Five Commands for a Dying Church – Revelation 3:1-6

1“To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
These are the words of him who holds the seven  spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. 3Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. 4Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. 5He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. 6He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
– Revelation 3:1-6

If you want God’s prescription for a dying or dead church, this is it. Five things God wants from his people when they are no longer serving their purpose on earth – Wake up! Strengthen what little remains! Remember…Obey…Repent! The hardest part is for the dead or dying church to realize they are in need of waking, to recognize their own weakness, to understand the scope of their forgetfulness, to characterize disobedience as obedience, and to think repentance is for someone else.

Many people believe that the problem at Sardis was total cultural compromise. They stood out in the city as prominent and successful. But in order to do so they had blended themselves so thoroughly into the surrounding culture that you really couldn’t tell them apart from anyone else. Could it be a problem if the world starts recognizing Christians as “alive”? Not always. But in some cases it might just mean that we fit their definition of what living is all about and, in reality, be dead or at least on spiritual life support.

Corporate repentance is not something we see in the church today. Remembrance is something we do well together. But repentance is reserved for individuals, not congregations. Yet, there can be a time and place for a congregation to realize how wrong they have been, how they have missed the mark, or how their attitudes have been less than Christian and make a congregational turn back to God. This is easier to identify in past generations of Christians than it is to identify and come to grips with what we face today. We can point back to the horrific nature of the Crusades to the cultural compromise of segregation in the churches.

What issues face Christianity today that we are in need of recognizing and repenting of?


About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

9 Responses to Five Commands for a Dying Church – Revelation 3:1-6

  1. Thoughtful post.

    In terms of what issues we need to recognize (and maybe even repent of) I think Christians need to take a critical look at how we are engaging with the US political and military culture. There seems to be a bit of confusion between culture-making and kingdom-making in terms of politics and too often, in my opinion, there is a lack of critical engagement with whether or not we should strongly support America’s military mission. Am I saying we shouldn’t engage culture politically or militarily? Nope, but I think the conversation could occur among a wider number of people in the church.

    This is a potential point where the church will need to critically reflect and perhaps even repent.

    • mattdabbs says:


      That is a huge area of concern. It is sad that people like Glenn Beck are speaking against social justice carte blanche as if anything with the word social in it is evil. Scot McKnight did a great piece on this a few days ago.

  2. Clint P. says:

    Many churches of Christ have the opposite problem. They are dying not because of total cultural compromise like Sardis, instead they are dying because of an unwillingness to connect with the changing culture. It seems that they are so worried about playing it safe by holing up in their church buildings in order to keep from falling down the slippery slope that they fail to reach out to the very people we were sent to make disciples of.

    • mattdabbs says:

      That may be true on Sunday but do you think that is true Monday-Saturday? What I mean by that is just because people fail to evangelize and turn themselves into a country club on Sunday doesn’t mean they don’t act like the world the rest of the week. That stems from the compartmentalization of our lives into the spiritual and secular (as Jerry Starling pointed out in the Sacred/Secular post last week).

      • Clint P. says:

        It’s funny that even though the idea of the church being a Sunday thing really bugs me, that is exactly what I assumed you meant when you are talking about church in your post. 😦

        “That may be true on Sunday but do you think that is true Monday-Saturday? ” For some people yes. There are many people who are so scared of making God angry that they would never associate with a known “sinner”. However I would agree with you that more often than not we allow our culture to shape our behaviors more than we allow God.

  3. The “wake up!” command really jumps out at me, Matt. One of Jesus’ teachings that seems more important to him than to us is his constant charge to the disciples to stay awake, to watch, to be aware. Maybe “waking up” isn’t just a condition for repentance, but the first act of repentance.

    • mattdabbs says:

      All kinds of parables on that one, right? That is a great point Steven. That would make a great blog post to flesh out. Let me know if you want to tackle that one and I will send some linkage your way on that excellent thought.

  4. kolen john moses says:

    hai! am kolen john and i am interested on the subject on your website so i need some studies to equipe my leadership as a student pastor sermons also specialy on the kingdom living
    thank you may God bless you for your good services
    from kolen john

    • hai! am kolen john and i am interested on the subject on your website so i need some studies to equipe my leadership as a student pastor sermons also specialy on the kingdom living
      thank you may God bless you for your good services
      from kolen john

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: