So, I’ve been continuing to look at the first few chapters of Revelation- the letters to the churches, and I’ve been really intrigued by the different things that Jesus says to them, but also about the similarities between them, and to our own culture…
first up- (though this could be lastly, as you’ll see)… in every one of them, there’s a comment along the lines of ‘to those who listen to God’s Spirit, this cool thing will happen’. Which seems to be saying that we really ought to spend some time listening to God, and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our thinking and behaviour rather than be bound by our culture or church tradition. It reminds me of a comment I heard earlier this year- Churches and Christians shouldn’t be spending time attempting to be relevant to culture, because culture is always changing and so we’ll be constantly trying to catch up, instead we should focus on creating culture that challenges people to transform their lives into a new shape.
secondly- it seems as though there’s a distinction between the ‘looking good but without substance’ churches (I think Ephesus and Sardis have this tag- go read Revelation 2 and 3 for yourself and let me know what you think), and the ‘bit shabby and beaten up round the edges but close to God’ churches (which fits Philadephia and Smyrna, from my reading). Its always tempting to look good, and it does have a part to play- when I’m looking for a restaurant, or a car, or even just a seat, I’ll be looking for some visual cues; but not at the expense of deeper quality… if the welcome to a restaurant is great but the food is rubbish, I’m probably even more disappointed (the only plus point is that if the staff are friendly I may at least feel able to let them know how bad the food is!). The challenge is to stay close to God, no matter what.
Thirdly, which is where the post title comes in- i read these passages and thought about how they could transfer across to my life, and my church. And it would have been quite easy to list the faults etc. But thats not what Jesus does with us, and so thats not how I understand these letters- they weren’t written to make groups of people feel bad while others feel great, but to challenge and encourage all of them. We can read passages like this one, and feel beaten up by the words, or we can read them and feel lifted up, taken somewhere we can’t go on our own, given the chance to see something wonderful and told ‘go for it, this is what you’re called to be’.
We’re meant to be a microcosm of the Kingdom of God- a people and a place that demonstrate the potential and the reality of grace, healing, forgiveness, a family where we’re all children of God- all that kind of stuff. So this week I’m resolved to try and be part of the church we’re meant to be, rather than stuck in a place I’m trying to get away from.
God loves my church, maybe I could learn something from Him.