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WHERE WOULD JESUS PLACE MEMBERSHIP
PLEASE READ REVELATION 2-3

There is about as much variety now-a-days in congregations as there is in fast-food. Churches come big and little; warm and cold; young and old. Some are entertainment oriented; others are missionminded. There are liberal churches, sound churches, and "anti" churches. Some are active and working; others are happy keeping the bills paid and the grass mowed.

Over a lifetime, most Christians move several times due to school, marriage, and job opportunities. Usually, when a family moves into a community, they visit all area congregations to find one with which they feel comfortable and useful. They consider: faithfulness to God's Word, opportunities for service, friendliness, programs of work, youth classes and activities, age makeup of membership, the leadership, the preacher, and the building's location.

If Jesus were seeking to place membership with a congregation, what kind would He choose? Once He gave an appraisal of seven churches located in the same geographic area (Rev. 2-3) and, from careful study, we find what Jesus looks for in a church (cf. Heb. 13:8).

JESUS WANTS A CHURCH ... THAT HAS NOT LEFT ITS FIRST LOVE (2:1-8). The church at Ephesus was told to repent because of bad attitudes. God is concerned with "heart trouble" and will not accept right actions springing from insincere hearts. Christ wants His church to be  friendly warm, and considerate of others. Non-Christians recognize that we are of Christ by our love (Jn. 13:33-34). People want to be a part of a warm church where members genuinely love each other and are not afraid to show it (cf I Pet. 1:22; Phile. 1:5). All need to remember that the church is only as warm, loving, and friendly as each member!

... THAT IS RICH (WITHOUT MONEY) (2:8-11). The church at Smyrna did not have much money or a nice building, but Christ said they were rich (2:9). Many people today look for a church that is wealthy and influential with a cathedral-like building, all-purpose gymnasium, and outward signs of prosperity. These do not impress the Lord. He would rather churches faithfully use funds to be "rich in good works" than to have big bank accounts and fancy buildings.

... THAT DOES NOT TOLERATE FALSE DOCTRINE (2:12-17). The church at Pergamos was too tolerant of those who taught the doctrine of Balaam and the Nicolaitanes. Christ said He hated these false teachings (3:15), but the persons of Pergamos wanted "to live and let live," be "broad-minded," and "not hurt anyone's feelings." They failed to realize that they were hurting God's feelings by dishonoring His name, disregarding His truth, destroying His church, and damning innocent souls. We are to test preachers (I Jn. 4: 1), mark those which cause divisions (Rm. 16:17), be set for the defense of the Gospel (Phil. 1: 17), and earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3). We should not desire to be a part of a church that invites (or supports) those who are not sound in the faith (Gal. 1:69). God does not long tolerate those who tolerate false teachers (2 Jn. 9-11).

... THAT DOES NOT FELLOWSHIP THE IMMORAL (2:18-29). Jezebel worshipped at Thyatira and shamed Christ's church by her immorality (2:22-23). The Corinthian church had a similar problem with a member committing adultery with his father's wife (I Cor. 5:1). Paul's inspired solution was, "deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (5:5). Today many churches openly fellowship those who are living in adultery (Mt. 19:9), allow immodest "pool parties" and "beach devotionals" (I Tim. 2:9; Mt. 5:28), silently sanction teens as majorettes, dancing girls, and cheerleaders (Jas. 4:4; 1 Pet. 2:11), and implicitly support dancing (Gal. 5:19-2 1). It is important to stress the importance of the lifelong marriage (Gen. 2:24), the strictness of God's regulations on divorce and remarriage (Mt. 19:9), and the sinfulness of sexual activity outside of the marriage bed (Heb. 13:4). Christ is no more pleased with this than He was with the church at Thyatira.

... THAT IS NOT DEAD (3:1-6). The church at Sardis had a reputation of being alive, but Jesus said they were dead. They probably were known for their social schedule but Christ was looking for spiritual strength. Were they "zealous of good works" (Tit. 2:14)? Were they interested in church growth, devotional living, Bible study, supporting missionaries, inviting friends to visit, building up the faith of young Christians, helping widows and orphans, and encouraging the downtrodden? Such is evident of spiritual life (Jas. 1:27).

...THAT "HAST KEPT MY WORK" (3:7-13).   Every church was measured by the same ruler and was commended or condemned by how well they obeyed the truth. The faithful church at Philadelphia was complimented because it was neither liberal nor anti, but scriptural. This should be one's first concern in choosing a church home. Is the truth taught faithfully  and do the elders demand that members obey it? If these questions can be answered affirmatively, then Christ is pleased with that church, and we can feel comfortable working and worshipping there.

... THAT IS NOT LUKEWARM (3:14-22). Maintaining status quo is not enough; resisting going backward is not progressing; just reaching the line of scrimmage does not score touchdowns! Christ wants His people ever on the firing line, never satisfied while souls remain in Satan's clutches. A church full of Sundaymorning Christians made the Lord sick at Laodicea and still does today. Such are "spued" from His mouth (3:15). We must be careful  that the cares of this world do not slow us down in heaven's race (I Cor. 9:26-27), that the deceitfulness of riches does not blur our vision of spiritual things (2 Cor. 5:7), and that the pleasures of this world do not become more important to us than a favorable resurrection (Heb. 11:10; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). We must be zealous, dedicated, enthusiastic, energetic, and "on fire" for every good word and work (2 Thes. 2:17).

Christ IS choosing congregations today. No, He will not place His name on a church roll, but He is placing names on heaven's roll. He still removes candlesticks and blots out sinner's names from the Book of Life. Though each will be judged individually, the local church one attends will largely determine whether or not he/she goes to heaven. Let us make the church what Christ expects. Then when someone visits and desires to work with us, no apology need be made. If it is good enough for the Lord, it is good enough for His servants!

by Allen Webster