and the hot, medicinal waters of Hierapolis, Laodicea and her church neither offered spiritual refreshment (like a cold drink on a hot day) nor spiritual healing (like a hot bath for the tired and sick). They were lukewarm in their service and their commitment to the Lord. And judgment was about to come. Churches in need of revitalization today have grown lukewarm in their service and commitment to Christ. Once on fire for the Lord during their church planting stage, such churches often provided refreshment to hurting believers at one time. Yet trials through time caused lethargy to sit in and the church gets stuck in monotony. The call to Laodicea to be zealous for the Lord is what dying churches need today. But not just any zeal, because it is possible to have a zeal apart from the truth of the gospel of righteousness found only in Christ (see Romans 10:2 and look at the members of cults and world religions). Our zeal must be a godly zeal—a holy pursuit of the Lord Jesus. Like Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane said while chasing the Dukes of Hazard, we need to be “in hot pursuit” of Jesus.
A Message on Repentance
Finally, the churches of Ephesus and Laodicea had something in common: they both needed to repent (2:5; 3:19). The message of repentance is a common theme in the Scriptures, especially in light of the new covenant. John the Baptist said, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2). Jesus echoed the same thing (4:17). Peter preached repentance (Acts 2:38; 3:19), as did Paul (17:30; 2 Timothy 2:25). Unfortunately, fewer evangelical churches are preaching the necessity of repentance today. Not only has that omission come in the basic gospel message while calling people to believe in Jesus, it has also been left out for church members to repent before God and those they have wronged. It takes a great deal of humility to repent and God may restore relationships
and ministry effectiveness when that happens. Until a church humbles itself to repent, she won’t see the kind of revitalization she desperately needs.
It is no secret the Bible is the best-selling book of all-time. It has been translated into a couple of thousand languages. It has shaped cultures and nations. Within a few years of its writing, the Bible transformed large portions of the Middle East, Northern Africa and Southern Europe. Over the next few centuries, the Bible reached most of the western world. The Bible has brought transformation and reformation to individuals, churches, communities and nations. Let’s not be too quick to leave it behind when we need revitalization. There are a growing number of good books on church revitalization and we should consult them. But make sure they supplement what God’s Book says, because our churches could use a healthy dose of its teaching, especially on returning to the Lord, godly zealousness for the Lord and repentance. May the Lord bring these disciplines to us for our good and for His glory!
Unfortunately, fewer evangelical churches are preaching the necessity of repentance today. Not only has that omission come in the basic gospel message while calling people to believe in Jesus, it has also been left out for church members to repent before God and those they have wronged.
Joel Breidenbaugh, PhD, is the lead pastor of a new church plant, Gospel Centered Church, on the northside of Apopka. He has also taught homiletics and evangelism for Liberty University School of Divinity since 2007. 25
The Best Practices for Church Revitalization and Renewal