This blog entry focuses on Revelation 2-3, even though our reading went through chapter 8. I may do another blog to capture the importance of the Seals and Trumpets.
There is much being said about the condition of the Church [universal] in America. Two schools of thought are used to approach the problem of declining, plateaued and dying churches. The % of church that fit into these descriptors is estimated at somewhere between 80-90%. The approaches to cure/remedy the epidemic are increased church planting – plant churches to replace those that die; and church health/revitalization measures to restore existing churches. Now when we think of the statistics of 4400 church closing their doors every year in all American denominations, these two measures have a formidable task.
How did the churches get in the condition they are in? Was there some specific universal problem? It is very obvious that the USA is no longer a “christian nation.” [If it ever really was] Christian virtues and values are under severe attack, for the worldview is no longer one of Judaeo-Christian ethics and morality; but one of humanism and relativism. I am speaking from my position of being a boomer generation. I remember when there was a common belief system evident between the “Church” and the Community. This is no longer valid. For a multitude of reasons, the Church and the community, as well as country has a competing set of values and virtues. Many efforts have been made to try to connect the church world and the community together; often at compromise of the Gospel. I know of one major hurdle all churches have had to face in the past 40 years, is the music wars. I don’t want to fill this blog with all the outward problems the “Church in America” has, but focus more on the why.
In the book of Revelation; Jesus addresses seven church that are on a mail route in what is known today at Turkey. In five of the seven churches; He brings condemnation upon them for things they either were allowing or were no longer doing. Much has been said about the church at Laodicea, which is the lukewarm church. Interestingly enough, there was the cold dead church called Sardis; which I really only see them as further down the road in degree of closing their doors.
Jesus addressed each Angel of the specific church, which begs the question, does each church have its own Guardian Angel? And why did Jesus address the Angel and not the Pastor? The answer to both of these questions is yes, churches have an angel and because the angel is the Messenger of God to the Church, the message was one which carried great authority. However, the pastor in many cases could be part of the church problem.
I have discovered that churches do not suddenly decline or die; there is a gradual “falling away” from the things of God. The first step; [and this can be found in the book of Hebrews] is the church becomes Apathetic – no feeling. One can think of the church at Ephesus, they had lost their first love. The spark or passion for the Lord had been extinguished. I couldn’t help but think of how many couples tell me that they have “fallen out of Love” with their spouse. Interesting when you think of Jesus as the Bridegroom, and we being the Bride. There are many churches that fit the Ephesian model; they do a lot of good things, but its in the tradition or flesh and there isn’t any blessings from God. The second step that leads to dead and dying churches is Apostasy – heretical teachings. This captured the majority of the churches indicted by Jesus. They had allowed false teaching and teachers to come in to the church and “pollute” the Gospel. Often church life is influenced by people with loud voices, deep pockets or charismatic personalities. I have found that churches often will remain silent on controversial or conflicts because they just want to try and keep the peace. Here again is a compromise that leads to destruction of the Gospel. People want to believe and act they way they want to believe and act; not the way scripture sets forth. The woman Jezebel and the Nicolaitans were problem people; yet churches refused to exercise church discipline. Preachers were preaching for money and a following then as they do now. Apostate is where the church is no longer sound on doctrine and theology – many of the cults existing today come from churches who have not dealt with false teachers. The last cause for dead and dying churches is Anarchy – or really a rebellion/revolt against God. The church has forfeited its place within the Kingdom of God. Jesus gave each church a warning with a judgment if they did not Repent and Return to Him. Their lamp would be blown out. Why are so many churches dying today – these three downward steps lead them to death. The answer – Repent for the Day is at Hand!; or I will close your doors – it is Christ’s church, He said He would build it, He is the authority and has the right to affirm or deny churches that may or may not be His!