CHURCH AUTOPSY (Article) by Abidan Shah, PhD
(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on July 27, 2023)
Recently, my wife, Nicole, and I went on a tour of the historical sites in Turkey. Although the entire trip was amazing, my favorite places were the cities in the Aegean region, especially the seven cities to whom Jesus sent the warning letters through the apostle John in the Book of Revelation. Each of the churches was warned to “Repent or Else.” Unfortunately, they refused to change, and in time, they all died. In fact, in most cases, it is almost impossible to find any traces of their existence. The warnings were not just to those seven but for all churches throughout the ages. If we want to know what killed those churches, we have only to read the autopsy report, i.e., the warning letters to them, and we can determine the cause of death:
1. Loss of First Love: Revelation 2 1 “To the angel of the church of Ephesus…4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Our Savior Jesus Christ desires first and foremost a loving relationship with us. Although, our beliefs and our convictions are critical, they cannot become a substitute for our love for him. But pure love is not a feeling; it lives in the will. We choose to love him more and more each day.
2. Fear: Revelation 2 8 “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna…10 Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer.” Times of testing are inevitable in our lives. God allows us to go through trials to purify us while the Enemy wants to use them to terrify us. Instead of walking in fear, we must walk in faith, and we will receive the crown of life.
3. False Doctrine: Revelation 2 12 “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos…4 But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam…15 Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.” Bad theology corrupts beliefs and behaviors. Refusal to stop false doctrine is to incur the wrath of Jesus himself. Repentance approves us to feed upon the truth and entitle us to more truth.
4. People Pleasing: Revelation 2 18 “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira…20…I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.” God takes the sin of misleading and misguiding his people very seriously. Those who refuse to repent are warned of the punishment of sickness and even death. Those who tolerate such false witnesses and deceivers are also susceptible to the same punishment.
5. Living Dead: Revelation 3 1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write…‘I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.’” God us wants us to live up to our name as believers. The Holy Spirit reminds us that he has made us alive in Christ. Failure to heed his voice is living at death’s door. We are to live our lives worthy of our names being in the Book of Life.
6. New Normal: Revelation 3 7 “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write, “These things says He who is holy, He who is true, ‘He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens”: 8…See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it…” Fear will keep us from walking through the open door God has for us. When we take Christ at his word and step out in faith, we can stand in the face of any trials. In fact, we receive the victor’s crown and enter the New Jerusalem.
7. Lukewarm: Revelation 3 14 “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write…15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” Have we become complacent? Are we simply growing through the motions? Jesus will spew us out if we do not change.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:22).