Seven More Letters By Dr. Gary G. Hoag
Letters to Seven More Churches
God gave John a message for each of the seven churches in Asia Minor. We read the seven letters in Revelation 2-3. Churches throughout history have found inspiration from these letters. We could summarize them in this way:
- To the church in Ephesus, He said, “Remember your first love!” (2:1-7).
- To the church in Smyrna, He encouraged them, saying, “Do not fear suffering!” (2:8-11).
- To the church in Pergamum, He instructed them, proclaiming, “Turn from bad teaching!” (2:12-17).
- To the church in Thyatira, He added, “Hold fast to what is good!” (2:18-29).
- To the church in Sardis, He shouted, “Wake up!” (3:1-6).
- To the church in Philadelphia, He urged them, saying, “Hang in there. God’s got you!” (3:7-13).
- And, to the church in Laodicea, He alerted them, announcing, “Get true riches!” (3:14-22).
In the writings of the Apostle Paul, we find messages to more churches: Galatia, Thessalonica, Corinth, Rome, Colossae, Hierapolis, and Macedonia. They are less commonly known because they are not located in a single text. Let’s look at them. With each one I include a prayer if you think this message might relate to your church.
(1) To the church in Galatia (c. 48-49)
Remember the poor! (Galatians 2:9-10).
James, Peter, and John served among the Jews. Paul and Barnabas took the gospel to the Gentiles. Despite different areas of service, both groups emphasized the importance of caring for the poor. The same holds true today. Followers of Christ may have many interests, but they all care for the poor. God, regardless of our ministry focus, help us remember the poor following the example of the first apostles.
(2) To the church in Thessalonica (c. 52-54)
Get to work! (2 Thessalonians 3:7-10).
Thessalonica was a poor church. In such settings disciples could give hand-outs to needy people. They did not do that (and neither should we) because it creates dependencies. Instead, they gave them a hand-up. They taught them to work to form them into fruitful disciples. God, help us set an example as faithful workers and empower us to lift up the poor by teaching them to work diligently.
(3) To the church in Corinth (c. 53-58)
Live simply and give generously! (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).
Corinth was a materially prosperous place. The Apostle Paul gave the same directions to them as he gave the Galatians. Live on less than you make to create margin to share with others in crisis. We should do likewise! God, since all we possess belongs to You, remind us to build margin in our budgets for generous sharing to show Your love to the world.
(4) To the church in Rome (c. 56-58)
Put a seal on collections to enhance trust! (Romans 15:28-29, NASB).
Over 2,400 churches and ministries in the USA today have the ECFA seal to demonstrate they follow Seven Standards of Responsible Stewardship. This practice follows the pattern of the Apostle Paul who affixed a seal on financial collections. God, help us administrate finances in manner that preserves Your reputation before a watching world.
(5) To the church in Colossae (c. 60-61)
Reorder your affections! (Colossians 3:1-2).
Colossae was a city on a major trade route. It could be easy for people there to focus on earthly things. Paul wrote and urged them to set their affections on things above. We would do well to follow suit today. God grant us victory over the competing God of materialism and make us a people who shift from accumulating things to attaching ourselves to You.
(6) To the church in Hierapolis (c. 60-61)
Grow up! (Colossians 4:12-13).
Hierapolis had hot springs. Many thought it had mystical medicinal powers. If there was a mature adult retirement community in Asia Minor, this “Holy City” was it. Ironically, Paul wanted them to be found mature. God, since that there are no short-cuts for our growth, help us not look for it in earthly experiences but through disciplined spiritual practices over time.
(7) To the church in Macedonia (c. 61-62)
Keep Shining as a Testimony of God’s Grace (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).
The churches of Macedonia entrusted themselves to God. After that they endured severe affliction. Rather than buckle under the strain, they exhibited all-in commitment. Paul celebrated their unexpected generosity. God, cause your grace to work in us so that even in tough times our love and good works exceed the expectations of those around us.
John and Paul delivered strong messages to churches. If Jesus wrote a letter to your church, what would He say? Sit quietly with the Lord. Re-read the list. What stands out as relevant to you? Ask God to help your church grow in that area in 2020!
Gary G. Hoag, Ph.D., serves as President/CEO of Global Trust Partners, the international accountability entity recently birthed by ECFA. He’s a biblical scholar, author, and professor who teaches God’s servants all over the world.
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