Paul warned them. What causes a church to lose zeal? Why fizzle after 30-40 years?
I stood there on the site of Miletus where Paul called the Ephesian leaders. It’s not a big place. The entire town was on a peninsula surrounded by water, a few hundred yards across. In the late afternoon cool, I could imagine Paul warning them. The magnificent center of missionary zeal and church expansion in Ephesus would be led astray, even from among the very leaders to whom he was speaking (Ephesians 20:17-38).
There were 3 epicenters of Christianity in the first century. Missionary expansion began in Jerusalem, then moved to Antioch and blossomed in Ephesus.
A few days earlier, I had walked the ancient town of Ephesus where Paul had visited several times and lived and taught for 2 years so that “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord.”
Ephesus had about a 10 year run of excellence during Paul’s day then another 30 years or so under the leadership of John before his exile, according to tradition. But by the end of the first century when John wrote Revelation from exile on Patmos, the church in Ephesus was losing its zeal. They were still doing “church” but Jesus told them, “you have abandoned the love you had at first.” You don’t burn with my zeal for the lost like you did at first.
Jesus’ warning was in my mind as we sat in the huge stone theater in Ephesus. Jesus must remain the center. Our core activity must remain telling others about the goodness of his kingdom. To cease telling others is to begin to die as a church.
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