|Detail from a church in Elora ON (V.Nesdoly)|
TO CHEW ON: “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Revelation 2:7, 11, 17
Those of us who have attended a variety of churches know that they have personalities as defined as any person’s. These church personalities come about because of various forces. The three letters to the churches in Revelation 2:1-17 and beyond illustrate what some of these forces are:
Location: The church at Pergamos was known to dwell “… where Satan’s throne is.” - Revelation 2:13.
Leadership: John scolded the weak leadership of Thyatira for allowing an evil Jezebel prophetess to teach and influence the congregation - Revelation 2:20.
History: The church at Smyrna had a history of tribulation, poverty, and persecution - Revelation 2:9.
Culture: The church at Ephesus had a culture of untiring work, patience, and holiness - Revelation 2:2,3.
Doctrine: The church of Pergamos tolerated bad doctrine - Revelation 2:14,15.
Let’s look at these aspects of our own churches as we seek to understand them, join ourselves to them, and represent them to the world.
- Where a church is located physically—town, city, country, near a university, in the middle of a factory town etc.—and the spiritual climate of that place will have a huge effect on what kind of a church it is. (Imagine belonging to a church like Pergamos, known to be situated in a hotbed of satanic activity!)
- A church with strong leaders that guard the congregation against false teachers will differ from one where leadership is easily persuaded and permissive. For Thyatira John prophesied sickness and death as God’s discipline for tolerating this false teacher - John 2:22,23
- A church’s history—the stories of its founding, growth, even its building, do much to determine its outlook. It sounds like the persecution Smyrna had gone through in the past had left a residue of fear in the congregation - Revelation 2:10.
- The culture of a church is often more caught than taught. It can easily become automatic and emotionless, as we follow along to fit in. It seems that may have been the case in Ephesus where the church had a reputation for good but the love had been squeezed out of its good actions - Revelation 2:4.
- The doctrine of a church—what it teaches as truth about God, the Bible etc.— may well be what draws us to a particular denomination and its neighborhood representative. I believe that must remain a foundation for us. We must not let a church’s other good qualities—its closeness to our home, its friendliness, its history, its beautiful building, overshadow our desire to be part of a congregation where truth is taught.
Let’s evaluate our churches objectively and compassionately with a view to understanding them, and helping to make them bodies that a modern John would praise and encourage.
PRAYER: Dear Father, thank You for my church. Help me to understand it, pray for it, and take my place in it. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.