In the ancient city of Hierapolis resides a wonder of water. The natural springs cascading downward are unmatched throughout the world. The white travertine terraces embrace her thermal pools which speak of their rarity. While the image of those cascading waters captivate my attention, they also lead me to the greater story of the city that once was.
Revelation chapters two and three depict the seven churches of Asia. The words of Jesus are recorded with a personal message to each one. Yet, none of those churches exist today. All have disappeared from the original account.
Passing by a grand old building, a pastor told me that it used to be a powerful Pentecostal church. He said that it held a mighty revival with miracles confirming their every move. Today the place is empty. Whatever life existed is gone; just a dusty floor with the outlining marks where pews once stood.
Jerusalem was the city of the first great outpouring of the Holy Ghost. It was a hotbed of supernatural works. Antioch was the next place of wonder. Both are now missing in action. Tourists take pictures of places where Paul preached and established churches, though convening congregations cannot be found.
Perhaps a church has an expiration date. Maybe it’s not up to the Lord which church survives and which waste away. Maybe it’s up to the people. Can the church survive a sinful society? Can the people resist the forces of darkness; demonic spirits and spiritual oppression? Will we become divided by ethnicity, politics, or outside influences? Will the church remain focused and unified in a world that boasts of individualism, subjectivism, and private faith?
All of these questions bring weight to the words of Jesus: Matthew 24:13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
The devastation of division and the blessing of unity seem to be borne from the same root. It comes from a conscious decision of the people. Trouble, distress, or other external things are not the reason for the expiration of a congregation. We make the decision to be The Church and remain in one accord. If we will not grow weary in well dong; if we remain vigilant and consistent, there will be sustainability and growth. The choice is ours.
Otherwise, someone may very well be taking pictures of a place where revivals were once held and miracles, signs, and wonders used to take place. And all the cascading waters will not be able to cover the church that once was.
Pastor Jeffrey Harpole