Jesus dictated words to seven ancient churches through John in the book of Revelation. Each dictation, “to the angel of the church in…,” begins with the phrase “These are the words of…”, describes commendations and warnings for the church, and ends with a promise for those “who overcome.”
Each church, no matter what their sin or challenge might be, is called to overcome.
It follows, therefore, that the 21st century church in the United States, and everywhere else around the world for that matter, should take on the same instruction to overcome. Jesus’ concludes his words to the last church by saying,
“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Rev. 3:21-22
If we summarize the warnings to these seven ancient churches, we are called to overcome loss of love, idolatry and immorality, false teachings, spiritual deadness and prideful spiritual apathy. No problem.
What must the Church in the United States overcome? How should we overcome?
Here’s where it gets interesting. Jesus overcame the world by completely upending the ways of the world. He rejected power, position, and popularity. He taught with authority and he healed with compassion and mercy. Jesus made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, and then he surrendered to an unjust, painful and humiliating death.
Are we willing to follow that way of life?
As I read Christian publications, blogs and observe congregational life in various churches I notice a bit of a disconnect between the methods we employ in our overcoming and the model of true overcoming that Jesus taught and lived.
Christian leadership conferences and books abound. That’s fine, for we all need to be challenged to lead well. It occurs to me, however, that no one puts on a “Servanthood Conference,” yet Jesus said servanthood is the very definition of a leader.
Jesus instructed us to “go make disciples,” yet church institutions invest heavily in the development of budgets, buildings and brands. They make disciples too, perhaps secondarily. The budget tends to drive the discipleship instead of the other way around.
Jesus rejected what the world valued and valued those whom the world rejected. Can we say the same of our churches? Of ourselves?
Jesus calls us to overcome by surrendering, to lead by serving, to be first by becoming last, and to live by dying. I know all of that, and I believe it, but it is a challenge to live that way.
Can Christians or the Church in the United States overcome in Jesus’ name without submitting to his methods? What does that look like for you?
What would Jesus say to the Church in the United States today?