This article was written by the late Dr. Bob Brady, who was a long-time mentor of mine. He used Revelation chapters 2 and 3 as a basis. Bob was asking of the text, what can we learn about the characteristics of a Christ-pleasing church as we read the affirmations and rebukes of Jesus as He addresses the seven churches?
Defends Truth: The members and church leaders will not tolerate false teachings (Rev. 2:2). The most Christlike members govern as “undershepherds.” Biblical qualifications for leadership are taken seriously and applied consistently. Leaders provide Christlike examples.
Expresses Love: Members express a Christlike sacrificial love for God, each other, and the lost (Rev. 2:4). There is a demonstrated oneness and love among members of the Body. This oneness and love is visible to the world, “that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:23b).
High Moral Standards: Leaders and members will not tolerate immorality in the Body of Christ (Rev. 2:6; 2:14-15; 2:20). There will be a clear distinction between the life-style and values of Christians and those of the world. The world will take notice that church members had been with Jesus, and call them Christ-like-ones again. Moreover, Christians will be what the Apostle said, “…you are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor 3:2-3). Their lives will lend credibility to the gospel of the kingdom.
Sacrificial: There will be a willingness to suffer the loss of everything to gain Christ, this world is not their home. Members will sacrifice for the cause of Christ (Rev. 2:9-10). Investing His resources to gain the greatest increase before He returns will be a high priority. The increase will be measured by what Christ commanded as the task of highest priority, making disciples of all peoples. The structures of the church will facilitate “proper working” (Eph 4:16) of each part in terms of building up the whole to accomplish this task. Moreover, this task will affect every decision; in contrast to the way today’s church invests the Lord’s money. Presently 95% of the Church’s financial resources in the United States are being spent on ministry to Christians in the form of buildings, programs, and staff. Of the other 5% being spent on ministry to the world, only one-half of one percent is invested in taking the gospel to “unreached people groups.” ( source: U.S. Center for World Missions 1995). Moreover, many church conflicts have their roots in disputes over control issues related to buildings and finances. In addition, effective stewardship will be measured by lives given as “living sacrifices” not just in financial terms.
Faithful Witness to Christ Jesus: Members will hold fast the name of Christ and not deny His name. They are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ Jesus (Rev. 2:13). Those under the reign of Christ Jesus will be sent into the world, just as the Father sent Him into the world. They will be sent with the same gospel of the kingdom as ambassadors of reconciliation. Jesus came into the world “… to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (Jn 18:37). He made this witness before Pilate. In like manner, the Apostle Paul made the witness before rulers of this world.
Spiritual Growth (in agape, faith, service and perseverance): Deeds are greater than at first, showing growth toward the maturity of Christ Jesus (Rev. 2:19). “Good works” will be performed in the world motivated by agape. The Church will be assaulting the spiritual strongholds of darkness with the light of the Word, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. The members of Christ’s body will be in the world but not of the world. They will know the un-churched and their needs serving them in the name of Christ Jesus as bridges for the gospel of the kingdom and demonstration of Christ’s love. Moreover, members will demonstrate interdependency on each one’s spiritual gifts, and leaders will be encouraging exercise of every member’s gifts for the edification of all.
Authentic Spiritual Life: Not an appearance of being “alive,” but rather true spirituality (Rev. 3:1-2). One does not “accept” Jesus as an add-on to one’s life. One surrenders to Him as Lord – the old life is crucified. It involves repentance from self-rule. There will be a clear understanding that conversion is a change of allegiance. Now Christ Jesus is Lord. To live is Christ. Furthermore, one joins a new people. There is no relationship with Jesus apart from his Body the Church. “…so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another” (Rom 12:5). The proof of God’s Spirit indwelling members will be a Christ-like life being transformed into His image.
Discipline/Repentance: Leaders and members will take sin seriously, respond to God’s correction with repentance, and exercise church discipline (Rev. 3:3). Members will submit to their leaders. Leaders will rule well accountable to Christ as Lord of the Church.
Obedience to Scripture: “You have kept my word and not denied my name.” “Whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him” (Rev. 3:8; also see I Jn. 2:5-6). Therefore, God has put before this church an open door no one can shut to make disciples of all peoples (Rev. 3:8). The Lord’s purpose is primary.
Passion for the Cause of Christ: Not “lukewarm;” God’s purpose in Christ Jesus causes their hearts to burn as Christ opens the scripture to them concerning himself (Rev. 3:15-16; also see Luke 24:13-32). The Church will be sending its members into the world as ambassadors of reconciliation to make disciples of panta ta ethne (all peoples). The church will serve as an equipping station for those sent to the front lines in the world.
Humility: Knowing they are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked without Christ Jesus and his provision (Rev. 3:17). There will be demonstrated humility among “under-shepherds” and among members. In the presence of the Lord Christ Jesus there can be no arrogance. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” All the beatitudes will be expressed creating a safe and edifying environment. The “Sermon on the Mount” will be lived-out by God’s grace and power (Christ in you willing and doing righteousness).
Fellowship with Christ Jesus: Christ Jesus will be invited to be in the midst of everything. His worth is celebrated. Gatherings are encouraged where “one anothering,” prayer, Bible teaching and intimate communion with Jesus and each other take place i.e. small groups (Rev. 3:20; also see Acts 2:42). Prayer will be practiced as a central part of the gathering of the Body of Christ. Prayer will be seen as essential to a right relationship to God and the “proper working” of the Body . Prayer will be for boldness to speak the Word and for becoming one in heart and soul. Worship will be expressed as lives in submission to God and each other given as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. God’s worth will be celebrated in songs of praise and thankfulness remembering the Lord’s supper and the Apostle’s teaching. Moreover, fellowship with other Christians will be considered a vital part of sharing in Christ’s life.