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June 23, 2011

Thursday Is for Turkey: The Church in Thyatira

I am currently in the middle of a series of posts reflecting on my recent trip to Turkey on a Jet Set Vision Tour with the Upstream Collective. We visited the locations of the seven churches from the Book of Revelation. You can look back at earlier posts:

The Church in Ephesus

The Church in Smyrna

The Church in Pergamum

If you've been in church leadership for any length of time, chances are that you know of at least one pastor who has fallen into ruinous, disqualifying sin. It seems that every couple of months lately we hear about another affair, addiction, abuse, or scandal involving someone in the ministry.

Every time such sin comes to light it's used by the enemy to sow seeds of doubt among church members. That's why in His Revelation to John, Jesus condemns the church in Thyatira for tolerating sexual sin. A woman had introduced false teaching that glorified immorality and led people astray. This was serious business. Those who participated in this deceit, the Lord said, would be "shattered like pottery."

Thyatira was famous for indigo, the deep blue dye that was applied to wool and linen. In Acts 16, we read about the conversion of Lydia, a women from Thyatira who was a dealer of "purple cloth" in Philippi. It stood on the border of the regions of Lydia and Mysia, where Paul was prevented by the Holy Spirit from entering Bythinia. Today, it's a small but densely-populated modern city.

As we walked through the small park that is home to the ruins of the ancient city, I couldn't help but think of leaders who have been disqualified from service and the great pain that always follows. We prayed quietly for fallen friends and co-laborers, thanking God for his mercy and grace.

We scouted out a place for me to preach my short sermon on Revelation 2:18-28. All around us, the city of Akhisar bustled with activity. The perfect spot was in the shade of a tree, on what seemed to be some sort of podium. Ironically, the "podium" was actually an ancient monument to various pagan gods and kings. I set my Bible down and prepared to preach the Word of God in a place that was once known for its community of faith, but now has no known Christian presence at all.

Sin kills. The Good News, though, is that Jesus saves. Our testimony to the world is not in how little we sin, but in our forgiveness in Christ for that sin. That's the message that once rang out through Thyatira. I pray that it will again one day.

If you'd like to explore how your church can help gospel ministry in Turkey, contact The Upstream Collective for more information.

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Thursday Is for Turkey: The Church in Thyatira