Hallelujah! Though there are still several steps to go through before it is in print, I have finished writing my latest book. It is called, Resurrecting a Dead Church. Its purpose is to spark a revival in our dead and dying churches and to help strengthen our living churches. I also believe it will be profitable in sparking reveal in one’s personal life. To help whet your appetite, I thought I would share a part of its introduction, which will further explain its purpose. I also ask that you would pray for God to use it for its stated purpose-revival.
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“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 3:1-6 NASB
Being the only apocalyptic book in the New Testament, Revelation has often struck fear in the hearts of many with its visions of judgments, dragons, and beasts. Though it speaks of these things with the intent of bringing repentance to the unbeliever, its other purpose was to encourage the first-century church. Though the majority of The Book of Revelation is about an awful and truly fearful future tribulation that will impact the whole world, one of its main purposes is to be a source of strength and encouragement to the church in times of trouble.
The first-century church experienced some of the fiercest persecution the Christian church has ever seen. The Apostle John, who introduced himself in Revelation 1:9 as, “Your brother and fellow partaker in tribulation,” was on a small island called Patmos as a form of persecution in exile because of “the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus.” Though he was a fellow partaker of this tribulation, he was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day worshiping the very one of whom he was suffering for, His Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
While in the Spirit on the Lords day, John heard behind him a loud voice as demanding as the sound of a trumpet. When he turned to see whose voice it was, he saw Jesus, but in a way, he’d never seen Him before. He saw the revealed Christ. John gives the title to Revelation in Revelation 1:1. It is, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.” A revelation is an unveiling. Imagine being at an art exhibit. The newest exhibit is before the audience ready to be revealed, but it has a veil over it hiding what’s beneath. Everyone knows that it is there, but they have yet to see its beauty. It is still vailed. Once everyone’s attention has been directed to the exhibit, the vail will be removed, and all will gasp at its beauty.
The Book of Revelation is the unveiling of Jesus Christ. It is the revelation of Jesus Christ in all of His glory and splendor unveiled for all to see. When Jesus returns, He will not return as the suffering servant. Rather, He will return as the conquering King of Kings and Lord of Lords. What greater source of encouragement is there to a persecuted church than knowing when their Lord returns every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is Lord? Even John, the beloved disciple, fell at Jesus’ feet as a dead man when he saw Jesus in His unveiled state.
Just before John turned to see Jesus, he heard Him say, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:11). These were seven churches that existed in John’s day that Jesus had an individual and specific message. There were obviously more than seven churches that existed at this time which was toward the end of the first century. More than likely, most, if not all, of these churches ended up with their own copy of Revelation. Though it wasn’t directly addressed to them, no doubt each church took heed to the message. At the same time, as with all of scripture, the messages Jesus gave to the seven churches are lessons we can, and should, learn from today knowing that we still face these issues.
Jesus wanted these churches to know who He was. He addressed each church individually and disclosed to each church a part of His revelation of Himself that they specifically needed to know. Not only did Jesus want the churches to know who He was, He also wanted them to know that He knew who they were as well. He told the church of Sardis, “I know your deeds.” (Revelation 3:1). When John saw Jesus, he saw Him in the middle of the seven golden lampstands. In Revelation 1:20, Jesus told John that the seven golden lampstands are the seven churches. Jesus is amid His church, and He knows what’s going on. This truth should both encourage us amid trials and convict us amid disobedience.
Jesus had something against all but two of His churches. He had nothing negative to say to the churches of Smyrna or Philadelphia. To all but two of the churches Jesus also had words of praise. However, to the churches of Sardis and Laodicea Jesus had nothing good to say. To the church of Sardis Jesus said, “you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” (Revelation 3:1). Is there anything positive that Jesus can say to a dead church? Of course not. Their message from Jesus was one of the need to repent.
They had a reputation, a name, of being alive, but they were dead. They were dead but didn’t know they were dead. Only Jesus knew they were dead. Everyone else thought the church of Sardis was alive and active. Unless a church is heretical or blasphemous, it isn’t our place to try and figure out who the dead church is. That is not the purpose of this book. The purpose of this book is to make the church look within itself and seek the council of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to figure out where they are personally. It is a frightening thing to think that our church, though we think it is alive, can truly be dead and other churches, though we think are alive and vibrant, are truly dead.
Well, that’s not very encouraging now, is it? Not if we stop here. Fortunately, Jesus gave the church of Sardis advice to take ahold of if they wanted to live again. He gave them hope. Can a church be resurrected? Can a man be resurrected? Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15:16-17, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” So, let’s stop asking foolish questions and get on with the task at hand, which is seeing our churches resurrected through walking by faith and living in obedience to Jesus Christ.
Though we wouldn’t normally attribute resurrection to a church if a church is dead and comes to life again what greater word is there? Most of the time we would call this revival or renewal. I will mostly use the word revival in this book. Regardless of what you call it, the point is clear, to those who place their faith in Jesus, there is resurrection and life-restoring power readily available. No doubt, this is clearly the will of Jesus for His church. That’s why He advised the church of Sardis to repent. His heart was to see them come to life again and thrive. So, take courage. If your church is dead or dying, know that through faith and obedience in Jesus, it can not only live again, it can thrive.
As previously stated, statistics today are grim and outright depressing. Baptisms, attendance, service, commitment, and giving are all at all-time lows. Many of our church have already closed their doors never to open again while many are on the verge. Countless churches are simply in a state of existence with no vision or focus. Many of them have been stuck in this rut for decades. Many of them are in a rut and don’t know it. This isn’t what God had planned for His church. Something needs to change; and soon. So, what do we do? Where do we turn? Who will show us how to climb out of this rut? Jesus!
Jesus gave the church of Sardis five commands that if acted upon would turn their church around. It would bring revival and resurrection power breathing new life into their dead church. In this book, I am going to take a close look at these five commands so we can learn from them and apply them to our churches today. No doubt, these are timeless principle that is still able to breathe new life into our dead churches in our day. Even if your church isn’t dead, these are principles every church should live by to ensure its continued vitality.
If a church can be thought of as alive by all yet considered dead by Jesus, how can we genuinely know a dead church from one that is alive? We will no doubt find the answer by taking an in-depth look at the letter Jesus gave to the church of Sardis in Revelation 3:1-6. There, we will see why Jesus considered Sardis a dead church, though they had a reputation of being alive. By doing this, we will see through the eyes of Jesus, rather than the eyes of the world, what a dead church looks like and more importantly, through the instruction of Jesus, how to be a vibrant living church that honors Jesus and lives in obedience to Him.
A healthy vibrant church should be of the utmost importance to every Christian. If our churches are healthy, we will have a heart to raise the spiritual atmosphere of our church and our world, and we will send out workers into the field with the power of the gospel reaping a great harvest of the lost. Once the lost are saved, they will bring those new believers into a healthy church to be properly discipled where in turn they will be sent out as workers for the kingdom as well. Every Christian personally benefits from a healthy church, as do our families, our communities, our nation, and the world. At the same time, everyone suffers from unhealthy churches. Satan’s kingdom thrives when our churches are dead and ineffective. Our passion should be to see our churches healthy, vibrant, and full of life. Then, and only then, will we honor Jesus, and for the glory of God, have a true, lasting, and eternal impact upon our world.
A good doctor will look at the symptoms of their patient to know what type of sickness they have so they can properly treat them. In the same way, we need to look at the symptoms of an unhealthy church to know what it needs. The purpose of this isn’t to be grim or negative. The ultimate purpose is to bring a restoration of life and good health. Fortunately for us, we can learn from the prescription of life and good health that Jesus gave to the church of Sardis so our churches can live again and be healthy.
Jesus told John in Revelation 1:17-18, “I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.” Immediately after telling John this He told John, “Therefore write.” Jesus wanted His churches to know that He, and He alone, has authority over life and death. There is nothing a doctor can do for those who have died but praise God; Jesus is more than able.