What would Jesus say if he came to your church?
Last week in Episode 106, in my conversation with Markus Watson, we talked about the challenges facing churches today and how a church can discover its own unique voice in blessing its community. During our conversation I asked Markus “What would Jesus say to our churches today?”
His response was delightful:
“He would say, ‘I love you guys. Follow me.’ “
Ever since we talked, I’ve shared Markus’s answer with lots of folks. I’ve thought about his answer and kept asking the question, “What would Jesus say to our churches today?”
Today’s episode is basically about some of the possible answers to that question.
If Jesus came to your church
From one perspective, I have no idea what Jesus would say to my church, your church, or any church. Every church is different.
Jesus often tailored his message to say just what a particular individual needed to hear. It’s reasonable to imagine he would do the same with the many different churches, their needs, their strengths and weaknesses, and the challenges they face.
But from another perspective, since “we have the mind of Christ” as Paul says (1 Corinthians 2:16), is it possible to discern the spirit of what Jesus would say to our churches? I think it is.
Jesus’s core message never changed
I think that’s why Markus could say in last week’s episode that if Jesus walked into your church, he would say, “I love you guys. Follow me.”
But I think it’s also reasonable to assume he would say to us the things he said to his disciples and the people who followed him. He would tell us we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He would tell us to love God with all our hearts, and love our neighbors as ourselves.
He would rebuke the self-righteous, Pharisaical thoughts wherever he found them.
He would be patient with us.
He would probably rebuke our lack of faith, just as he did with his disciples. But his rebukes would come, not in condemnation, but from the immense depth of love in his heart for us. How would you respond if he rebuked you?
He would teach us the Scriptures and open them up in way we could see and understand things we had never seen before.
But most of all, I believe he would tell us about the kingdom of heaven, that it is here and within us, and our need to repent, to completely change the way we see and think about God, ourselves, and creation, to change from a material, earth-based view to a spiritual, heaven-based perspective.
What would Jesus say today?
I’m going to take great liberties to paraphrase some of the things Jesus said almost 2,000 years ago into how he might say things today.
Let’s start with a few things from the Sermon on the Mount.
Blessed are those who have been abused, for my Father is healing their wounds.
Blessed are those who have been silenced, for God hears the desires of their heart.
Blessed are those who have been taught they are unworthy of my Father’s love, for they shall hear the voice of God saying, ‘This is My beloved child in whom I am well pleased.’
Blessed are you when you get kicked out of your church for following me, for I welcome you into my church.
Don’t brag about or be impressed with how many people follow you on Twitter or Instagram or like your memes full of what I said 2,000 years ago. Rather, strive for and be grateful when you have helped someone come to know and love my Father in heaven.
When you pray, don’t start with the problem. Start with the solution: Our Father, His holiness, His kingdom. Earnestly desire to follow His will. Quit telling my Father what you want and ask what He wants for you. He knows what you really need already. You can’t inform Him of something He doesn’t already know.
Don’t be impressed with how many people are coming to your church or think your church is better if it has more people.
And don’t be concerned if your church is very small. Focus on the kingdom of my Father. Look for it in your members, yes, all of them, including yourself. Look for it in the community. It’s there. You just need to bear witness to it and share it with others.
Would you just get over your self-righteousness already? Please! And don’t be so judgmental. It’s not your job to decide how sinful someone else is. You need to work on yourself first. This applies to each of you individually but as the whole church too.
Be more compassionate with the people you think of as sinners. They need to feel my love for them shining through your heart, through your words and actions. Your condemnation will not help them know and love me.
What do you think Jesus would say to people in your church who needed healing?
Take a moment and seriously think about this.
First let’s talk about what he would not say. He would not tell them God sent them a challenge to test them to see if they’re faithful or to teach them to be patient.
He might rebuke the sickness as he did with Peter’s mother-in-law or the fellow who was possessed with a devil.
He might say to someone who had been told their pain and discomfort were a result of their sins, “Quit carrying around that bed full of the thorns from man-made dogmas. I have washed away your sins. You are whole and free right now in my Father’s kingdom.”
He might say to someone who has a debilitating disease, “Do you have more fear of the disease or in God’s love for you and my ability to heal you?”
Or he might not say anything. He might just quietly look around your church with compassion.
What if your whole church would obey Jesus?
Now, let me reiterate, I really don’t know what Jesus would say to your church. Except that he would only say what God told him to say. And whatever it was, it would be with love and the motive to bless and strengthen everyone there.
As a prayerful exercise, I encourage you to look at some of your favorite things Jesus said and did and imagine how he would express those same ideas to the members of your church.
We usually read Jesus’s words and think how they apply to us as individuals. But what if we took his teachings as if he were instructing us as a church body. How can we obey him collectively in addition to individually?
It’s tempting to think of how he would condemn all those other people who you think are doing things wrong, but try to look at how Jesus would express his love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness to all your church members, including you.
Jesus has spoken to the seven churches in Asia
The more I’ve thought about this idea of what Jesus would say to our churches today, the more I’ve realized he really has already said what every church needs to hear in the book of Revelation.
I’m not going to go into great detail here, but the chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation contain what Jesus told John to tell the seven churches of Asia.
The number 7 often represents completeness in the Bible and these seven churches are symbolic of the whole of churchdom, the Church Universal, so to speak.
The challenges, the struggles, and the mistakes, the victories, and the defeats these seven churches experienced are indicative of what the whole Christian church faces today.
In effect Jesus is saying to our churches today the same thing he revealed to John about those seven churches almost 2,000 years ago.
What can we learn?
Let’s look briefly at some of the important points. If you’d like to study this in more detail, read Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation.
Jesus instructs John to write letters to the churches in Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Each letter contains
- A description of Christ’s glory
- Jesus’s declaration, “I know your works.”
- A promise to those who overcome, are victorious, or conquer [the ways of the world]
- The call: “Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Most of the churches are rebuked for allowing various ways of the world to creep into their thinking, their lives, and their approach to worship.
But if there is something good in a church, even if it is a very small morsel of good, Jesus notices and commends it.
What is Christ saying to your church?
Be open to how Christ is speaking to your church today. Does your church face some of the same challenges these churches faced?
Are you holding fast to your faith in spite of the temptations all around?
Is your church caught up in worldly ways, to small or large degree, and need to repent?
I encourage you to be open to what applies to you and your church and hear what Christ is saying to you today.
The seven churches in Asia
Here’s a brief summary of what Jesus has to say to each of these seven churches.
Ephesus: Jesus acknowledges their works, their labor and patience, their intolerance for evil, including the Nicolaitans, their perseverance and endurance of many hardships. They have not grown weary in all their toil.
But he rebukes them for forsaking the original love they had. He calls them to repentance and to return to the love and the kinds of things they did originally.
Smyrna: Jesus acknowledges their tribulations and poverty, but points out that they are actually rich in Spirit. But he also know the slanderous attitude of those who claim to be true believers. He warns of coming persecution but encourages them to be faithful and promises them a crown of victory.
Pergamos: Jesus acknowledges the faithfulness of this church in a hostile, worldly environment. But he rebukes those who are swayed by teachings contrary to Christ, including Balaam’s moral laxness in regards to idols and sexual immorality, and the Nicolaitans. He calls them to repentance and warns of the consequences if they continue in their worldly ways.
Thyatira: Jesus acknowledges their works, their love and faith, their service, perseverance, and the fact they are doing more now than when their church began. But he rebukes the spirit of Jezebel among their members which misleads them into sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. He urges the need for repentance and for those who have not been led astray, to hold on to their faith.
Sardis: Jesus acknowledges their reputation for being alive but tells them bluntly they are actually dead spiritually. They have started good works and deeds but haven’t brought them to completion. He urges them to wake up, repent, and strengthen the little that is left but is about to die. He acknowledges there are a few who still are faithful and promises these are worthy to walk with him.
Philadelphia: Jesus acknowledges their good deeds and that they have kept his word and not denied his name. He promises that those who claim to be believers, but are not, will be humbled and acknowledge Jesus’s love for the faithful ones. He gives them an open door that no one can shut. Because they have been so faithful, he will keep them from the trials that are coming in the world. He encourages them to hold on to their faith so no one can take their crown of victory from them.
Laodicea: Jesus acknowledges their works and that they are lukewarm in all they do. Either hot or cold would be better than lukewarm! He warns them he is about to spit them out of his mouth because of their ho-hum attitude. He rebukes their ease and trust in material wealth and points out they are spiritually bankrupt, pitiful, wretched, blind ,and naked. He urges them to acquire true gold from him, refined by fire, so they can be spiritually rich, clothed with righteousness, and see clearly. He points out he is rebuking them because he loves them and encourages them to repent.
To each church Jesus said,
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
“What the Spirit says to the churches.” We’re supposed to hear what the Spirit says to all seven churches not just one of them. And we need to continually listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our churches.
Jesus also made a promise to each church, to those who overcame the worldly ways which tempted them and many had succumbed to.
Here are those promises to those who overcome. They apply to all Christian churches throughout all time. (See below for verse numbers.)
- To the one who is victorious, I [Jesus] will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
- The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
- To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
- To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give that one the morning star.
- The one who is victorious will, like them (see verse 4), be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
- The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.
- To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.
These are the things Jesus is saying to your church.
I encourage you, collectively as a church, to think deeply and pray to hear what Jesus said to the seven churches in Asia 2,000 years ago.
What is relevant to your church? Listen earnestly for what Christ is saying to your church today.
What would Jesus say to your church?
Christ is always present to guide your church, show you the way, acknowledge what you do well, rebuke whatever needs to be rebuked, and showers your church with spiritual blessings when you overcome the temptations of the world. Why? It’s all about love.
What would Jesus say to your church? To requote Markus Watson from last week, He would say, “I love you guys. Come. Follow me.”
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Bible quotes this week
1 Corinthians 2:16 ESV
16 …we have the mind of Christ.
Matthew 4:17 ESV
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Luke 17:21 KJV
21 behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; Revelation 3:6, 13, 22 NIV
Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
Revelation 2:7 NIV
7 To the one who is victorious, I [Jesus] will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
Revelation 2:11 NIV
11 The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
Revelation 2:17 NIV
17 To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.
Revelation 2:26-28 NIV
26 To the one who is victorious and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—
27 that one ‘will rule them with an iron scepter and will dash them to pieces like pottery’ (see Psalm 2:9)—just as I have received authority from my Father.
28 I will also give that one the morning star.
Revelation 3:5 NIV
5 The one who is victorious will, like them (see verse 4), be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.
Revelation 3:12 NIV
12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name.
Revelation 3:21 NIV
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.