Of What Kind of Church Are You a Member?

Church building

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus promised to build His church. In Acts 2 we read about the establishment of that church. Throughout the book of Acts, we see how the church grew from its beginnings in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The New Testament as a whole provides us with a picture of the church our Lord purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28). Several times, we read about a congregation being rebuked for problems that existed there. It can be profitable for us to consider the issues that affected these churches and compare them to the church where we are members. Every problem in every congregation in the New Testament will not be discussed in this article. But as we look at some of these, think about the congregation where you attend. Notice if there are things there that may need to be addressed as well.

The Church in Corinth

There were many problems for Paul to address in his first letter to the Corinthians. One problem was a tolerance of sin. The report Paul received was that there was immorality present in the church – specifically that “someone has his father’s wife” (1 Corinthians 5:1). This man’s sin was so bad that Paul said that it was the kind of thing that “does not exist even among the Gentiles.” The church’s attitude toward this situation should have been to mourn; instead, they had “become arrogant” (1 Corinthians 5:2). They had one who was living in sin. Instead of delivering “such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved” (1 Corinthians 5:5), they accepted him and tolerated his sin. While this may have seemed to be the more loving thing to do, it did nothing to help correct his sin that would damn him to hell. Are we a member of a church that cares enough for the souls of others to try and help them realize their sin and correct it? Or are we a member of a church like Corinth that tolerated sin and accepted the sinner?

The Church in Ephesus

The church in Ephesus was the first of the seven to which the Lord sent letters in Revelation 2-3. They were commended for several things – their “toil and perseverance,” their unwillingness to “tolerate evil men,” their testing and exposing false apostles, and their hatred for the “deeds of the Nicolaitans” (Revelation 2:2-3, 6). However, the one thing the Lord had against them was that they had “left [their] first love” (Revelation 2:4). The problem was not with what they were doing. They were commended for many of the things they were doing. The problem was their attitude or their purpose for doing the things that they did. When asked what the “great commandment” was, Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36-37). Are we a member of a church that does all that the Lord has commanded because we love Him (John 14:15)? Or are we a member of a church like Ephesus that has forgotten why we do what we do and are offering empty, meaningless service to God?

The Church in Pergamum

Like Ephesus, the church in Pergamum was commended by the Lord for different things. Despite the fact that they dwelled “where Satan’s throne is,” they held fast to the name of the Lord and did not deny Him, even in the face of persecution (Revelation 2:13). The problem the Lord had with the church here was that they were tolerating false doctrine. Some held “the teaching of Balaam” (Revelation 2:14), while others held “the teachings of the Nicolaitans” (Revelation 2:15). They were commanded by the Lord to repent. If they did not, the Lord would come and “make war against them” (Revelation 2:16). This would affect the church there if they continued to provide refuge for these false teachers. Some churches today may feel as though they are being attacked when faithful gospel preachers expose the false teachers they support and fellowship. Instead of becoming defensive and questioning the motives of those exposing the false teacher, they ought to repent as the Lord instructed Pergamum. Are we a member of a church that tolerates, supports, and fellowships those who teach false doctrine? If so, the church needs to repent.

The Church in Thyatira

The church in Thyatira was commended for their love, faith, service, and perseverance (Revelation 2:19). The problem with the church here was that they tolerated one called Jezebel who led God’s people into sin (Revelation 2:20). The Lord said He “gave her time to repent,” but she was unwilling to do so (Revelation 2:21). This problem was one that should have already been addressed. She had time to repent and she refused. Instead of having already dealt with the problem, they continued to tolerate her evil influence. Are we a member of a church like Thyatira that sits idle when action needs to be taken? Would the congregation rather do nothing than do what is right?

The Church in Sardis

The three letters to the churches that we have already noticed in Revelation 2 all began with a commendation for their good work before dealing with the problem that was being addressed. Yet in writing to the church in Sardis, the Lord began by saying, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead” (Revelation 3:1). We can look to the New Testament and see what the Lord’s church was called (Romans 16:16), but a name alone does not secure God’s approval. A “name” can also refer to a reputation (Proverbs 22:1). A church may have a reputation of being a sound congregation and still be considered “dead” in the eyes of the Lord. This church was told to “remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent” (Revelation 3:3). Does the church of which we are a member continuously strive to do what has been taught in God’s word? Or are we a member of a church that has merely a reputation for faithfulness but is not continuing in faithful service?

The Church in Laodicea

The final letter to the churches in Asia was written to the church in Laodicea. The Lord observed that they were “neither cold nor hot” (Revelaion 3:15). Because they were “lukewarm,” the Lord said, “I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). What does it mean to be lukewarm? The mindset of the Laodiceans was that they saw themselves as being “rich,” “wealthy,” and in “need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17). The fact was, however, they were “wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” They trusted more in themselves than in the Lord. They were content with their own spiritual mediocrity. Are we a member of a church like Laodicea that is content to just coast along as they always have and not “be zealous and repent” when its shortcomings are pointed out? Or are we a member of a church that realizes our dependence upon God and, therefore, our responsibility to serve Him to the very best of our abilities?

No Church Is Perfect

Local congregations are made up of fallible humans. As a result, problems will come up from time to time in even the strongest, most faithful groups. But what is our attitude going to be when problems do arise? Will we have the humility and conviction to realize the problem and correct it? Or will we ignore it because we are either afraid or unwilling to deal with it? If you take an honest look at the church to which you belong, you will see that it is not perfect. But is that church striving to correct problems or are they ignoring them and doing nothing about them? While it may be that every congregation will have problems at different times, that is not an excuse to overlook the problems in our home congregation. If the church of which you are a member refuses to address problems that arise and, as a result, those problems are never corrected, you ought to find a new congregation with which to work and worship.

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