The Revelation stresses the importance of listening. All seven churches mentioned in Revelation 2 and 3 are told, “Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches.” How do you know if you are listening to the Spirit well? Revelation 1:3 says that if those who “hear the words of this prophecy and keep what is written in it are blessed.” The message to the seven churches is clear — “Listen and repent.” To the church at Sardis, the Lord said, “Remember, therefore what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent!” What did He say to them? “You have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead.” How sad!
What are you doing in your church to evaluate your present reality and face any individual or corporate sin in your congregation? To the church at Laodicea the Lord says, “If anyone hears my voice.” Once again, the question must be asked, “Are you listening to what the Spirit is saying to your church?” What did the Lord say to Laodicea? “You say you are rich and need nothing but you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked!” Talk about a total lack of self-awareness — they were not listening at all and believed they were fine. What might the Spirit be saying to you through His Word and the Holy Spirit?
The problem is, can you even hear His voice? Is His voice the loudest voice in your life? Are you learning from what the Lord said to these seven churches? John Phillips in his commentary on the Revelation, refers to them as; the Fallen church (Ephesus), the Fearful church (Smyrna), the Faltering church (Pergamos), the False church (Thyatira), the Fruitless church (Sardis), the Feeble church (Philadelphia) and the Fashionable church (Laodicea). Whenever you are willing to listen to what the Lord is saying, it can be quite painful, but Godly sorrow is necessary to bring about Godly repentance.
Healthy Church Solutions has the Church Lifecycle Tool to help you hear the Spirit’s voice on exactly what your church’s present reality is. What do you need to celebrate and what do you need to repent of? This tool will help you to discover whether your church is in a state of incline, recline or decline. Every church falls into one of those positions. You can clearly see the evidence of these three positions in the Revelation and Jesus had a report card for each one of these churches. Even to the church at Laodicea the Lord said, “If you will hear my voice” and then told the church He will respond.
The church at Sardis was actually a declining church, but what’s interesting about that is they didn’t even realize it. They thought they were alive, but Jesus said “Look! You’re actually a declining church, and there are some things here that need to be worked on.” He said to them “You need to strengthen what remains.”
The church at Laodicea was a reclining church. Here was a church saying “We’re fine, we don’t need anything!” They were a church that had plateaued. They were not moving forward; but in their mind, they thought they had arrived. They probably had a lot going on and were very busy with their structures and programs. Jesus quickly pointed out to them that they had some blind spots.
Unfortunately, churches that plateau or begin to recline will eventually decline. When a church begins to relax and let its guard down it is very easy to get comfortable and begin accepting the status quo. One pastor remarked that one of the most difficult things in his ministry was to watch on fire committed members sit down in their pews to never get back up. So, a church that is reclining is in a dangerous position. Bob Roberts Jr says, “There is only one thing worse than God’s judgment on the church, and that is His absence from it!”
Jesus also mentions the inclining church in Revelation 3. He said to the church at Philadelphia in Rev. 3:7-13 many complimentary things, and He encouraged them to “hold on to what they have.” They were one of two churches out of the seven that received a favorable report card. They had momentum going and were living out their calling and purpose in the community where they were placed. This is what every church should desire to want to see. God is in the business of strategically positioning us in the right place, at the right time, with the right people, for the right purposes.
Are you willing to listen to what the spirit says about your church? Are you an inclining church, a reclining church or a declining church? It’s very important for you to discover this in order to be able to listen, repent (if needed) and move forward. You have to have an awareness of where you are and be willing to own your present reality. You have to be able to say “This is where we are, these are our strengths, these are our weaknesses and these are the things that we need to be focused on that God has revealed to us.” Revelation 3:19 says, “As many as I love, I rebuke and discipline. So be committed and repent.”
As this year comes to a close, may all of us be willing to listen to what the Spirit is saying and be willing to repent. May we take Psa. 139:23-24 to heart and openly ask the Lord to: “Search me, test me, point out to me and lead me!”
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com if you want to know more about how to implement the Church Lifecycle Tool at your church.