Church membership problems
“Unto the angel of the church of Thyatira write . . . I know thy works” (See Revelation 2:18-29, RSV).
The vision of Jesus presented to the church at Thyatira is particularly awesome (and I try hard to use the word “awesome” as infrequently as possible). He is called “The Son of God.” He is described as having “eyes like unto a flame of fire” – blazing in anger against the church.His feet are “like fine brass” – meaning that in his judgment he is immoveable, uncompromising, and there will be no backing down. What happens when a church or individual faces this vision of Christ? Truth is, either Jesus is dead and gone and we don’t have to worry about him, or we need to take Lent, Easter, and the Resurrection very seriously!
The Lord speaks and Thyatira receives her compliment (19). That must have been some relief! She is commended for her “good works”, which were apparently inspired by worthy motives. This congregation is known for “love, faith, service, and patient endurance.” The pilgrims appear to be making progress. The reputation of this church was impressive. One writer described the praise as “lavish”. Most Christians would feel good to be a part of this band of believers. Think about it: love and faith, service and endurance. Isn’t this the very ideal of Christian living?
Nevertheless, Thyatira receives her criticism (20-25). There is a problem within the membership. It’s worth noting that while some churches face threats from the outside, many churches face perhaps even greater threats from the inside. A woman was being permitted to corrupt the life and influence of this church (20). She is called a “Jezebel” – a reference to the idolatrous queen who introduced Baal worship to Israel. She advocated promiscuity and idolatry. Those who listened (with itching ears) to this woman embraced the idea that the body is not important and that God is only interested in the “spirit.” Such thinking was and is heretical. Salvation (and Christian commitment) involves heart, soul, mind, and body (strength). This is why the Apostle Paul calls us to “present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to the Lord, which is our reasonable service” (Romans 12:2). Many congregations fall prey to a “personality cult”, It may be “preacher worship” or a single family that is allowed to “run the church” or an church officer who wields too much power and influence. his is always unhealthy. It’s good to be a member of the body, but it’s dangerous to have too much notoriety. It’s one thing to be remembered as “Antipas the faithful martyr” and quite another to be known as a “Jezebel”!
Perhaps the church at Thyatira thought that so long as the good outweighed the bad everything was alright. Not so! The challenge to this church was to “hold fast” (25). Don’t be deceived by what is happening and don’t be shaken that others are deceived. If the church will deal with its internal problems in a loving but uncompromising way, then they will be given “power over the nations” (26) and “receive the Morning Star” (28). That is, we will reign with Christ and walk with Christ. All the good works in the world cannot hide from Christ the secret sins that are in our hearts (and in our churches). “Let him who has an ear hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”
Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.