Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Good Church/Bad Church

If the letters to the Seven Churches in Asia represent, as I have posited, a representative communication to the whole church throughout all time, then at any given time there would have to be some good churches, some bad churches and some that are a mixed bag. I think that was what was intended to be communicated by Christ Jesus, and is what has, in fact, been observed throughout church history.

Good churches, as Christ sees it (modeled by Smyrna and Philadelphia), are not necessarily what the average Christian today would call successes. Afflicted, poor, weak, persecuted by false believers and the state are qualities that Christ attributed to those pleasing churches. Despite their apparent lack of achievement, they are affirmed by Christ and promised a good end upon his return. Makes one rethink his or her commitment to church growth and being a Christian success, doesn't it?

Bad churches, as Christ sees it (modeled by Sardis and Laodicea), are indifferent, self-satisfied, sloppy morally, and materialistic. They have forgotten the Word and are in danger of being forgotten by Christ upon his return. Do the descriptives mainline or historical pop to mind here? A reputation for being the living church certainly doesn't make one so.

Mixed churches, as Christ sees it (modeled by Ephesus, Pergamum and Thyatira), are those that would otherwise be good churches except for some glaring flaw. Of the three, I find Ephesus the most troubling. Its description would make it the poster child for thriving evangelicalism today, but its loss of first love has it endangered instead. Really, it's stunning, shocking, and for me, an evangelical pastor, dismaying. Can anyone really be sure that Evangelicals are Rapture ready?

The other two suffer from readily evident and similar problems: instead of rousting false teachers, they tolerate them. As a result, some church folk are enticed into idolatry and sexual immorality. Though we live in a time that values toleration, perhaps these examples tell us this is no time to go soft on fornication and homosexuality.


Anonymous said...

these things not only can relate to the churches of today, but, each of us individually as believers.

i think that we can tolerate and Love eachother while continually praying for and telling and reminding eachother what God says about the sin that we all do. to encourage one another to walk in the will of God.

if a teacher can not speak the word of God the way that it is written, then people will be misled.

it is really interesting how we continue to see everything through the eyes of the world that we live in. we all do it.
we see something looking clean and lovely and good by the world's standards and think all is right.
we forget that Christ looks deeper and differently at lovely and clean and good. He looks at the heart, the Holy Spirit knows and reads the heart.

SLW said...

Hello Nanc. Nice to hear from you. I think you're right, the lessons are to be taken personally as well as corporately.