Don’t call me Sardis! I doubt you will ever find a church bearing the name Sardis. It would not be flattering, based on what Jesus said about them, “I know your deeds, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die” (Rev. 3:1-2). This church had a history of productivity as reflected in their reputation. It was apparent, however, that when Jesus sent them this letter, their reputation was about all that was left. Jesus was not happy about their spiritual decline, but He loved them too much to leave them in that condition. His word was meant to wake them up and turn them back to His gospel and His dynamic mission.
When does a church need a wake up call like that? The sad reality is that an average of 8,000 churches in America close their doors every year. And these are common warning signs when a church is on “life support” and on the road to death: (1) When Apathy is greater than Passion; (2) When Maintenance is greater than the Mission; (3) When Tradition is greater than Innovation; (4) When Flesh is greater than Spirit; and (5) When Culture is greater than God's Word.
Do you see any of those warning signs today? This is a challenge for any church who has a positive history. There is a constant temptation to dwell on that past and try to maintain it. And when decline begins to set in, most churches refuse to address it until it is too late. For those who do, Jesus offers this hope, “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent” (Rev. 3:3). Hope is found when we turn back to Jesus and renew our passion for His gospel mission! -Jason