“I know all the things you do, and that you have a reputation for being alive — but you are dead. Now wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is at the point of death. Your deeds are far from right in the sight of God. Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly and turn to me again. Unless you do, I will come upon you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.”
It has always amazed me that “Sardis” is such a popular name for churches. I have seen Sardis Baptist, Sardis Methodist, and everything in between. As names go, it is the equivalent of naming your daughter “Jezebel” or your son “Judas.”
Jesus tells them that they are so far off-track that they need to start over.
Of the seven churches that Jesus addresses letters to in Revelation, it is one of the only ones in which He doesn’t really have anything positive to say. We might have expected Jesus to say something good about them.
“You guys serve good coffee in the Visitor’s Reception area.”
“The color scheme in the auditorium is really nice.”
“The worship leader can really play that guitar!”
Instead, Jesus tells them that they are so far off-track that they need to start over. “Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly and turn to me again.” In modern terms, Sardis would be what we refer to as a “dead” church. This is the same terminology that Jesus used.
There really is nothing more tragic than a church that is dead. This is a group of people that started with every good intention or maybe their parents or grandparents started with good intentions. Over time, they drifted away from God and His requirements. In the Old Testament, there is no more sadder word than, “Ichabod.” It means “Where is the glory?” It can also be translated, “The glory has departed.” This is the description of a dead church. God’s glory and presence have departed and yet they keep on functioning as if everything is normal.
There really is nothing more tragic than a church that is dead.
The only remedy that Jesus gives to the church at Sardis is to start over. He told the church at Ephesus that they needed to return to their first love. Starting over doesn’t mean starting new programs or building a new sanctuary (“If we build it, they will come.”). Starting over means returning to the simplicity of our faith: loving God and loving others.
One of the reasons that many churches die is that they become inward focused and lose an outward focus. If any church can stay passionate in their love for God and the world around them, they will always stay fresh and vibrant. Life breeds life, but death breeds death. Let us make sure that our communities are places that are alive with the Presence of God.
Have you ever been a part of a dead church?
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