Ancient Models for Contemporary Growth

The churches of Asia addressed in the second and third chapters of Revelation were real churches facing real problems. They are also representations of the Lord’s church and the challenges it faces at any time in any circumstance. The guidance given by the Spirit through the apostle to these churches provides us with divine models for church growth and development.

The church in Ephesus was strong. They worked hard and had endured much without becoming weary. They were a doctrinally sound church that did not tolerate evil men. Yet they were in serious trouble. They were charged with having left their first love. In their fervor to be right they had lost sight of Him from whom their righteousness derived.

As we work together to build this church, our first priority is to love the Lord, allowing Him to remake us all in His image. Let our allegiance be solely to Him, relying on His word to guide us. Let us confidently and compassionately speak the truth in love, that we may grow up in all things into Him who is our head, even Christ.

The church in Philadelphia was about to face severe persecution, but the Lord revealed He had placed before them an open door that no one could shut. As those faithful saints responded with selfless resolve to the challenges confronting them, God not only promised to stand by them in their hour of testing, but to also provide opportunities for greater service.

Let us learn this lesson well. God protects and provides for those who are ready to serve. Like our brethren in Philadelphia centuries ago, an open door has been placed before us. We have a wonderful opportunity to build a church that is truly reflective of New Testament Christianity. We must let nothing distract us from that mission. We have been called to proclaim Jesus as Lord and Savior, helping to bring as many as we can into fellowship with God through obedience to Christ.

The church at Laodicea was complacent. They were wealthy, self-sufficient, and had need of nothing. Apparently they were not doing anything, either — content with themselves.

God will not tolerate complacency and indifference. Our pilgrimage here is brief; there is much to do. Our church has been abundantly blessed with a variety of resources. It’s time to dream, to imagine what God can accomplish through us. We cannot afford to rely on previous accomplishments and past reputations; nor should we satisfied or accepting of the status quo. The Lord’s church is a spiritual army. Anything less than forward is movement in the wrong direction.

Mastering these lessons from the past will help us grow now and will continue to provide the impetus for future growth. A healthy church is one that is always willing to learn from the experiences of others. These examples of Ephesus, Philadelphia, and Laodicea demonstrate that:

  • We must be a church whose loyalty is to Christ, committed to fulfilling His purpose for us.
  • We must be a church steadfast in service, doing our best to make full use of the opportunities God provides us to help others.
  • We must be a church on fire, ever active and vigilant, using to our full potential the resources God has given us.
  • We must be a church with vision — with the capacity to see beyond the way things are and see them the way they ought to be.

He that overcometh, I will give to him
to sit down with Me in My throne,
as I also overcame,
and sat down with My father in His throne.

He that hath an ear,
let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.

— Bill