Yesterday I talked with a retired Pastor who was commenting on the demise of his church which he pastored for many years. I could hear his pain and feel his sadness. This was not a man criticising but a man despairing and wondering what is going wrong.
When I talked about the past his response was all about people; outreach to people; loving people; people loving God; people passionate for Jesus.
There isn’t a city of Ephesus anymore neither is there a church congregating. Almost all of Turkey is Muslim with 0.2% being Christian.
The warnings for the seven churches are not just for them but for every church at that time and for all time.
“Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favour: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2 v 5-7)
They must have heeded the warning from Jesus because in the first few centuries Ephesus became a major Christian centre with thriving churches. It held the third church council in AD431 where it identified Mary as Mother of God. Maybe that was a turning point.
Whatever happened this prophetic warning of Jesus has come true. Just because one generation repents and starts to love God and others the way they should doesn’t mean the next generations will follow suit.
Within Ephesus there was a magnificent temple of Artemis which had a beautiful garden giving asylum to the criminals who managed to escape into it. This may well be the connection Jesus is referring to when He says there is a garden, the paradise of God, where the tree of life is at the centre. This is not unrepentant criminals but repentant Churches.
Every generation of Church needs to be refreshed in love.
Churches always die because of their relationships with people. It is seen in their lack of mission towards people; lack of releasing the younger generation to serve and lead; lack of welcoming people to Church and a simple lack of courtesy with each other.
Throughout my life whenever I hear Christians respond regarding the love found in Churches it is always in the context that the Church doesn’t display enough of it but with no self-awareness that they themselves may be contributing to the problem.
Today if you are disgruntled with someone within the Church then you are at the starting point of contributing to that downfall if you don’t deal with it. Today if you are not carrying the passion you once had for Jesus then you need to repent for the lampstand can be removed.