During the summer I was led to read the Book of Revelations which I have had little contact with. Immediately, I could see a huge benefit from reading the introductory letters to seven churches. Each church was affirmed for where they were at the time and then challenged for their short-falls.
We can see how Christ looked at these churches in Revelations Chapters 2 and 3. For Smyrna and Philadelphia He heaped praise for their faithfulness. For Ephesus, Pergamum and Thyatira He had good things to say and some correction, too. But for Laodicea He saw nothing but condemnation. And for Sardis the report was definitely mixed. He applauded churches for their hard work, perseverance, good deeds done with love and faith, testing of those claiming to be Apostles, those in afflictions and poverty and yet rich in life, those who remain true to His name, who keep His teachings.
Christ criticizes those who follow Balaam, the Nicolaitans and Jezebel, all heretics, those who are “lukewarm wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked,” and those who have forsaken the love they had at first.
I am left with this question for us today and for our churches: What would Christ say about our churches’ strengths and weaknesses? And then, of course, the question becomes even more personal: what are the strengths of my faith in the Lord and where do I fall short of Jesus’s example of worshipping and serving God?
Wouldn’t it be interesting and revealing if each one of us Christians and each one of our churches would take an inventory of where we stand in light of Jesus Christ and all that He taught us about worshiping God –done by all the congregation. Done prayerfully, I think this would be a chance for us all to work at improving our relationship to Our Creator, to keep ourselves in alignment with His Word and His will, to let go of some of the egregious practices and beliefs.
Here are the issues as affirmed in Revelations: 1) hard work, perseverance; 2) no tolerance for evil, no tolerance for beliefs that don’t follow the Gospels; 3) despite afflictions, and poverty you are rich, faithful; 4) true to Christ’s name despite living where Satan reigns; 5) increasing service, love and deeds; 6) despite little strength you kept my word; and 7) never denied God’s name, blessings.
As to the church’s short-falls, they are 1) they forsook the love they had; 2) some hold to beliefs of Balaam and Nicolaitans–heresies; 3) some hold to Jezebel’s beliefs, more heresies, immorality and consumption of food sacrificed to other gods; 4) deeds unfinished, dead inside; 5) lukewarm, wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
This prayerful inventory was what leaped out at me after reading the first three chapters of Revelations. If it is done with Christ’s input as the whole congregation prays, there is a great chance that we would actually hear the improvements we should make and the things and attitudes that we must release. An inventory every five or ten years would certainly keep us on track with God’s will as He sees the group of souls called to each particular church, even within a denomination. Any self-satisfaction and approval might find that it doesn’t belong in our church. It would be a humbling inventory, a chance to really express God’s will in our collective lives. How can we do without it, when we are such flawed human beings? It would keep us on track with the will of God.
And then there is the personal inventory which I think should precede the congregation’s. With Christ’s help we could begin to ask the questions and seek the answers that would deepen our relationship with Him. We could hear what we need to let go of and what we need to embrace and change.
If we are true to our God and ask His guidance in addressing in us what needs to be healed and transformed, then we will be more open to hearing what Christ is saying about the congregation’s need to grow and change. It’s important to involve the whole congregation, not just the leadership, for who knows who will speak God’s wisdom?
While a church might do this kind of inventory every five or ten years, the personal inventory could be done yearly. Wouldn’t we want to stay on track with God and His desires for us? This may seem like an onerous task either for a church or for a person, but it is meant to be an enlightening one that brings us closer to God.
Questions to ponder over the week: Have I ever done this kind of inventory of my personal relationship with Christ? Has my church ever done one as a whole congregation? What do I think I would gain or lose by doing such an inventory? What could my church gain or lose? Who is the focus of my spiritual like, Jesus Christ or my church?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who bring our whole selves before God regularly to hear what He has to say to us. May we be people of prayer who seek God’s counsel in everything we do. May our churches do the same.
If you want to read this blog post in full, go to patsaidadams.com/by-the-waters-blog/. If you’d like to receive my blog five days a week in your email, go to patsaidadams.com/by-the-waters-blog/. There’s a gift waiting for you.
Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life.
I am collecting conversion stories. I am still not sure what the Lord’s intention is for collecting these, but if you would care to share yours, I would only use your initials to identify the author.
 Revelations 2:8-10, Rev. 3:7-10
 Rev. 3:14-18
 Rev. 3:1-5
 Rev. 3:17