The Parish of Burchetts Green

This month Rev Keith writes about

What makes a healthy church?

The Laodicean church understood perfectly what Jesus meant. Jesus was accusing them of being bland, neither one side of the fence nor the other. They were middle-of-the-road about everything, including Jesus.They lacked passion. Anything for a quiet life!

But Jesus isn't like that. Jesus constantly ruffled the feathers of the elite, proclaiming the truth whatever the consequences. He never sat on the fence. Being casual about following Jesus isn't an option, because he finds it offensive.

The message for us

Our society, at least in theory, frowns upon anything which it sees as immoderate. But in practice, whilst it preaches a so-called tolerance, it vigorously suppresses views it doesn't like. Through the media, arts, universities, comedy, a party line is preached, others are belittled, not least traditional Christian beliefs and values.

As we plan for the future of our churches, the soft option, suiting ourselves, making ourselves feel comfortable, is not what we should be about. For Jesus, size is not everything, neither is outward appearance, what really matters is a passion for Jesus and his Gospel.

The letters to the churches end with one of the most well-known verses in the Bible. 'Here I am!' Jesus says. I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in.' So today let's recommit ourselves to Jesus and his word. He stands at the door and knocks; will we open it?  

Before Easter in our churches, we read though seven letters written by the risen Jesus to seven early churches. They're a bit like the end of term reports sent to parents when we were at school! But these churches were 'types' - the message was intended for all churches for all time, for each of the letters ends with the refrain: 'Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'

What Jesus affirms

As we read through the letters, we found Jesus affirming the churches. From these commendations we build up a picture of what makes a healthy church from Jesus' perspective: those keeping his word and remaining true to his name; patiently enduring hard times; growing in love, faith, service, hard work, not tolerating wicked people.

Jesus' criticisms

Amongst the affirmations there were criticisms: criticisms of churches that look good from an outsider's point of view (maybe great facilities, lots of activity), but which have lost their first love of Jesus himself.

Or churches that have assimilated harmful practices from the surrounding culture, churches that tolerate bad people, churches that have allowed themselves to be misled by superficially attractive, but ultimately false, teaching.

You make me sick!

The churches are told to turn away from these things, to repent, before it's too late. But the most severe criticism is reserved for the last of the churches, Laodicea. 'You make me sick', Jesus says. Why? Because they were lukewarm in their faith - they were neither hot nor cold.


Archive: The thoughts of the Ministry Team