Cheryl is a poet, freelance writer, author, and former newspaper columnist. She has degrees in Psychology and Biblical studies
The nature of the church
Christ has one body with many parts. During the early days of Christianity, there were no large gatherings in buildings. When the church is referenced in the Bible, it is addressing the believers in a specific area. In the second and third chapters of Revelation there are seven churches mentioned and what they dealt with is still relevant today. Believers, especially church leaders should examine themselves to see which group we fall into, and aim to do better.
The seven churches are named for their locations. and the fist one addressed is Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-7): This body of believers was known for laboring hard and not fainting and separating themselves from the wicked. Their problem, however was forsaking their love of Christ and putting Him first. The second church referenced was in Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11): This church was noted for dealing with great trials and poverty and were warned that more suffering was in the future. The church in Pergamum (Revelation 2:12-17): located where 'Satan's seat' is; must repent for allowing false teachers. (2:16) . The church of Thyatira (Revelation 2:18-29) was known for charity, whose "latter works are greater than the former" but they also tolerated the teachings of a false prophetess (2:20) Sardis (Revelation 3:1-6): was admonished for being a dead church although they had a good reputation. They were admonished to fortify themselves and return to God through repentance (3:2-3). Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13):was known as being steadfast in faith, and keeping God's word while enduring patiently (3:10) The church in Laodicea, (Revelation 3:14-22): was referred to as lukewarm and insipid (3:16). Christ said He would spit this type of church out of His mouth. Most people want their tea or coffee to be ice cold or hot and don’t tolerate lukewarm.
Becoming His church
There are three things that speak volumes in what Christ wrote to His church through the Apostle John. He despises a lukewarm assembly, those that allow false doctrine and not putting Him first. Good works mean little if He is not being glorified. Some may believe the lukewarm church was one where they sang without enthusiasm and did not speak in tongues or "shout." it is more likely He is talking about being lukewarm in faith and standing up for Him. When we allow false doctrine such as the prosperity gospel or extreme views on the magical power of tithing, we are putting money first whether we know it or not. Serving Him then unwittingly becomes, a cash in cash out attitude. We give because the preacher keeps saying there is a financial reward and we are no longer giving as we purposed ion our hearts. Instead of preaching Christ crucified, pastors beg the people to give more, promising a due season and inadvertently the services have become fund raisers and Christ has taken a back seat.
Those who know the truth are afraid to speak out and warn others to put Christ first. When you are reluctant to say that the gospel is about Him, and not the pastor or about getting rich you are being lukewarm and allowing false doctrine that puts other things first over Christ. Every believer can be honest with themselves that at some time or another we have put other things in front of Him. It could be that you diligently clean the church, attend every service, give generously, and read your Bible faithfully. What could be missing is personal time with Him which can take place any time anywhere. We all fall short, and will never be perfect, but we can all do our best to keep the cross in it's proper perspective.
In many churches today, believers have been taught to walk in arrogance. They go around saying they are a kings kid, and sowed seeds and deserve a harvest of fiances here on the earth. The COVID-19 pandemic has opened the eyes of many who found that although they tithed, gave offerings, sowed into the pastor, they still lost a job, contracted coronavirus, or had a loved one die from the disease. Many pastors were teaching that there was safety in coming to church. Recently I saw a Facebook post where a pastor was trying to convince everyone to go back to church because it was the safest place. In spite of the fact that over 30 pastors and Bishops have died in the COGIC denomination as well as others around the nation. Church folk have been infected in gatherings such as services and funerals, yet this pastor was insisting that everyone needs to go back to church.
You may not agree but even the building itself can be made an idol and pushing church attendance a false doctrine. Jesus said He is where ever 2 or 3 gather in His Name and in John chapter 4 He told the woman at the well that the location of worship does not matter. he emphasized worshiping in Spirit and truth. It is time for His body to repent for whatever and whomever we have placed in front of Him and denounce false doctrine. Keep in mind that the thief on the cross was told He would be with Jesus in paradise. He never went to church, was not baptized and had lived a life of stealing. He was repentant when he said to his fellow thief that they deserved their punishment but Jesus did not. He then asked the Lord to remember him when He came into His kingdom. The dying thief understood that Christ has a kingdom not of this world and He was allowed to enter it because of a repentant heart.
Live and not die
Yes a dead church can be one where the believers are not filled with His spirit and don't sing or praise from their hearts. They attend services and sit in the building as a weekly ritual and a tradition. A dead church could also be one where the members go through motions, doing good deeds, shouting and running but never displaying His gifts or having His power. I recall one Sunday morning that my younger brother called while I was driving. We discussed His word and lifted up the Name of Jesus and I felt His presence right in my vehicle. I recall my mother in law and I going to lay hands and pray over one of her nieces who had colon cancer. She is still living today 25 years later. We were not in a building in a prayer line and we were not preachers, but our faith healed.
People are different and have varied needs and local assemblies will not be a one size fits all. What should be universal, however, is that every believer should have a zeal, and burn for Christ. He should be first and we should all be jealous for Him rather than being taught to defend our pastors. We should each exhibit his gifts as well as His fruits and walk in love. The bottom line to the seven churches in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, as well as for us today is that we do not have a form of godliness but deny His power. (2 Timothy 3:5). Let us each examine ourselves and proceed to daily walk with Him till His return. We should live and move and have our being in Him, and not be dead believers. (Acts 17:28). Don‘t be a blockhead and be spewed from his mouth like lukewarm coffee or tea. Church works, without a relationship with Him are dead. Let us live and not die.
© 2020 Cheryl E Preston
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on May 26, 2020:
Thank you Linda.
Linda Courtney from Bloomsburg, PA on May 25, 2020:
Well written Cheryl. I've moved a few times and had to try out different churches in my search for the right one in each place. I've been in all kinds of services, but the Lord always seems to point out the right one when I get there. It's just a feeling that comes over me. Thank the Lord for the Holy Spirit!
Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on May 25, 2020:
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 25, 2020:
Very interesting and instructional
Margaret Minnicks from Richmond, VA on May 25, 2020:
I wrote a similar article in 2019: "Churches in the Book of Revelation: Which One Is Like Yours?"