Effective Church Insights from Revelation 2 & 3

Effective Church Insights from Revelation 2 & 3
Chuck Swindoll

Everybody I know has either read or heard about the best-selling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Fireside) by Stephen Covey. I’d like to explore Seven Habits of Highly Effective Churches. Not the seven habits; I think there might be 17 or maybe even 70 habits to form in an effective church.

However, in Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation, I find seven practices that, if done consistently, keep a church effective. Use them as checkpoints in your own life. Each one is connected with a different church.

Think straight. The church at Ephesus, for whatever it didn’t have, had straight-thinking leaders. There was no false teaching in the Ephesian church. It was a church of remarkable orthodoxy. I urge that we follow suit. One of the few places that knows and declares right from wrong must be the local church. Let’s be who we say we are: a church of orthodoxy and “orthopraxy,” where we carry out in lifestyle what we proclaim with our lips. In a politically correct society that’s theologically incorrect, the church must keep thinking straight.

Model courage. We wish we knew more about the church at Smyrna. These saints really suffered. The more we think straight, the less popular we’ll be, the more we’ll be misunderstood, and as time passes, the more intense the pressure. Fear causes churches to pay too much attention to people’s opinions; fear makes us hesitant to explore great thoughts and dream great dreams; fear steals our joy. There’s no reason to be afraid if we’re standing for what’s right. A church that’s fearless is a church that remains effective.

Stay current (or relevant, if you prefer that). Pergamum was the capital of ancient Asia Minor, and as is true of every national capital, it was a hotbed of cultic activity and cultural relevance. In such a city, there’s an abundance of demonic activity and a too-wide range of tolerance. Right there, where Satan’s throne was, you could visit the church of Pergamum and hear truth. It was a church that wasn’t afraid of its times. It didn’t move to the suburbs. As George McCloud put it, “I simply argue that the cross be raised again at the center of the marketplace, as well as on the steeple of the church.” If we hope to stay effective, we must stay current.

Resist erosion. Of the church at Thyatira, it was written, “Your deeds of late are greater than at first” (Revelation 2:19). It didn’t dumb down its message so people would feel good about themselves. It didn’t become an entertainment center. The church that stays effective knows who it is and doesn’t change because of the changing moral tide. Erosion never makes much noise and is never noticed except by the very discerning — who spot it and call it what it is, a compromise. Let’s resist erosion!

Face reality. Revelation 3:1 tells us about the church at Sardis: “You have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” The Sardis church was a morgue with a steeple. (Their offertory could have been The Way We Were.) The Lord says, “Wake up!” You can’t live on the basis of what you once were. Reputation stuff is rarely true — it’s usually exaggerated. One of the most difficult things for church leaders to do is to face the truth. If there are signs of death, deal with them!

Break molds. Philadelphia is the only church about which nothing negative is said. I call it a church that breaks molds. Revelation 3:8 says, “I have placed before you an open door.” This is an open door of opportunity, a gateway for fresh and new things. My great hope for our church is that we’ll learn to say yes far more often than no. How about an opportunity to provide support groups for the outcasts of society? Yes, let’s do that. How about helping those who’ve fallen on their faces get back on their feet? Yes, demonstrate that kind of grace. Let’s have a place where hope is offered; where we don’t make others fit into our mold before we’ll accept them. How about finding brand-new ways to reach our world that haven’t been tried before? How about welcoming many of the high-tech opportunities to assist in the process? Yes! Let’s break molds.

Fight mediocrity. Laodicea was a church that was neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm. The Lord said to them, “I wish that you were icy or that you were flaming hot; I can’t stand lukewarm.” It’s mediocrity that turns off the Lord. God help us from ever being satisfied with “good enough” . . . just another church in the Bible belt!

Let’s be like one of those first-century strongholds in the 21st-century morass of confusion. Let’s not just play church. Let’s be a church that models reality. God loves “real.”

Chuck Swindoll, is senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas. He serves as the president of Dallas Theological Seminary and is the Bible teacher of the worldwide radio ministry, Insight for Living. Swindoll has published numerous books dealing with all aspects of Christian life.

The above article, “Effective Church Insights from Revelation 2 & 3” was written by Charles Swindoll. The article was excerpted from “Want to Be an Effective Church? Here’s How,” by Charles R. Swindoll. Downloaded from www.smartministry.com web site. September 2010.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”