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.