What does Jesus want to say to the church in the West? To the church in North America? To the church in the South, or in New England, or in the Midwest? What does Jesus want to say to your church?

That all depends: what is your church like? Where are you strong? Where are you weak? We live in a big country with hundreds of thousands of churches. If you think the issue out there is too much law, you’d be right. If you think the issue is cheap grace, you’d be right about that too. Jesus wouldn’t say just one thing to the church in this country–let alone in the West or in the world–because the church in this country is diffuse and diverse.

If Jesus had seven different letters for the churches in Asia Minor, I imagine he’d have more than one thing to say to the churches in North America.

Ephesus was your listless, loveless church. They were orthodox, moral, and hard working.  But they weren’t concerned about the lost and may not have been too concerned about each other. They were doctrinally sound, naval-gazers. To them and to us, Jesus says, “Love.”

Smyrna was your persecuted, 10-40 window church. They were afflicted, slandered, and impoverished. But they were spiritually rich. They were vibrant, but fearful. To them and to us, Jesus says, “Be faithful.”

Pergamum was your ungrounded, youth-infused church. They were faithful, passionate witnesses. But they had compromised with the world and accommodated to their sexually immoral and idolatrous culture. They were missional, but misguided. To them and to us, Jesus says, “Discern.”

Thyatira was your warm-hearted, liberal church. They were strong in compassion, service, and perseverance. But they undervalued doctrinal fidelity and moral purity. They were loving, but over-tolerant. To them and to us, Jesus says, “Think.”

Sardis was your flashy and successful, but ultimately shallow megachurch. They were like your big Bible-belt churches chocked full with nominal Christians. They had a great reputation. But in reality, they were spiritually dead. They were the church of the white-washed tombs. To them and to us, Jesus says, “Wake up.”

Philadelphia was your small, storefront, urban church. They felt weak and unimpressive. But they had kept the word of God and not denied his name. They were a struggling, strong church.  To them and to us, Jesus says, “Press on.”

Laodicea was your ritzy, influential church out in the leafy part of town. They thought they had it all together. But they were as spiritually poor as they were materially rich. The church was filled with affluence and apathy. To them and to us, Jesus says, “Be earnest.”

We all tend to see certain errors more clearly than others. Nothing wrong with that, as long as we see our own dangers most clearly and don’t presume that every church has the same problems. We must pay attention to the whole counsel of God. We need to study all of it and preach from all of it, not just the stuff that hits our sweet spot. God has a word for all of us—if we are willing to look hard enough and willing to listen.

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10 thoughts on “A Word for Us All”

  1. C says:

    He’s good on Twitter.

  2. Paul Reed says:

    Paul’s letter to Laodicea supposedly didn’t survive. It always made me wonder — if it were ever recovered, should it become part of scripture?

  3. Melody says:

    Thanks for pointing this out. It’s good to recognize which church we are and correct for that. And also, it’s good for me to see that churches I only see the problems with also had GOOD things going for them too.

  4. Ben Pearson says:

    @ Paul
    No, because If Paul’s letter to Laodicea was supposed to be part of scripture we would have it today.

    I like this reminder that there isn’t just one problem in the church today. I hope that we would be shown what are problem is and stop focusing on all the others.

  5. Ted Bigelow says:

    “What does Jesus want to say to the church in the West?”

    Hi all,

    To hear Jesus’ letters to us, we need to hear them as He wrote them to others. That will mean we’ll have to read His words as written.

    Which means, first, He did not write a letter to the “church (singular) of Asia.” He wrote 7 letters to 7 churches. And at the end of each He said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

    Thus, there was no “church in Asia” to Jesus. He recognized no such entity, He addressed no such entity, and never taught us to expect him to, or that we should look for such. Such things we call church are merely man-made abstractions.

    Thus, there is no “church in the West,” either, to which Jesus Christ might write a letter.

    So too there is no “church in North America.. the church in the South, or the church of New England, or in the Midwest….” which might receive a letter.

    Which means, Kev, to ask the questions,

    “What does Jesus want to say to the church in the West? To the church in North America? To the church in the South, or in New England, or in the Midwest?”

    means you weren’t “willing to look hard enough and willing to listen.”

    You did ask, “What does Jesus want to say to your church?” Definitely the right question for me and my church, as for you and yours.

    But it’s right there I, or anyone of us, will be easily deceived if I think myself able to judge such profound matters as “Is my church strong” or “Is my church weak.”

    Take Sardis. They has a name they were alive, but Jesus said they were dead.
    Who thought Sardis was alive? Both themselves, and other Christians. Not the world, b/c the world doesn’t call churches “alive” or dead.” That’s an insider judgment.

    The dead were judging a church as alive. Got it?

    And every professing Christian in Asia who thought the church in Sardis was an alive church was wrong. Dead wrong. Jesus said, “you are dead.”

    But what Jesus does speak to your church is to the group of people you meet with Sunday after to worship Him, both individually and institutionally. Thus the proper question, if we would take our understanding of church from Jesus, is what Kevin say: What does Jesus want to say to your church?”

    But first, we have to understand what Jesus means by church, and not insert into the word our own meanings.

    I’ve written an article on this in the hope we can merge churches in the same locale. Please read http://www.churchsonefoundation.com/jesus-defines-his-church/

  6. Travis says:

    If I may ask a question. You have thousands of denominations in America that say thy preach the whole of scripture. Yet they can not agree on basic fundamentals set forth by scripture.

    Is the scripture divided like the church?

    I will stick to what the Ecumenical Councils say and not what my own interpretations are. This is not to say you shouldn’t read the scripture, please read it, but look at what those who succeeded the apostles have to say before you become the pope of your household or congregation.

  7. Travis says:

    @Ben

    Did you know Revelation was not going to be apart of scripture, and other letters were intended to be apart of it, that is why the scripture of the early Church and your scripture look different.

    The formation of the the New Testament is interesting, it was a process that took hundreds of years.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (RCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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