By Rick Cowman
If you’ve been reading this column lately, you know we’ve been on a trip through chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation in the Bible. Here we have been studying some letters Jesus had the Apostle John write to seven different churches in Asia. Our Lord has something to say to His Church today through His words to those churches. In these words we find correction for what is wrong, encouragement for what is right, and preparation for what is ahead! So, He has written these letters not just to these ancient believers, but to us!
This week brings us to letter number four to the church at Thyatira. Take a minute and read verses 18 through 29 in chapter 2. Here are Jesus words from the text: “To the church at Thyatira, I know all the things that you do; your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things. But I have this against you; you have tolerated a false prophetess in the church!” Jesus saw something good in this church. There were some positive signs in this assembly of believers, but there was also a problem. There had been a breakdown in the leadership of this church! The people were being led astray by a false teacher. They were following a leader who had no regard for God’s word, and who was walking in sin, and taking them with her! They had been deceived!
So, how did this happen? First of all, the people obviously lacked spiritual roots in God’s word! Ephesians chapter 4, verse 4, reminds it is possible to be “tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine” if we aren’t growing in our knowledge of God’s word. Secondly, and worse yet, the spiritual leaders in this church weren’t grounded in God’s word either! Speaking to church leadership, Paul says, “Study to present yourself to God, approved as a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).” We must never follow someone whose life doesn’t line up with God’s word, but that’s exactly what this church did. The Apostle Paul also declared, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it; but each one should be careful how he builds (1 Corinthians 3:10).” How’s YOUR foundation? What are YOUR beliefs founded on? You see, if we don’t know what we believe, we’ll fall for anything! Another reason they were deceived is that the spiritual leadership of this church apparently failed to lead. Because of a lack of leadership from the men God placed in this church as an under-shepherds, the church followed someone else! And since they had failed to fulfill their responsibility to lead the people to maturity in Christ, they were susceptible to being pulled away from the truth and away from God’s blessing.
The First Church at Thyatira had been deceived into blindly following someone who was leading them with a plan, but I was the wrong plan! It wasn’t God’s plan. And since there was not effective leadership by the Pastor and other spiritual leaders in the church, the people were following anyone and anything that looked like God might be in it! Why? Because they were hungry for some direction. They wanted to see some progress. May we be reminded “there is a way (direction) which seems right to men, but the end of it is the way of death (Prov. 16:25)!” A quick way for a church to experience “death” is to begin following man’s ideas instead of Biblical truth! Our churches need Pastors, Elders and Deacons who will follow Christ at all costs, providing authentic models of leadership for the church to follow. Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1)!” The way we do this is to live our lives for an audience of One, and His name is Jesus! When we allow ourselves to get caught up in the trap of living for the polls of popularity, let’s remember Jesus’ words in Revelation: “But I have this against you…!”
Now, go this week to your Pastor and church leadership and encourage them to follow Christ, and follow their lead!