Summary: The church leadership will determine the direction and spirituality of the church. Let’s pray that we have the right leaders in these last days.
The Wonderful Church Leadership
Sunday, August 19, 2007 – PM
By Pastor Jim May
Have you ever wondered what kind of spiritual giants led the early churches? These men and women of God were called by God to lead the baby church to fulfill the Great Commission. It had been only a few years since Jesus, the very Son of God, had been crucified, risen from the dead, walked among men and then was received into Heaven. Even at that very moment the consensus was that Jesus would return very soon. There was much yet to be revealed to the church and included in the written Word of God that you and I enjoy so much today.
At this point the only real gospel messages and teaching about Jesus came by Word of Mouth or personal letters from the disciples. Then one-by-one the disciples began to fall as they carried the gospel to a lost and dying world; a world that hated them, hated their message, hated the Jesus that they loved and would kill them at the first chance just to silence their voices.
Even in the midst of such great persecution the church continued to grow and to flourish. Churches were founded in many towns and cities throughout the region round about Israel. Some of these churches are named in scripture while many were not. But every church is represented in those that are mentioned in one way or another.
There is the Corinthian Church, established in Corinth, a city 48 east of Athens, Greece, to whom Paul addressed the letters of 1 & 2 Corinthians. There was the church at Thessalonica, a port city at the intersection of two major Roman roads in Macedonia.. who received both letters from Paul. There was the Galatian Church, founded in what is now central Turkey. Then there were the seven churches of Asia Minor that Jesus addressed personally in the Revelation. These were the church of Smyrna, Thyatira, Laodicea, Pegamos, Sardis, Philadelphia and Ephesus and founded on the western end of Turkey. Of course, the Apostle Paul addressed the leadership at Ephesus in the Book of Ephesians. The church at Philippi became the object of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Then there was the church of Colossae 10 miles east of Laodicea and 100 miles from Ephesus. The further east these churches went, the more the gospel seemed to get diluted with other teachings, even though they were established on solid ground by true men of God. Last, but not least, were the churches at Rome and those located in Jerusalem and other places in Israel.
Since the Apostle Paul personally wrote to and visited many of these churches we can see that the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ had spread quite rapidly during the first 70 years of the churches existence.
But during those 70 years, there was a vast number of church leaders who were already losing sight of the truth of the gospel and began to embrace and teach false doctrines.
Man will always be man, imperfect, ever trying to figure things out on his own and then corrupting the truth and turning it into a lie. The gospel message is a simple message. It should not be hard to maintain its purity, and yet, within 70 years there were many church leaders who had already gone astray.
The Colossian church had been founded by Epaphrus, the same one that spent time in jail with Paul in Rome. He had probably gone to report all of the heresies that had invaded the church. They were turning into Gnostics; people who believe in observing the signs of the Zodiac, worshipping the sun, moon and stars, and embracing fortunetelling and witchcraft. The leadership after Epaphrus had failed miserably in its duty to uphold the truth and they earned some stinging rebukes from the Apostle Paul.
Most of the churches throughout Asia were in big trouble. Even though the Ephesians had tried to hold the line on holiness and righteousness and had held the gospel as much as they could, they still had problems. Jesus said that they had left their first love. It was as though they loved holiness but forgot the Holy One. They loved the gospel, but had overlooked their relationship with Jesus Christ.
The leadership had allowed the people to lose sight of Jesus and to focus on “works”. Does that sound like some of our churches of today?
The church at Laodicea had become lukewarm. They were satisfied with just a form of worship but lacked the fire and the power of the Holy Spirit in their midst. The leadership of the church was satisfied with a form of religion. It paid their bills, it soothed their conscious but it failed to meet the spiritual needs of the people and there were very few converts. It had become more like a social club than a Holy Ghost filled church, on fire for God.