When I was growing up and approaching the teenage years my mom would take my brother and I around with her when she sang at various churches. She was, what was called back then, a singing evangelist. She also recorded albums and could be heard occasionally on the radio. So when big name preachers would come into town to do evangelistic meetings, she was often hired to do the music each night, especially the appeal song as people came down the isle and made decisions. Therefore I got to hear some of the best evangelistic preaching within our church.
To be honest, church services were pretty boring for me when I was little. Most of the time, there were no young people leading out, with the exception of special occasions like a children’s/youth choir or an evening program called Adventist Youth (AY), which was often lead out by an adult! Church just seemed like it was really for the adults and the young people were expected to just sit quietly and listen or be silowed off to our own little programs. So when an evangelist came to town and my mother was asked to sing for the meetings and I got to tag along, there was an air of excitement within the church. There was this passion for mission and the church seemed to come to life. People sang with enthusiasm and the preaching was usually an hour long, which never felt very long, because it was so good. I would be on the edge of my seat hanging on every word. And though I knew there wasn’t much young people like myself leading out and that church would return to business as usual once the meetings were over, it was exciting to see the church growing in mission and to have the evangelist in town to preach dynamic sermons. Especially on the final night, the preacher seemed to preach with more fervor, since he and everybody knew he’d soon be leaving.
This is what it must have felt like in the city of Troas, as the Apostle Paul came to that city towards the end of his last missionary journey. Excitement filled the air as the church gathered to hear Paul speak for the final time, after having been there for seven days. The Bible says that they gathered on the first day of the week. Some would like to make the argument that this is evidence that the early Christian church set aside Sunday as a day of worship, however the church often gathered daily to eat together in fellowship and this was likely a Saturday evening, were according to Biblical reckoning of time, the next day started at sundown. Thus as Paul continued preaching way into the night until midnight, it was already considered Sunday, the first day of the week. So likely they were ending there Sabbath experience, which the overwhelming evidence is that the early Christian church continued to set aside Sabbath (Saturday) as holy, and wanted to cherish these last few moments with Paul.
Now I love to hear good preaching and I’m sure Paul was an amazing preacher, but I’ve never stayed to hear someone preach for hours, much less until midnight! Three times in this story, the writer Luke, will tells us, almost poking a little fun at Paul, that he just kept preaching on and on. Now I can imagine as Paul is preaching that he’s got the future health, mission and growth of this church in mind. As you discover in the next chapter, he’s already sensing that this is going to be his last visit and he wants to encourage the church stay rooted in the gospel and to keep the urgency of the mission to making disciples as their focus. This should be the question on our minds as we read this story as well. How do we help our church grow and what’s essential to fulfilling the mission?
Now Luke wants to take you into the room were they were gathered. It was something like a large apartment building and they were on the third floor. He gives us the detail that there were many lamps in that room, which if they were burning all night with a crowd full of people, it would create a stuffy environment which sets us up for what happens next in verse 9…
Apparently everyone was so caught up in hearing the preacher preach and keeping the church service going, that no one noticed that the youth was being overcome. “Hey, CJ, at least he was in the church service”, you might say. That’s were he’s supposed to be so he can listen to Pastor Paul and not end up like those kids out there in the world. And it’s this exact mindset that can actually keep the church from growing, because…
While We Keep Doing Church as Usual, Young People are Sleeping, Falling & Dying.
They might be in the building, in the worship service or even involved in a program, but they may not really be here. If you look a little closer, they might be sleeping spiritually, falling into sin or spiritually dead.
Have you ever fallen asleep in church? Come on and tell the truth! You sat there and you tried to be attentive. As your head was nodding, you even tried to shout out an amen, while looking around to see if anyone saw you falling asleep. And sometimes you might be so overcome with sleep that you just gave up, drooped your head and started snoring. One time I fell asleep so hard that my head hit the wooden back side of the pew in front of me. It was so loud that everyone around me turned around to see what made such a loud noise.
Now let’s give this young man some credit for coming to hear Paul. We’ve got some amazing young people in church, don’t we? And my concern, is not so much with him. He probably went to sit by that window to get some fresh air because it was so stuffy in that room. My question is, no one saw this young man sitting by this window, that was large enough for someone to fall out of? Or was everyone so caught up in “doing church” as usual. Hey let’s keep the worship service going. Let’s keep singing our favorite hymns. Preach it Pastor Paul! Hey where’s Eutichus? Oh I think I saw him in pathfinders today. Oh, I think I saw him sitting on the balcony on his iPhone. Like, did anybody really “see” him? Was anybody there with him who knew him? No one was close enough to him to see that he had one foot in the church, the other foot outside, was falling asleep and could fall and die?
When I’m preaching, I can see everything and everyone around me. I know who likes to sit in there favorite section. I know who’s following along with me and I can see whose talking or falling asleep. Did Paul not see this young man by the window? Or can we get so caught up with what we are doing, what we are saying, that we end up focusing more of our attention on the preferences of adults, that we comfort ourselves by saying that they are the church of tomorrow. They’ll get their turn to lead, for now let’s just make sure their here in the building or involved in one of the programs for them. Hey just sit down in the worship service and listen to Pastor Paul.
The church in North America is loosing its younger generations. Many of them grew up in Christian homes. Many went to church schools. They may have even been involved in church activities. But did anyone really see them. Did anyone know them well enough to know what was in their heart without judgment? Maybe we need to take an uncomfortable, but necessary look in the mirror. Maybe some of them are dead, because we’re dead. Do we overflow with a contagious love and spiritual vitality that flows from a relationship with Christ? Because when we do, we awaken from our own spiritual sleep and we can truly see them before they fall.
Now the death of Eutychus was a serious wake up call for the church in Troas and especially for Paul, for we read in verse 10…