A SERIOUS WARNING TO ALL BIBLE-BELIEVING CHRISTIANS!
ARTICLE QUOTE: "I have actually preached at a spiritually
dead congregation like Sardis. I preached in one place nestling
in the Welsh valleys where I have no doubt that the Lord Jesus
had removed His candlestick many years ago. The chapel, once - no
doubt - a bustling scene of evangelistic activity where people
were brought into an active, living relationship with the risen
Jesus, were now few in number, disinterested, indifferent and
The second and third
chapters of the Book of Revelation contain the famous 'messages
to the seven churches'. We all know that these messages are
there, but how often do we consider them?
One lady said to me,
'Oh, the messages to those churches? Why, I just read right over that part because I am always anxious to get to the really exciting prophecy parts of the book!'
How about that? Is that your attitude to these messages too?
An elderly, retired minister friend said this to me,
'There are few biblical texts which are so vital that today's church congregations should understand than the 'church messages' of Revelation 2-3, but such congregations usually never hear a sermon on them!'
There is surely a huge irony when zealous but hopelessly misguided 'prophecy enthusiasts' rush straight past these warnings as they make for other parts of the Book of Revelation, when these warnings could be telling them that their congregation has ALREADY had its 'candlestick' removed from the Lord's presence!!
So let us stand back a little now and consider these messages. WHY are they even recorded for us?
The truth is these are seven fairly typical Christian congregations which had grown up in the Asia Minor of the apostle John's day (modern-day Turkey). Here is a vivid description of seven church congregations - warts and all! - which were in existence towards the end of John's life (somewhere around 95 AD). Several of these congregations are told to Repent! , others are praised for their faithfulness. But they are typical. They are recorded for us to read today as both a warning and - if we are doing the right things - as an encouragement! If we look closely at the conditions and circumstances prevalent in these congregations, we will also see our own congregations of the early 21st century!!
I'm afraid that too many modern Christians have a 'thats the pastor's job' approach toward congregational life, forgetting the strong - but nowadays frequently neglected - New Testament teaching of responsibilty and Christian stewardship! Sure, we should follow our pastors/ministers overall lead and authority, but that never robs us of our personal spritual stewardship before Jesus Christ!
One man said,
'Sure, I go to a liberal church and I don't agree with some of the preaching, but my parents went to the same place and I won't uproot now!'
While we might all admire such loyalty, where does this leave our individual spiritual responsibility and stewardship before Jesus Christ?
So lets start to look at these seven churches and consider any relevant lessons; please be prepared for one or two surprises....AND SOME STRAIGHT TALKING!
Doctrinal Zeal, But Duty Overrides Love!
It is perhaps fitting that Ephesus heads the list since John himself had associations with this congregation of believers.
Ephesus was wealthy and popular and famous for its shrine of Diana. Paul visited the city (Acts 18:19-21) on route from Corinth to Jerusalem, during his second missionary tour, circa AD 52. Later on, while homeward bound on his third trip, Paul made a farewell visit to the leaders at Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38). This would have been around AD 57.
The congregation at Ephesus were plainly zealous for the truth. Jesus says,
'I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. (PLEASE NOTE: by today's 'politically correct' permissive liberalism, this would make the Ephesus congregation 'intolerant' and they are here being praised for that! - My insert) And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary'
Here is a congregation who are faithful and absolutely zealous for correct doctrinal teaching! They had 'tested' some who had claimed to be apostles, found them to be liars, and undoubtedly branded them as such! Wow! Such zeal and committment for the truth! This all sounds very impressive, but wait! - They have one problem - THEY HAVE LEFT THEIR 'FIRST LOVE' (see verse 4) - in other words, they were not as close to Christ as they had been, suddenly doctrine was somehow, in their eyes, more important than....LOVE!
In our Christian lives, we need their concern for correct biblical teachings but we must continue to love! Christian love is always important to John; tradition states that - as a very old man and after his release from Patmos - a feeble John would be carried into church and would say, 'Little children, love one another'. (Henriksen, 'More Than Conquerors' 1998 paperback reprint, page 61).
Ephesus is now Izmir, Turkey and it still has a few remains of Roman buildings which would have been lavish and impressive in the days of the apostle Paul.
I know of congregations which are a little like Ephesus in this respect: a huge zeal for correct doctrinal teaching and a huge zeal to expose false teachers, but, WHERE IS THE LOVE? Where is the 'first love' for Jesus Christ and where is the love which reaches out to those in this spiritually impoverished 21st century society who so badly need help? It is important to be concerned about correct teachings where false teachers and teachings abound, but sometimes this can lead to an over-concern for duty and detail and suddenly, somehow Christian worship seems less important!
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we must avoid that! Our life of worship towards our Saviour must go above and beyond a meticulous concern for doctrine alone!
In verse 5 the Ephesian congregation are warned to repent for their lack of love, with the famous warning that, if this does not happen, Christ will remove their candlestick! This may well mean that that congregation will no longer be considered a congregation of true believers in the Christ and will be allowed to die out; no longer being a place where people learn of the gospel, and where converts are made! I am told that, today, you will find it hard to find any true believers in Ephesus!
Faithfulness, Even Through Tribulation and Material Poverty!
It appears that the Smyrna congregation was established by the apostle Paul somewhere around AD 55, on Paul's third tour; this is based on Acts 19:10. Smyrna was believed to be a grand and attractive city. The city was known as a reliable supporter of Rome as Rome grew in power and influence. Hendriksen speculates that none other than Polycarp was the leader of the Smyrna congregation at the time. Polycarp was martyred in AD 155, and is known to have been faithful unto death (Hendriksen, page 64). Hendriksen also testifies as to the known poverty of this congregation at Smyrna. We should always remember that many, many first century Christians were often extremely poor; often such people were not allowed to be employed and they totally relied on God's provision for their survival.
And yet - in our day - we have the spectre of the Word-faith teachers, financially prosperous but spiritually destitute, who say that if we are not rich, God must be cursing us!! How Paul would have been angered by such individuals claiming to teach Christ while denying Him in so many areas!!
Lets look at verse 9:
'I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich); and I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan'
Jesus is telling the faithful at Smyrna that while they may appear to be poverty-stricken as the world measures and sees things, in reality they are...RICH! SPIRITUALLY RICH!!
At Smyrna the congregation were also troubled by a large Jewish presence who apparently opposed the Christians wherever possible. But Christ called these Jews 'the synagogue of Satan' - but what does the text mean when it says that these Jews claimed to be Jews 'and are not'?? The answer is to be found in Romans 2:28-29. Under the New Covenant and in God's eyes, Christians become Spiritual Jews and circumcision is now deemed to be of the heart and spirit...no longer of the flesh!
So the congregation at Smyrna were utterly faithful even amidst great material poverty and they don't receive a single rebuke from the risen and glorified Christ. So what lessons for us in our congregations in this early 21st century?
Well surely one of several lessons is that we should never measure a congregation's walk with God by their financial state! Are you the treasurer in a congregation which somehow never quite has enough funds? Well, let me put it to you that your financial state will still be far and away stronger than it was for the church at Smyrna! Moreover, it is not wise to compare your congregation with another one which you are aware of which has a huge membership and seemingly endless financial resources! Is the gospel being fearlessly - and accurately - preached there? This and the presence of real Christian love within the congregation are the most vital things!
However, if the gospel is just as strongly upheld within that huge church which neighbours you, yet your congregation no longer grows, there could be serious questions for your congregational leaders to ponder!
But there is still another rebuke for those false teachers who claim that a Christian's life should be constantly happy and harmonious, as long as we do certain things. We need to consider verse 10:
'Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life'
Notice the recognition of God's sovereignty here:
'things which you ARE about to suffer...The devil WILL cast you into prison...you WILL have tribulation' Yet some would erroneously say, if those things come upon you, you must be either secretly sinning in some major area, or you must lack faith! Of course, this verse says why God will allow these things to happen to a few of the exceptionally faithful congregation at Smyrna....'That you may be tested....Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life'
Faithfulness, But a Toleration of False Teachings and Worldliness!
At Pergamos there were many pagan altars including the Great Altar to Zeus. Perhaps Christ had this in mind when He refers to Pergamos as, '...Where Satan's throne is..'(Verse 13).
The Pergamon church was certainly faithful to Christ even during days of considerable persecution, but they had a certain lack of doctrinal and moral discipline which meant that false teachings and compromise with a pagan society gained entrance. I will quote Hendriksen's comments here, because he believed that members of the Pergamos congregation had become involved in idolatrous worship at the numerous local pagan shrines:
'Some of the members of the church had attended heathen festivals, and had, in all probability, even participated in the immoralities that characterized these feasts. Similar practises had occurred among the children of Israel in the days of Balaam (Nu 25:1-2, 31:16). Like Israel too, Pergamum had its Nicolaitans. Let us not think too lightly of this temptation. Refusing to partake of idol-meats, and especially refusal to attend the heathen feasts, meant withdrawal from a great part of the whole social life of the time. For one thing, the trades had tutelary deities which would be worshipped at the feasts. Refusal to join in these feasts often meant that a man would lose his job...he would become an outcast'
(Hendriksen, page 67).
Just who were the 'Nicolaitans'?
They were apparently a heretical sect which formed within, and then broke away from the Church. These people had apparently worked out a compromise with the surrounding paganism. For the Nicolaitans, spiritual liberty meant that they were free to practise immorality and idolatry! Tradition has tended to identify them with Nicolas, who had been one of the first seven deacons in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:5), but nobody can be sure about this.
So certain men in the Pergamos congregation, probably under Nicolaitan influence, had apparently even been drawn into the illicit sexual activities which were part and parcel of pagan worship life.
Christ shows His anger towards those who had compromised so seriously with their purity of belief:
'Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against you with the word of My mouth'
How about us in this early 21st century?
Have we compromised too much with this often permissive and frequently corrupt modern western society? Those who read my material a great deal will know that I think that too many Christians in our day have done just that! Doctrinal compromise as a 'Quick-fix' for dwindling congregations (actually, long-term, it never works!) and moral compromising to find some 'common ground' with widespread western permissive liberalism, are to be found everywhere.
But Bible-believing Christians will want to firmly resist all such influences!
So Pergamos was a congregation which had shown great faithfulness in days gone by, but had now become fatefully compromised by false teachings which had led to some acceptance of sinful behaviour. To be frank, this sounds like a pretty good description of liberal congregations where the modern, 'politically-correct' banner has now been raised! Suddenly homosexuality is acceptable, no matter what the Bible says, so are extra-marital affairs, so is abortion; meanwhile there is no longer any great motivation to preach the gospel since such influences will also have introduced the concept of religious pluralism: All religions lead to God! However, we must reject these approaches for solid biblical reasons!
Some Faithfulness, But Major Corruption!
According to the NIV Study Bible, Thyatira was founded by one Seleucus I (311-280 BC) in order to be a military outpost. Lydia, a dealer in 'purple cloth' (Acts 16:14), came from this town.
As in most cases, the glorified Jesus starts off with some positive comments about the Thyatira congregation, but there is a serious problem there which must soon be tackled!!
The congregation contains a false female teacher who apparently considers herself to be a 'Prophetess' - from within this congregation this false teacher is leading many (though apparently not all) of the congregation astray. She appears to be called 'Jezebel' as an epithet. There is no question that this prominent and influential woman is advocating tolerance toward pagan sexual practises:
'Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and beguile My servants to commit sexual immorality and to eat things sacrificed to idols'
While Paul had shown that an idol is nothing and meat offered to idols just like any other meat, this understanding was for the more mature in the faith and on the understanding that the acceptance of such meat did not bring one into pagan influences. But here we see a woman "prophetess" who the congregational leaders were apparently encouraging (rather than powerfully rebuking!!)encouraging active participation in pagan sexually immoral practises. Her teaching was Nicolaitism (which was also affecting those at Pergamos). Almost certainly she was encouraging the use of temple prostitutes, but verse 22 also seems to suggest that she also offered her own sexual services! It is believed that both heterosexual and homosexual activities were catered for within these evil places of pagan worship, and here was somebody WITHIN a Christian congregation, promoting and encouraging such behaviour!
Amazingly, despite this, Christ had been patient with this woman and had granted her 'time to repent' (verse 21), but she had just continued with her evil ways and apparently some of the chuch leaders had just gone along with her evil ways! But now her time was up and Christ is about to punish her with sickness and death, now Christ is also going to grant space for those she corrupted to repent, otherwise they will be brought into tribulation and finally death (Verses 22-23).
But it is plain that some at Thyatira had separated themselves from this woman's evil influence, and Christ promises to spare and save them (Verses 24-29).
So what lessons for you and I in our day?
Do we allow self-styled 'prophets' or 'prophetesses' to arise from within us? Do we allow them undue influence when it becomes plain that they are leading others astray?? Do we allow congregational DIVISION to develop where it is plainly avoidable? Do we pride ourselves that our church is 'tolerant' and 'non-judgmental'??
Are there influences within our congregations which are effectively leading church members back into the corruption and lust of this world??
A Spiritually Dead Congregation!
Sardis was situated on a hill overlooking the Hermus Valley. We cannot be entirely sure when it was evangelized, since the name 'Sardis' only occurs here in the Book of Revelation.
In the case of Sardis, the rebuke is not prefaced by any encouraging comments at all! Whereas serious situations occurred at both Thyatira and Pergamos, it is still clear that not all in those congregations were swept along with the serious errors, but here almost the whole congregation had apparently descended into a kind of spiritual stupor. The Sardis church had utterly failed in its duty to be 'light-shiners' in the midst of a perverse society; it wasn't that the false teaching of Nicolaitism had gained some influence as at Pergamos and Thyatira, but that the whole congregation had become disinterested, bored, and no longer keen to have an active walk with Jesus Christ. Satan hadn't needed to infiltrate them with false teachers/teachings as at the more spiritually dynamic Pergamos and Thyatira, since their indifference and apathy meant that they were no longer enjoying a dynamic relationship with their Saviour in any case! Christ says,
'Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you'
Yet, even at Sardis, a very few had 'kept the faith' (verse 4), it seems that even in the most spiritually weak and the most doctrinally compromised congregations, the Lord will always have a few that are His - if that was so then, it is surely also the case now! But surely at Sardis, it really was just a very few, apparently fewer than had managed to 'stay on track' at Pergamos and Thyatira.
I have actually preached in a spiritually dead congregation like Sardis.
I preached in one place nestling in the Welsh valleys where I have no doubt that the Lord Jesus had removed His candlestick many years ago. The chapel, once - no doubt - a bustling scene of evangelistic activity where people were brought into an active, living relationship with the risen Jesus, were now few in number, disinterested, indifferent and tired. As a visiting preacher, I asked the deacons if we could pray together before the service (as is my preference), but I was told, 'We don't do that here' I made other suggestions too which, again, were met with indifference (the congregation had not employed their own pastor for a very, very long time).
When I preached, within a very few minutes one of the deacons started repeatedly looking at his watch (apparently as a signal that I was not to preach for too long, although I never gave a long sermon to the congregation). This congregation had wanted me to come and conduct communion about once every month; but I told their leaders that I had perceived serious problems within the congregation and I had a certain responsibility before Jesus Christ to talk about some of the problems with their leaders before agreeing to this. But when I could see that they were not going to discuss anything with me, I just gave one more sermon to them in which I beseeched them to awaken from their lethargy and to renew their committment to Jesus Christ. It was a powerful message, but nothing changed, nor, I think, is likely to change until the tiny congregation simply dies out. The leaders apparently thought that I had no right to say that if I was going to conduct communion, I needed to discuss certain problems first, so I did not preach there again.
But I have little doubt that much evangelistic activity had occurred in this chapel hundred years or so previously and, quite likely, a hundred people or more would had attended, but now its candlestick had apparently been removed with just about fifteen people continuing to attend, but the congregational leaders were indifferent, apathetic, lethargic and, as far as one could tell, spiritually dead. How very sad.
Yes, Jesus Christ DOES remove His candlestick from congregations!!
That congregation were one of three that the Lord clearly showed me that I should not preach in when I did a lot of guest preaching between 1997 and 2002.
Faithful, Gospel-Preaching and Committed, Even Though Small in Strength!
Philadelphia is now Alasehir in modern Turkey. This was always fine farming country and the town of Alasehir derives its living mainly from the same source.
Many Christians know that 'philadephia' means 'brotherly love' but not many know the origins of why this was applied to this place in Asia Minor. According to Hendriksen, the name comes from Attalus II, 159-138 BC, whose loyalty to his brother, Eumenes, led to him becoming known as 'brother-lover'. Apparently this family had associations with the town later renamed Philadelphia.
The town was founded in order for it to become a centre of Greek learning, philosophy and manners, but it was not necessarily a prosperous place. The Philadephia congregation had something strongly in common with the Smyrna congregation; neither receive any rebuke from Christ at all, and also both congregations had poor financial resources. Philadelphia were of little power, undoubtedly small in number but were exceptionally loyal to Jesus Christ and to His gospel:
'...These things says He who is holy, He who is true, He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens. I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name'
In the New Testament, an 'open door' seems to indicate an opportunity to preach the gospel! Compare this with 1 Corinthians 16:9, 2 Corinthians 2:12 and Colossians 4:3.
There is no doubt that Christ decides how wide He will open any particular congregation's 'door' to preach the gospel!
Undoubtedly that is exactly the same today! For many, perhaps, the glorified Christ only opens that door part-way, but for others He opens it widely. By the way, this should never be used as an excuse for inaction!! All congregations should push firmly against this door to see how wide Christ may open it!
Secondly, since Philadelphia were weak in strength this tends to give the lie to all those 'church growth strategy plans' which insist that a church can do nothing without increasing finances!! They are actually wrong - the truth is: no congregation can grow without Christ's favour. But again, this DOES NOT mean that huge congregations are necessarily mightily blessed by Christ - is the gospel truly and faithfully preached in order to bring in new converts? Or are other cynical means devised - such as making places as 'user-friendly' to 21st century people as possible with plenty of modern-style music but precious little preaching, and much of that unbalanced??
But just what is the 'key of David'?
Many cults and sects have had great (and very imaginative!) fun with 'the key of David' which, they have taught followers, have been handed to them alone. But we should note that this Scripture pictures this key of David as being in the possession of Christ. Why is this key mentioned here? Because Christ speaks of opening a door and a door often requires a key to unlock it! As confirmation of that, see Isaiah 22:22. Christ alone possesses this key, it is surely symbolic of the greatest power and authority within the kingdom of God; Christ grants effective use of this key to His Church alone (Matthew 16:19). Some have claimed all kinds of explanations for this key; Herbert W. Armstrong, the founder of the WCG sect, for instance, said that only the WCG were 'Philadelphia' and that he alone held the Key of David which was the "understanding" that the British and Americans were descended from Israel! This was a classic case of rejecting the Bible's own explanation of Revelation's symbols and introducing an outside concept - completely foreign to the Scriptures -as an 'explanation' - but Revelation's symbols are always rooted in the Bible itself!
The 'synagogue of Satan' get another mention here (as in Revelation 2:9 when discussing the church at Ephesus), it might seem harsh to some that there is little doubt that Jesus is talking of persecution from local Jews, all I can say is that if any think the language a bit harsh perhaps they should consult equally strong comments addressed to disbelieving Jews in John 8:43-44.
We need, perhaps, to remind ourselves that Christians - in God's sight - now become 'spiritual Jews' - national and ethnic Jews who reject Christ no longer stand in a special relationship with God.
The specific promise of protection from the 'hour of trial' (or, temptation) might well have had a fulfillment in one of the early persecutions for the congregation at Philadelphia, but most would also see it as a bigger promise affecting faithful Christians with a 'Philadelphian attitude' concerning extra protection at the events leading to the 'end of the age' and to Christ's return!
Paul refers to the congregation at Laodicea when he states that his epistle to the Colossians should be read there (Colossians 4:16). Colossae was not too far away from Laodicea. His epistle was probably read in the church around 25 years earlier.
If we are considering these first century AD typical church congregations to see what lessons we can learn from their experiences in our own day (which, I hope, is our approach), we might almost learn more from the Laodicean congregation's approach than from several of the others put together!! Why? Because the Laodiceans were about the only one of these seven examples who lived in some financial affluence and security - which makes them very similar in that regard to the Western world of 2003 !!
An ancient aqueduct which once carried water obviously rich in calcium is still clearly visible in the Laodicea area. Our grateful thanks to BiblePlaces.com (www.bibleplaces.com/) for the use of this photograph.
Somebody once said,'The New Testament Christians were mostly
quite poor; are there any wealthy Christians mentioned at all in
the New Testament?' SURE! They were within the Laodicean
Of course, certain of the prosperity teachers have claimed that all the early Christians were wealthy which, I'm afraid, just displays their ignorance, because many were slaves and others became entirely shut off from first century social life - which included employment! - when they accepted Christ. This was simply the way the pagan religion of the day worked - it affected everything!!
Over the years, many of us have probably learned that there was a school of medicine at Laodicea which had become especially famous for its eye salve, hence Christ's comment,
'...Anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see'
(Verse 18, last part)
Many have probably also heard that there were hot springs here which continually gave out lukewarm water, hence Christ's use of this as an analogy regarding the local congregation's lukewarm approach:
'I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth'
Interestingly, fragments of the aqueduct which once carried this water can still be clearly seen today, albeit now badly narrowed from calcium carbonate deposits (see picture).
BUT I DON'T THINK MANY OF US HAVE REALISED JUST HOW WEALTHY MANY OF THESE PEOPLE WERE!!
Laodicea was very famous indeed for its wealth! Bible commentators have often seen it as something of a first century AD 'millionaire's playground' - it contained a fine theatre, a stadium and a gymnasium with lavish baths; it was an abode of bankers and the successful. Apart from its famous eye-salve, the town (which was quite close to Colossae), was famous for a wonderful glossy black wool which they got from a local long-haired black sheep; this was sought-after far and wide. We know too, from Tacitus, that this city decided not to receive any aid when part of it was devastated by an earthquake in AD 60. Tacitus expressed surprise at the refusal of aid (source: Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol III, page 1308, 1997).
Laodicea, then, became noted for its wealth, luxury and fine living. Maybe there was also more religious freedom for Christians, with the pervading pagan lifestyle having a much looser grip, since we know that the Christian congregation there also enjoyed real luxury compared to many. But Laodicea also became noted for a certain snobbishness, boastfulness and pride, and it seems that these attitudes also spread to some of its Christian community!
So why was Christ prepared to 'spew' the Laodicean congregation out of His mouth?
'Because you say, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked - I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent'
Christ said that the true picture was that the Laodiceans were not rich at all, but were poor, blind and naked (spiritually) and needed to repent to get back 'on-side'! I myself have witnessed the terrible tendency of affluent, well-off and financially comfortable Christians apparently becoming blinded to the fact that Christ is no longer at the centre of their lives; rather, He has been replaced - as their chief life-focus - by the pursuit of even greater financial security and by all of the trappings of prosperity and abundance! How blind we sometimes are!! There is little doubt in my mind that very large congregations in prosperous cities often have a particular problem here!!
Financial prosperity and abundance tend to bring a particular set of spiritual problems, and our blindness to these problems becomes even greater where the Word-faith teachers gain entrance with their prosperity-orientated and 'positive-confession' influences.
One Word of Caution
There is no such thing as the perfect church congregation! You know the amusing old saying,
'Don't spend your life seeking out the most perfect church congregation, because if you ever find it....THEY WON'T HAVE YOU!'
All congregations have weaker and stronger elements and any congregation of over about 40 people are going to have a few people who might not get into any so-called 'perfect congregation' for various reasons! No, we must realise that the unfavourable influences/tendencies within 5 of the 7 churches of Revelation 2-3, were major in danger, impact, influence and pervasiveness! Of course, many of today's unbiblical infiltrations into Christian congregations are also dangerous in these ways which is why it is wise to occasionally consider how one's own congregation measures up.
So let us not ignore or neglect the messages to the 7 churches any longer!
Go through them....... IS YOUR CONGREGATION A SMYRNA OR A PHILADELPHIA? Those are the ideals, but if your (or my) congregations are more like Thyatira, Sardis or Laodicea, let us be determined to do all WE can to make them stronger whilst avoiding any tendency to see a demon in every ditch, or a false teacher in every study group!!
Robin A. Brace
COUNTERCULT AND APOLOGETICS