet, there is a very real since in which each and every church is represented - as though He is presenting the church composite.


A. These Are Real Historical Churches.

We have this record of these churches as well as other references to them in the Bible. Paul founded the church at Ephesus and served there three years. He was inspired to write an epistle to the church at Ephesus and to write the First Epistle to Timothy to him while he was teaching the church at Ephesus. The aged Apostle John, who had been but a youth when the Lord called him to be His disciple, served many years at Ephesus and it was because of his preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ that he had been exiled to the Isle of Patmos from which he was recording this revelation which would become the Revelation - not of John, but of Jesus Christ. Each of the seven churches had a history - they also had a mission.

B. The Number Seven Is Significant.

The number seven, is the number for completion, or perfection. The Jews who read this Book would automatically think, not only of the mathematical significance of the number, but also of the spiritual significance with all the components. They would have been aware of the number three, the divine number (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and four, the universal number (four winds, four corners of the earth, four directions - north, south, east, and west). Thus, they would have understood that this Book addresses issues of concern to each and every church, not only to those addressed but to every church of the day and every church - any time, any place.

C. Jesus Addresses Each Church Independently.

Each of the seven receives a letter and believers are advised to take seriously what the Head of the Church knows about it and its members. Many churches have a some good things going on as well as a few bad things. We may look at the church addressed and say that it has nothing to do with our church, but if we do that we are going to miss a blessing, and possibly incur the discipline of the Head of the Church. If we read these letters and recognize similar situations in our church we should move to strengthen what Jesus commends and correct what He condemns. There are some things only He can correct - things which He will only correct when His people repent. If we see the message here as having some relevance to us and to our church, the Lord will grow us into a powerful, healthy body - the Body of Christ. If we look at the church represented here with casual amusement, without any effort to make an application we might as well be looking at another kind of composite body - a Dr. Frankenstein’s creation’s.

Some churches do indeed look more like the product of Dr. Frankenstein than that of Jesus Christ. If you doubt that consider the bishop who appeared on John Gibson’s Saturday evening program on Fox and lectured an Alabama senator because he believes the Bible. Or, consider the "reverend" who had written a book which was shown on Fox, CONVERSION. When asked, he said that we need to be converted to the poor. To underscore his point, he stressed that when the senate voted to keep food stamps, they were converted to food stamps.


A. There Is the Letter to the Church at Ephesus, 2:1-7.

1. They were orthodox in theology.

2. They had left their first love.

3. There are churches like that today.

B. There Is the Letter to the Church at Smyrna, 2:8-11

1. They are commended for their faithfulness.

2. There is no complaint against this church.

3. There must be churches like that today.

C. There Is the Letter to the Church at Pergamos, 2:12-17

1. They had remained faithful even before Satan’s seat.

2. Yet, they had tolerated those who taught false doctrines.

They had tolerated those who held the doctrine of Balaam who sought to thwart God’s purpose for financial gain. They led many people to compromise with idolaters. They also tolerated those who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, whose doctrine lowered moral standards for the church. Southern Baptists recently voted to sever ties with the Baptist World Alliance, in part because they refused to take a strong enough stand on moral issues. Many churches today are compromising on abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, ordination of homosexuals, and immorality in general.

D. There Is the Letter to the Church at Thyatira, 18-29.

1. Jesus commends them for their love, service, and faithfulness.

2. He condemns them for tolerating a Jezebel who led members into sin.

One young man was surprised at how quickly people changed toward him when he preached against beverage alcohol. A denominational worker told me that he would always be "good" friends with certain neighbors, but he would never be "close" friends with them because, even though they were active in the same church, they drank and kept alcohol in their home. In other words, they visit in the yard or even in each other’s home, but they could not sit down to a meal if alcoholic beverages were served. Their pastor never mentions social drinking.

How may we relate the influence of such a Jezebel to the church today? Well, if you are planning a church trip, try suggesting that the girls dress modestly and see what happens. Many parents may comply gratefully, but there are those mothers who hit the ceiling because they think their daughter looks cute with al that skin showing. And what about the father? He can never believe any boys or men would look at their daughter the way some men look at girls who are dressed, or should we say undressed in such a manner. I hope I do not offend, but I remember making the statement when I was teaching First Corinthians that the temple prostitutes of Corinth would be shocked by what some modern day church members wear. Pastors used to preach against the strapless bathing suit - today it is the suitless bathing strap!

There was a debate a Fox news program recently as to whether or not children and young people should be permitted to go to nude camps without their parents. I once listened to a church secretary laugh at a member of the church because she did not want her daughters to attend church functions in homes in which the young people engaged in some heavy necking in the presence of the host and hostess.

E. There Is the Letter to the Church at Sardis, 3:1-6.

1. There is no commendation for this church.

2. Jesus says the have a reputation for being alive, but they were dead.

3. There are some dead churches in the world today.

There are some dying denominations, as an article in the Religion section of the Monroe, Louisiana paper proves. A pastor has come to the area to plant a church to see if they can help turn around the fifty year decline in membership in his denomination. Churches are dead because they have lost their first love. Some are dying because they have lost their passion for souls. Let me tell you something, a praying church is not a dying church. A witnessing church is not a dying church. A loving church is not a dying church. The demographics may change to the point that the church will have to close the doors in a particular community, but as long as there are two or more who meet in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, if they love and serve Him that church is alive before the Lord.

I have seen a lot of dead wood in large churches, churches that have a reputation for being alive. There are some who seek out a large church so they can live a low moral life and few will even know it. It is sad to hear the pastor of such a church praise a man or woman whom others know is a sorry rascal. Some of the dead churches have a reputation for being alive. I have shot enough snakes to know that a lot of wiggling and squirming does not change the fact that it is dying.

F. There is the Letter to the Church at Philadelphia, 3:7-13.

1. There is no condemnation for this church.

2. He sets before them and open door because of their faithfulness.

3. God sets before faithful churches today an open door of opportunity.

G. There is the Letter to the Church at Laodicea, 3:14-22.

1. There is no commendation.

2. Because Jesus finds them lukewarm He will spew them out of His mouth.

3. There may be more churches in this category than any other today.

Someone asked a young man, "Do you know the two main things that are wrong with America?" The young man replied, "I don’t know, and I don’t care."

The older man said, "Congratulations, you got them both!"


A. First, Let Us Recall Dr. Gore’s Composite Nurse.

Thousands pass by and see THE STUDENT NURSE and THE AMERICAN FARMER. They see a complete statue, a complete representation of a student nurse or farmer. Perhaps very few of them are aware of the fact that when the look at the NURSE they are looking at the ears of one student nurse, the nose of another, the mouth of another, or that the shoulders, arms and hands are those of still more student nurses. They look at one STUDENT NURSE, carefully molded and shaped by the hands of a master designer and artist into one. So it is with the church.

Vance Havner once said that you may look at a forest and appreciate its beauty, especially in the Fall when the leaves have turned, but if you look at each individual leaf you will see that there is not a perfect leaf in the forest. The church is a thing of beauty in the world, but there is not a perfect member in it. We do not have to be perfect for the Lord to use us - we just have to be forgiven and surrendered to Him.

B. Next, Let Us Look at the Church as a Whole Today.

I have driven all over Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. In recent years I have driven from Monroe, Louisiana to Glorieta, New Mexico to the west, and to Ridgecrest, North Carolina to the east, to New Orleans to the south, and into Tennessee and Kentucky to the north. If there is one thing I have seen a lot of it is church buildings. It is amazing how many churches are building new buildings, expanding their facilities, or planting new churches. Denominations report some impressing numbers when it comes to membership, Sunday School enrollment, VBS enrollment, gifts, and special ministries. There are many areas in which the church might well receive the Lord’s commendation.

On the other hand, the church which Jesus established to be light and salt to the world exists in a world that today is growing darker and darker, and more and more worldly. The church sat idly by and let America slip into the post-Christian period in our history. I am not talking about apathy in the presence of evil - I am coming to that in a few minutes! What I am talking about is the fact that the church is bringing the world into the church. Almost any sin you can think of short of murder and rape is being practiced by people who profess a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Head of the Church. Believe me, if your foot is in pain your head knows about it. If you are having a heart attack your mind knows it. My son told me that the father of a friend was waiting to see his oncologist when he had a heart attack. Regardless of his pain and inability to call out for help, no one made a move to help him. He made it to a phone and dialed 911 - but the doctor scolded him for using the phone - "You can’t use that phone, it is reserved for office use only." This man, who used to hear me teach various books of the Bible in his church, could do very little to help himself, but he was keenly aware of the fact that he was having a heart attack and he needed help.

When the Body of Christ is sick the Head of the Church knows it. While many organs of the Body of Christ may be functioning as they should, there are areas of genuine concern. One pastor was forced to resign when he took a stand against gambling and drinking. A youth minister was asked to preach at the morning service and in his sermon he warned about the dangers associate with drinking alcoholic beverages and he said that ever since that sermon a number of people have treated him differently. He said that it is as though they have never heard anyone preach against alcohol. Somewhere back there a generation ago we became so focused on drugs that we lost sight of the alcohol problem.

A women challenged her pastor after a service in which he had mentioned gambling. She said, "I’ll have you to know that I go to Tunica to gamble and there is nothing wrong with it. It is just good clean fun." Some of the most vile entertainers, and there are a lot of those in the business today, talk openly about how they got their start singing in a church choir. Some of the strongest advocates of abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, and a host of other evils in our society claim membership in some church. Sadly, there are churches that will tolerate almost anything as long as they can continue to count the nickels and noses and report them to their convention.

Only a short time ago, the Catholic Church was wrestling with the problem presented by then presidential candidate John Kerry’s position on abortion. Kerry is a strong advocate of abortion, homosexuality, and stem cell research. Sadly, President Bush was painted as the bad guy by the media in America when he opposes these sins.

There are churches everywhere you look in America today, but the country is growing more and more worldly. What is more disturbing than that is the fact that you cannot tell most church members from the world. There are many godly people in many churches, but as a whole the church is sick. The Catholic Church is reeling from the fallout from all the publicized cases in which some priest has abused a child. Many other priests, who would never do such a thing are still trying to overcome the damage done by a few homosexuals - and let’s be clear about this: the problem really is homosexuality. Almost all those children were little boys. I checked that out with a priest I have known for some time. The church in America today has invited Jezebel into the fellowship hall. Tragically, it may have asked her to teach a Sunday School class, or sing in the choir. The church today had baptized the Nicolaitans - we have brought the world into the church. We have sat back and let them move us from a Christian world-view to a worldly world-view. How do they justify it? They point out something worse someone else is doing and the church becomes silent.

The church is in the wilderness and refuses to cross over Jordan and possess its possessions. They think the promises of the Lord are things reserved for them in Heaven, so they wander around in the wilderness griping and complaining about what is going on in the church. They attend some Sunday mornings but don’t ever expect anything more from them!

Now do you know what may be the worst thing about the state of the church today? It is the fact that very few people seem to see the problem, and many of those who may see it seemingly couldn’t care less. We are at ease in Zion, playing church while the country is becoming more and more pagan. We are losing our freedom and we cannot even get the church to take a stand against evil.

Thousands go to church in America every Sunday feeling good and expecting to leave feeling even better - and you ask what’s wrong with that? Should we not come expecting a blessing? Should we not anticipate worship. Absolutely! We should also come in the presence of the Lord with a broken and contrite spirit. The Psalmists wrote: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise" (Ps. 51:7). Only one who has prayed like David can praise like David. I am afraid we want to skip the repentance and get on with the praise. No one wants to experience a broken heart! We just want Him to bless us and we will praise Him.

Jesus, the Head of the Church, saw within His body, the church, something which was sick, diseased, and corrupt. He wanted it removed and He will remove it today when we repent of our sins. He also recognized organs which had simply ceased to function as they should. Of course, in the physical body, a non-functioning organ is a diseased organ. And believe me, a non-function organ is a diseased organ in His body. I had no idea what kind of condition my heart was in before my heart attack. I thought the pain was a muscle stain, and I did have a strained pectoral muscle that covered up the far more serious problem. I neglected a far more serious problem, in part because I had other things to do, and in part because I had concluded that this could not have been happening to me - especially after one doctor confirmed my diagnoses. Another doctor was in the process of releasing me from the emergency room when I had my heart attack. The church in America has ceased to be the light and salt Jesus called us to be. Now, do you know the most serious problem in the church? It may well be that no one cares. We have become so lukewarm that we do not see the problem, or if we see it we do not want to be bothered with it.

Sadly, the church in America had become a mix of all the churches we read about in the Revelation. There is sin in the church and most people could not care less - they will never tell you that, but if the pastor or any other member speaks against the evil that is invading the church others think you are some kind of fanatic. As a whole, the church in America is a lukewarm church.

C. Now, Let Us Look at Our Church.

Dare we ask the questions of our church? Are we a church that tolerated the Nicolaitans - permit sins and rebellion against God within the fellowship of the church? I am aware of the farce of discipline that probably led to the attitude we have today. A century ago there were churches that brought up ludicrous charges against members and voted them out for trivial things, often because one person was harbored a sinful attitude toward his neighbor. A friend told me that he found in some church records that his uncle had been kicked out of church one Sunday and a month later he was on the committee that brought charges against another member. We not only do not discipline members who live an immoral life, we elect them to serve on committees and teach classes. God forbid that we should do that here!

D. Jesus Knows Everything About Every Church.

Only Jesus has perfect, infallible, knowledge of our church. I am convinced that He knows some things about some of our members the pastor does not know. He knows things about some of us our closest friends do not know. He knows whether or not we are sincere or hypocritical, and believe me, each person will be tempted to be hypocritical in everything we do. Jesus knows if we have some Jezebel in the church. He knows those who serve with the faith of Priscilla and Aquilla. He knows the Dorcases and Barnabases. just as He knows when some Ananias or Saphira lies to the Holy Spirit.

E. Jesus Has a Warning for the Church.

Pain in the chest or abdomen is a warning that we should see a doctor. We do not normally feel physical pain when the church is sick, even though some may experience such deep conviction or such a burden for the church that we may become physically ill. We do have the Holy Spirit Who will let us know when we need the Great Physician. Jesus warns that he will discipline members who bring sin into His church. He also warns that he will visit the church that tolerates sin and take away their candlestick - they will no longer be a light to the world. I am convinced that there are churches today that meet regularly without realizing that the world passes by without seeing even the faintest glow from within the fellowship. I am also convinced that if the Lord recalled the Holy Spirit a lot of churches would go right on doing business as usual and never know that He had been called back into heaven.

F. Jesus Has a Solution for Every Church.

1. He commands us to repent.

2. He commands us to return.


Jesus would nurture and grow each church into a healthy functioning body. Satan would take that body and turn it into an Frankenstein’s monster. Either will require your participation. What will it be?

What if the Lord Jesus Christ told us what He knows about our church? Would there be a commendation? Would there be a condemnation? Would there be a little of both? Well, if you are a member of this church this concerns you. Guess where you need to start if you want to do something about it? Is it time for you to repent and return right now? Let us ask Him what He would have us to do right now, in this service.


Roy Davis asked why I asked for prayer for Rocky and Philip Robertson's wife. Sorry about that Roy. Rocky had a heart valve replaced in July and he is doing great now.

Philip Robertson over married and that is why she needs our prayer. Of course she will deliver their third child in less than two weeks and I am praying for mother and baby.

Jimmy Furr is my brother-in-law and he is sporting one of those portable heart monitors for a month. Pray that they can soon get all the meds regulated and get everything in rhythm. Jimmy was with NAMB for 12 years and now he is a DOM in the Huntingdon, TN area.

Earlier, I had mentioned Milton Kornagay, a pastor in New York who shared information with the Broadman and Holman Committee about the commitment of many young Black Ministers to a deeper study of God's Word.

J. D. Segley is a godly businessman who serves on the board of trustees for LifeWay Christian Resources. He is a blessing to those who know him. He is also being ministered to by our Lord through an illness

Thanks for joining me in praying for these friends.