What I Learned In TurkeyPosted in Pastor Mike
1. THESE ARE HISTORICAL PLACES.
The places described in the first three chapters of Revelation (and indeed throughout the Bible) are actual places. I knew that in terms of head knowledge, but actually being able to see them, feel the ground beneath my feet, and touch the stones just drove that home on a whole new level. I found this to be most striking in Ephesus, which was an amazing archeological site on a scale that’s hard to imagine. The events of Scripture didn’t happen in a void. [Ed.’s note: See below for an animation of what the city of Ephesus looked like in its day, based off of current archaeological excavations.]
2. THESE WERE REAL PEOPLE.
I think this first struck me looking at the grooves in the stones left by decades of chariots driving through the gates of Ephesus. Real people lived there—some of them Christians mentioned in the Bible by John and Paul, and maybe more. Jesus was giving messages to real people through John, to regular sinners like you and me.
3. WE HAVE MUCH TO LEARN FROM THE SEVEN CHURCHES.
Jesus wasn’t just speaking to the churches in John’s time and region—these words were written down and preserved for us today in the church, as well. There’s something to be learned from every one of these letters, lessons about the life, death, and struggles of real churches much like ours today.
4. TURKEY IS REMARKABLE.
One thing I walked away with from the trip was how much I’d love to go back to Turkey. I didn’t expect it to be so beautiful, the food to be so amazing, and the history to be so rich and prevalent at every turn.
5. TURKEY NEEDS JESUS.
It was sad to see that all of the churches John was writing to are long gone. Even the church in Philadelphia, which had persevered for so long, finally fell, and has been replaced with mosques and secularism. That said, it was encouraging to see that even in the midst of this there is a small contingent who remain. Though estimates are that there may be as few as 3,000–4,000 Turkish believers in Christ (in a nation of almost 80 million), that small number is growing.
6. MARS HILL IS JUST ONE SMALL LINK IN A MUCH LARGER CHAIN.
We are fortunate to be a small part of the continuing story of God’s redemptive work through history. The same Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who were with the ancient church of that time are with us today—a flame that has been passed down from generation to generation, nation to nation, that we now, along with many, many other churches in the world, have the honor to carry.
It occurred to me in Turkey that these places aren’t sacred shrines for Christians to visit.
7. THE LAMPSTAND IS WITH MARS HILL . . . BUT NOT INDEFINITELY.
Though it was sad to see that the particular churches of these cities eventually fell, it’s good not to forget the exponential effect they had on the world. God’s hand has been over his church through all kinds of tribulations, and his work is bigger than just any one church or movement at any one period of time. It occurred to me in Turkey that these places aren’t sacred shrines for Christians to visit—they’re just cool places to learn about history and see where things started. I couldn’t help but wonder that if they’d continued through to today that people would have elevated a particular church, city, region, or movement over the greater mission of God throughout the world.
Though we should do everything possible as a body to obey God and follow his commands (and warnings) found in the letters to the churches in Revelation, I know that some day Mars Hill will cease to exist. Who knows how long we have until then, but I find comfort in the fact that after we are gone, God’s work will persevere and the lampstand will be strong and alight in other parts of the world, places that might sound surprising to us today. Let’s make the most of this season through obedience to the Lord and rejoice in his great work.