It’s a dangerous time for the church. There’s no denying it. There’s no point burying your head in the sand. Every church is in danger—and that includes yours.
In Revelation chapters 2 and 3, we read about seven churches and the dangers they faced—the very same dangers that we still face today. It’s both a warning that we need to be on our guard and, much more importantly, an encouragement that we can trust fully in our all-powerful, all-conquering Savior.
As you read through these seven dangers that could be facing your church, don’t forget that God is with us, God is for us, and God guides us through his Word.
1. Loveless Orthodoxy
The church in Ephesus battled false teachers and their false doctrines. By the time we get to Revelation 2, though, the Ephesian church had righted its doctrinal ship. Sadly, in their battle for doctrinal purity, they forgot about love. Right doctrine and right church practices, while important, do not in and of themselves make a church a healthy community or a faithful witness. As Paul reminds us, if we do not have love we are “a noisy gong or clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Is your church in danger of fighting for doctrinal purity apart from love?
2. Fear of Suffering
Persecution is the world’s rage against God’s king (Jesus), and Christians always get caught up in it. However, it’s easy to forget or overlook the fact that God permits Christian suffering for his glory and our good. We must learn to endure all things, safe in the confidence that we will be conformed to the image of Christ. However, there’s a real danger that instead, we will do our best to avoid suffering and live a comfortable Christian life. If we do this, we’ll miss out on God’s refining work in us.
In this hostile world, the temptation to compromise our biblical convictions in order to “fit in” is strong. When our faith is challenged, will we continue to believe that Jesus’ words are true and good, or will we turn to the words of someone else? We must not compromise on the truth. Is your church in danger of having its faith chipped away whether by the opinions of society around them or through false teaching?
In the name of “love,” the church is tempted to not address sin and not practice church discipline. Love, after all, “is patient.” So, when it comes to speaking the hard truths of the Bible to those we love, we are far too often willing to tolerate sin. Could this be true of your church?
5. A Good Reputation
Even in these dangerous times, though, some churches still appear to flourish. They have “good reputations” in their communities. Consequently, they may be tempted to think they’re OK, healthy, out of danger from the world’s rage. When we’re tempted to trust in our “good name,” we must ask ourselves, “Do we care more about what people think of us or about doing and saying necessary hard things in love?” Too many churches have chased name recognition, but not cherished the gospel. What about yours?
The majority of churches in the world, though, are not large. They’re quite small and unimpressive in the world’s eyes. If you’re tempted to compare your church to “other” churches of “good name” and large influence, you will be in danger of becoming discouraged because of a lack of visible success. We must continually remind ourselves that God values our faithfulness to him. He looks at our hearts, not the size of our congregations, the number of baptisms, or the amount of our budgets. Don’t be discouraged! Remain faithful!
Sadly, in many cases, today’s church is no different than the world. Just like the world, we depend on our ingenuity, wealth, and resources. Our affluence so easily deceive us into believing we don’t need anyone else, not even God. We’re in danger of relying on our prosperity. When we do, we will stop relying on the risen Christ for everything we need. Who or what is your church relying on?
How your church is doing?
We are all weak in some (or lots of) ways, but we have a mighty saviour who cherishes us, graciously warns us of pitfalls, and who has won the ultimate victory on our behalf. You see, in Revelation 2-3, Jesus not only exposes these seven dangers facing the church, he also provides the answer: look to the risen Christ and long for his return.
I wrote Seven Dangers Facing Your Church for every church leader and member committed to playing their part in helping their local church thrive in an increasingly hostile environment. I pray this book will be a great encouragement to you and your church. Download a free chapter here.