I’m a bit nervous. I’m supposed to preach at the worst church in history. Laodicea. Just the name sends shocks through the nerves of most ministers.
I arrived early to witness one of their business meetings.
I remembered back to my graduation from theology school. I had done my due diligence to prepare myself for ministry. I couldn’t wait to see where God was going to put me. I had a thriving church start-up in the town in which we were attending. We had been asked to start a fellowship on Sundays at a local apartment complex. We were reaching people and they seemed to be thriving. It is amazing what could happen even when an unsaved minister, me, could do with an open Bible.
When the sponsoring church asked that we don’t continue, I wasn’t concerned. We could just duplicate our success somewhere else. I knew the supporting church was a bit jealous. We were growing faster than they were.
I also knew that the school would be sending my resume out to churches looking for pastors. What I didn’t know was that a good friend of mine was not sending out my c.v. He had a twinge of conscience because he was my friend. Seriously? That’s what he thought. No prob. I sent my resume out myself. I was turned down by 65 churches.
Yeah, 65. Count them. We did. We were rejected by 65 churches.
But we learned an important lesson about the times we were living in. When we heard anything back from churches, and many didn’t even respond, we were told that most people and the leaders in authority liked us, but there was one person in each church that had blocked us. It was usually the most powerful person or the biggest donor. They surmised that I would actually lead the church and they could sense it. So they obstructed my candidacy.
It was easy to do. Without any leadership, like a pastor, the committees would decide they would be as democratic as possible. The way they would do that is to agree on unanimity. Made sense, right? Except, the way it worked out was that only one person could rule the roost. One person could discard a candidate, ruin the unanimity and, thus, the committee would move on to the next potential minister. Inevitably, the power person would only allow someone weaker than himself, or herself. I’m sure women were involved in this subversion.
What does this sad story of mine have to do with Laodicea? Imagine over time what happened to all the churches around America? Around the world? They all ended up with weak leadership and lack of biblical authority.
Most of the churches in the nation fit the mold of churches in Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis. They were not like the strong churches in Smyrna or Philadelphia. They all end up as the ones in Laodicea. They have their own nuances like Ephesus and Pergamum with an imbalance on intellectualism, a lack of strong Scriptural control like Thyatira or just bad doctrine like in Sardis.
All lacked strong teaching from the Bible, all lacked a reliance on the Holy Spirit, all were guided by carnal Christians1 or perhaps merely unsaved, rich men with worldly wisdom or power.
The great awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries, the Philadelphian age, were distant memories. Rather being “salt and light” in the world2, the churches had become conduits of immorality.
It wasn’t that their “worship” music was insipid or their preaching was filled with “devotional” pats on the back of encouragement. The problem was the lack of deep Scriptural instruction and not led by the Holy Spirit. There was no spiritual power, no force in their words. Sadly, most people loved it.
I should know. I was one of those preachers. I even bought a lot of my sermons online by famous TV and radio ministers or pop psychologists of the time.
The radio waves were filled with “Christian” tunes. It was called “worship” music. Most of it could be sung by Hindus or Buddhists. Hymnals, rich in Scriptural doctrine, had been replaced by insipid choruses projected on the sanctuary walls. I called them, “off the wall,” music. I doubt anyone was affected by them. One of my seminary professors described it as dunking a hand into a glass of cool water. When the appendage was raised out of the liquid, there was no change. Listening to the sermons, had the same effect.
The net accumulated effect of these churches was the decline of the nation into degradation. Not long before the Great Evacuation, a president was caught with his intern in the oval office. What happened? Several years later his wife ran for president with nary a mention of the incident.
Members of that president’s party, are now campaigning on planks like late-term murder of infants, inclusion of any of the peoples of the world without restriction or rules but with full privileges enjoyed by the residents. It was as if the world had gone crazy. And in case you think I am playing favorites, the president of the other party stated that it would be his “signature” achievement to negotiate peace between Israel and their enemies. He has stated that it would be his “signature” achievement. That, by the way, is one of the signs of the one who opposes the Lord on the world stage at the very end.3
Though the Scripture indicates that the environment will be intact when the Lord returns, these people shock their constituency into fear that the world’s environment will no longer produce what is needed for humanity. They believe it will disappear in as short a period as twelve years. Of course, I’m looking around and everything is still out there, trees, mountains, rivers, oceans. Though I expect within a few years they will be gone in a fiery judgment of God on those who reject His Son. The Scripture indicates there will be a lull in the action before mountains fall due to tsunamis and even a lot of the waterways will catch fire like the Cuyahoga.4
I know all this and know that the church I have to preach to on Sunday is one of the worst in history. And tomorrow I am invited to their business meeting.
(To be continued . . . .)
1 1 Cor. 3:1 “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.”
1 Cor. 3:3-4 “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” KJV, NASB renders “carnal” as “fleshly”
2 Matt. 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does [anyone] light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
3 Dan. 9:27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
Many understand the “he” is the Antichrist and will make a treaty with Israel in the middle of the Tribulation, resulting in Israel’s destruction.
4 Rev. 8:8 “The second angel sounded, and something like a great mountain burning with fire was thrown into the sea; and a third of the sea became blood” 2 Pet. 3:5-7 “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God [the] heavens existed long ago and [the] earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” Rev. 21:1 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.”