Faith leader—have you ever thought what Jesus would say to you about the church, business, family, or ministry that you lead?
To the Church
When the Lord appeared to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos, He had a message for seven of the biggest churches of that day. They were recorded in Scripture because the messages weren’t for them alone; they apply to us today.
And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches. (Revelation 1:16-20)
The seven churches were some of the most prominent assemblies of believers in the first century. All of them were in what was then known as Asia Minor—today's nation of Turkey. Jesus' messages to these literal churches were included in the Canon of Scripture because they weren't only for the seven churches; they were to the Church—the entire body of Christ from then until Jesus returns. The Lord called the seven churches candlesticksbecause He expected them, and He expects us to be lights in the darkness. (Matthew 5:14)
Jesus’ Five Point Message
Most experienced leaders in ministry or business know that if you need to have a difficult discussion, it's best to sandwich bad news with good. In other words, start on a positive note; give the negative information, and end with something positive. That's the pattern Jesus followed as He addressed each church. First, He commended them for things they were doing that pleased Him. Second, He directed their attention to things that didn't please Him. Third, Jesus called for them to repent. (Repent doesn't merely mean to say, “I’m sorry.”It means to turn around and go in the opposite direction.) Fourth, He warned them of what would happen to them if they chose to disobey and refused to repent. Fifth, Jesus revealed their reward for overcoming. All of the churches had done some good things, but six of the seven had let some ungodly or unscriptural people, attitudes, and behaviors slip in, and they allowed them to continue.
If You Mess Up
It's one thing to get into sin, and it's an entirely different thing if someone falls into sin and stays there. Jesus' issue with the seven churches wasn't that they were imperfect; it was with their refusal to call out and correct the sin that had infected their congregation. Faith leaders should be quick to acknowledge their sin, quick to repent, and quick to forgive. As we look at the sins Jesus called out in six of the seven churches, ask yourself if any of them apply to you or your organization. If so, repent, take corrective action and move forward!
Where the Six Missed It
The church at Ephesus (the Megachurch of the day) lost their first love. (Revelation 2:1-7) In other words, God’s priorities were no longer their priorities. When you love God, you love what He loves, and you do what is important to Him!
The church at Smyrna was the persecuted church; Jesus commended them for standing up under persecution.(Revelation 2:8-11)The issue in Smyrna was blasphemy or evil speaking. The leaders there didn’t call people out who were using their mouths in an ungodly way.
The church at Pergamos had a problem with idol worship. (Revelation 2:12-17) The Bible calls it fornicationor sometimes adultery, but it isn’t restricted to sexual misconduct. Spiritual fornication happens when a Christian loves something more than God.
The church at Thyatira allowed a false teacher to mislead God’s people into sexual and idolatrous sin. (Revelation 2:18-25)
The church at Sardis was the dead church. (Revelation 3:1-6) They had what Paul called a form of godliness but [denied] the power thereof. (2 Timothy 3:5)Today’s churches can fall easily into the sin of Sardis. Anytime form is more important than flow, you’d better tread cautiously!
The church at Laodicea was the lukewarm church.(Revelation 3:14-18)They were quite prosperous, and they lacked the motivation to serve God. In over 45 years of ministry, I've seen it happen many times. I've taught people how to prosper God's way, and when they did, they stopped serving in their local church.
We can Get it Right
The church at Philadelphia got it right. They were the overcoming church. Faithful and trustworthy, they were the only church that Jesus didn’t call to repent. We should all seek to be like the overcoming church, but all of us could be, at times, a little like the churches at Smyrna, Ephesus, Laodicea, Thyatira, Pergamos, or Sardis. If you want to be one who hears the Lord say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" (Matthew 25:21)remainfaithful to God and live holy before Him. If you mess up, repent. Turn away from doing wrong and do right. Keep God first, and you will overcome!