The challenges of planting a church are real: the sinful nature of the people who are reached with the gospel, persecution from the larger culture, the attacks of the powers of darkness, internal strife, poor leadership, and a host of other things. Yet in spite of these challenges churches have been planted. In the New
As we begin I would like to point something out. The letter to the church in Laodicea that we find in Revelation 3 is not the only time that this church is mentioned in Scripture. It is mentioned in Revelation 1:11. In addition to these Scriptures in Revelation, the apostle Paul made reference to Laodicea a number of times in his letter to the Colossians (Col. 2:1, 4:13, 4:15, 4:16). As we take a brief look at this church I would like to draw in some of what Paul wrote in Colossians before we consider the passage in Revelation. By doing this we will have a little clearer understanding of some of the history of the church. In view of its mention in both Colossians and Revelation it seems that the Laodicean church existed for a number of decades, probably somewhere around 30 years, by the time Revelation was written.
Some of Paul’s references to the Laodicean believers do not supply us with any specific information about the church. But there are a couple of references that do give us
In Colossians 4:13 we learn about another person who ministered to the Laodicean believers, his name was Epaphras. We don’t know a lot about this man but what we do know indicates that he was a quality individual. In Colossians 1:7 we learn that Paul valued this man, he referred to him as “our dear fellow servant” (NIV). Also in this
In mentioning the ministries of Paul and Epaphras to the church in Laodicea it should be clear that the church received some quality ministry in its earlier days. However, years later when the church is again mentioned in the Book of Revelation all is not well. In fact, Jesus does not say anything positive about them! His assessment of them is very different than their own view of themselves. He sees them as in great need (Rev. 3:17b), yet they see themselves as doing very well (Rev.3:17a). They were self-deceived. How the church arrived at this low state spiritually we cannot say for sure. Times change and people change. Their spiritual decline likely took place over a period of time. They were in spiritual trouble. But even at this
Every church has a history. This was true of the churches in the New Testament and it is true of every church since that time. What can we learn from the history of the church in Laodicea? One thing we can learn is that if a church (perhaps the church you have recently become the pastor of) is currently not doing well it does not mean that the church did not receive good ministry in the past. Current conditions are not always a reflection of the past. As we saw above the Laodiceans received ministry from a couple of quality Christian workers (and these are just the ones we know about). Sound ministry in the past does not guarantee that a church will flourish throughout its history Another lesson we can learn from the history of the Laodicean church is that even when a church has problems and significant changes need to be made Jesus wants the church to become healthy and flourish. With
John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Zion Bible Institute and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written articles and book reviews for a number of publications including: the Pneuma Review, the Africanus Journal of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Christian Trends Magazine, in India, and Berita Mujizat and Jurnal Jaffray, both in Indonesia. He is also the author of four books.