One of my favorite passages in Scripture as expounded in New Church Doctrine is John’s letters to the seven churches in Asia from Revelation 2-3. According to Apocalypse Revealed, these different churches represent different types of Christians. The big value for me in the Apocalypse Revealed exposition is a.) seeing where I am and how I’m called to move forward, and b.) recognizing that just because other believers come at faith differently than I do does not make them “wrong.”
Last week I thought I would start a series of posts about each church – until I realized that I already did this in a post from last year. What I didn’t do last year was provide a single-page summary of all the churches and the types of Christian they describe. So, here, a year and three months late, is that summary page, with links to the fuller descriptions of each church. Which one best describes you? (I spend a lot of time in Ephesus, for what it’s worth.)
Ephesus Christians care about doctrine, and they care about it getting it right. They play an important role in the Church (holding fast to the truth really does matter) but they’re in danger of “forgetting their first love” – i.e. losing sight of the fact that Christians are defined first by their love, and not their theology.
Smyrna Christians are well-intentioned but not always well-informed. Their faith is real, and they try to put that faith into action, but misguided beliefs and untrustworthy influences sometimes take them off course, leading to “tribulation” and struggles.
Pergamos Christians take to heart that the central message of Christianity is love in action. Their focus on doing good is rightly placed, but a lack of concern for doctrine and theology makes them susceptible to error, and in particular to the “stumbling block” of believing that their good deeds make them superior to or more worthy than others.
Thyatira Chrisians put faith first. In a good sense, they are Christians whose faithful lives serve as inspiration to other Christians. But they can also fall into the trap of mistaking faith for mere intellectual assent rather than a living faithfulness.
Sardis Christians focus on the rites and rituals of the Christian life – attending church, saying prayers, participating in the sacraments. When inspired by love and faith their worship is a physical expression of spiritual reality, but they run the risk of getting too caught up in appearances and gaining a “name for being alive although they are dead.”
Philadelphia Christians are mature Christians, “pillars of the church,” who marry faith and love in lives of service. They’ve walked long enough in the Christian faith to recognize their own shortcomings, and they exhibit genuine humility.
Laodicea Christians are inconsistent, “lukewarm” Christians. They waver back and forth between faithfulness and unfaithfulness. They are called to commit themselves to following the Lord, to “be zealous and repent.”
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