Churches all have personalities. Those personalities generally take their primary characteristics from the Pastor(s) – though not always. But because we are social creatures, we often gather most comfortably with those who share similar personality traits, and/or compatible traits. And this has both pluses and minuses to it.
In an interview I heard with John MacArthur some time ago, MacArthur lamented that he has ministered so long in one place (Grace Community Church) that he has been there long enough to see some of his negative traits replicated in his congregation. We pass-on (so to speak) attitudes and viewpoints, mindsets and other factors which are not always positive. It is an occupational hazard. One that personally makes me tremble.
As you read the 2nd and 3rd chapters of the book of The Revelation, you cannot help but see this problem in the larger context of each congregation. Each one has its peculiarities which Jesus addresses. Some positive, some negative. And we can be reasonably sure that such traits reflect at least the leadership of the individual Churches, if not the majority of those in each one. For instance…
Ephesus was commended for its orthodoxy and activity, but challenged for being somewhat loveless.
Smyrna was beat up, persecuted, hopeless in this life – and counseled to place its trust in the return of Christ and not a reversal of fortunes. Pergamum was urban, compromised by the culture & dependent upon structure. Thyatira was socially active, but morally compromised by listening to un-Biblical “authority”. Sardis was outwardly vibrant but inwardly dead to the Spirit of Christ while Philadelphia, though diminutive was alive, dependent and faithful. Lastly, Laodicea, which was impactless through the deception of prosperity and loss of intimacy with Christ.
So which one are you? We might each be able to say our particular church fits at least mostly into one of these 7 pictures – but in truth, we probably share those characteristics personally as well. Do one of these descriptions fit your congregation? Do one of these descriptions seem to fit you individually – more or less? No doubt, at least one stands out in both cases. And with few exceptions you are probably in a church which reflects your affinity for those in like condition. So, which one are you?
One of the delights of this passage is that in the cases where anything negative is shared – there is counsel given. Neither you nor your church need remain that way. And for the two which have only commendation – there is encouragement to carry on.
To be perfectly honest – I would have to say I tend most toward being an “Ephesian.” Not good. But not un-fixable either. How great is the mercy and grace of our God! But if you were to sit down in the privacy of your own prayer closet with this portion of Scripture before you – where would you locate yourself? Where would you locate your church? And what will you do with the counsel given?
Our Faithful and True Shepherd, loves us too much, to leave us to ourselves. May we respond to that love in appropriate ways. He loves, to help His own recover from whatever we get ourselves into.