HOW DOES JESUS EVALUATE HIS CHURCH?
BY WHAT STANDARD can we evaluate our churches? Or is it our place to do so? What is our responsibility in contributing to a church? Is every church Jesus’ church?
I FIND IT HARD TO believe when someone says they just can’t find a church they like; especially, when they live in urban areas where there seems to be a church on every corner! I’m opposite of that; I find lots of places I could call home. Christian people are great people; I feel at home in all churches that teach Jesus as Savior of sinful man. Am I gullible? Perhaps.
BUT JESUS IS NOT! “I know thy works,” Jesus says as he evaluates the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. They were all active churches in Asia Minor at the time of John’s revelation. “I know thy works” did not mean that he knew they were all active in doing good deeds. It was more like a father telling his son, “I know what you were up to last night.” If the son had been doing good, he would feel good about that; if he had been doing bad, he would see a warning coming on. So it was with Jesus’ messages to the churches. He had special accolades for some; rebukes and warnings for others; for most, he had both commendations and rebukes.
SMYRNA AND PHILADELPHIA received commendations without rebukes; Sardis had a few who were commended; Laodicea had no commendations; Pergamos was a mixed review; Ephesus was accomplishing a lot but were somewhat burned out (lost first love); Thyratira was doing a lot of good things, but sin was being infiltrated into their midst. Those of us who have lived long and been very “churchy” can probably identify with most of these kinds of churches!
SO MAKE A CHOICE. I would like Ephesus but they have lost their enthusiasm. Pergamos looks pretty good, no, I guess not; too much sin there. Thyratira accomplishes a lot, but they have a false prophetess who is giving lots of trouble. I wouldn’t want to go to Sardis; they are mostly dead there. Now Philadelphia is an excellent selection, but they don’t have much strength, hardly any political clout; they mostly go on faith. Jesus was impressed with Smyrna; guess Peter would have liked them too (I Peter 4:12-19). Looks like they were warm, loving, and patient but they were so poor and they sure had trouble. Maybe Laoedicea is the place to go; they are pretty powerful, up and coming, rich and exciting. Looks like Laodicea is the place to be!
IN ACTUAL PRACTICE what do we consider? Where family and friends go, what kind of status in the community, how much involvement is expected of them, or how much they can be involved, what the facilities are like, how long is the sermon, is the preacher entertaining, what is the singing like, is it hard to park, how many offerings do they take, will my kids be happy, do I have to dress up, and is it close to home?
WHAT ARE OTHER OPTIONS for making a choice? How about how active is the rotating door, are manifestations of the Spirit in evidence, what follow up is available for people who receive Christ, do people get saved here, does this church pray for healing, in fact, do they pray, do they love the outsider, how much concern for those who drop out, do my kids make commitment as well as have fun, is this a place for me to give as well as receive, how much use is made of all this wood and stone, what effort is made for reaching outside the walls? Oh, yes, and how loud is the music, and are the songs singable?
USE THE INSTRUMENT on the next three pages to make a judgment about your church or to help you decide what to look for in a church. Are your values, Jesus’ values?
The exercise below is not presented as comprehensive—but as a work-in-the-making, it may be an interesting tool to use to help you consider what Jesus might say about you and/or your church.
WHAT WOULD JESUS SAY?
The following statements are based on the commendations and rebukes made by
Jesus to the seven Revelation churches (Chapters 2 & 3). They are written in plural for a church, but they can also be considered from “I” standpoint for oneself. With honest consideration place a true (T) in front of strengths, false (F) for weakness.
Good works, labor, and patience
Can not bear them which are evil
Tried them who say they are apostles and are not; they are liars.
Borne and has patience for my name’s sake; endured hardship for my name.
Has not fainted
Hates deeds of Nicolaitans (unsure, but likely refers to sensual sins)
Left thy first love
____We practice good deeds and hard work.
____We do not give up; our attitude is to overcome with patient endurance.
____We are not companions with those who do evil.
____We are wise regarding those from whom we take instruction.
____If we face hardship because of the name of Christ, we do not despair.
____We do not compromise on Jesus Christ being the only way to Heaven.
____We recognize and turn away from those who offer temptation.
____We do not compromise the Word of God in relation to holy living.
____We are zealous in our first love for Jesus.
(An Ephesus-type church would have T’s in the first eight blanks, F in the last.)
Poverty (but rich)
Blasphemy (slander) of them that say they are Jews but are not
(no sins mentioned)
____Our works are not for show; we give humbly in little or much.
____We offer compassion, honor endurance, and learn from those who suffer.
____We are patient when slandered and criticized.
____We face tribulation with faith and hope.
(A Smyrna-type church would have been T’s in all blanks.)
Hold fast to Christ’s name
Has not denied faith (even in martyrdom)
Them who hold doctrine of Balaam
Eat things sacrificed to idols
Commit fornication (sexual immorality)
Hold to doctrine of Nicolaitaines
____Our doctrine and practice is true to Christ and his teaching.
____We do not compromise or figure ways to elude the will of God as Balaam
____We do not consume the ways of this world as represented by sacrifices of idols.
____We do not practice sexual immorality.
____We do not compromise the Word of God in relation to holy living.
(A Pergamos-type church would be True in first blank, False in the other four.)
Works, charity, service, faith, patience
Works -The last to be more than the first (later works have increased?)
Following “Jezebel” who called herself a prophetess to teach & seduce
to commit fornication and to eat food sacrificed to idols
____We are dedicated to doing good and serving others.
____Our good deeds represent our faith in and love of our Lord.
____We sacrifice in order to bring about good in the kingdom of God.
____We do not give up when the road gets hard.
____Our goal is to do more next time than we did the last time.
____We reject doctrines which compromise holy living.
(A Thyatira-type church would be five T’s, the last would be F.)
Few who have not defiled themselves
Name that you live, but you are dead
Works are not perfect (complete)
____Our lives are not filled with hypocrisy; we practice what we preach.
____We judge our motives that they be done in love.
____We lives honor you everyday, everyway, everyplace.
____We follow through on doing your will; our standard is that you say “well done.”
____Jesus is alive in us.
(A Sardis-type church, with exceptions, would have F’s in all blanks.)
Kept my word
Not denied my name
Kept the word of my patience
____By faith we do what we can in Jesus’ name.
____We keep Jesus’ word by unquestioning obedience to the written word of God.
____We endure graciously, persist humbly, and suffer patiently.
(A Philadelphia-type church would have True in all three blanks.)
Not hot or cold, lukewarm and nauseating
You say you are rich and have need of nothing
You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, naked
____We acknowledge our miserable state except through God’s grace and mercy.
____We renew our standing with God by constant repentance through Jesus Christ.
____We are zealous in our love relationship with Jesus Christ.
____We hold the poor man in regard as highly as the rich man.
____We are not easily deceived – our eyes are open to truth.
(If your answers are False, you a Laodicea-type church.)