Revelation chapter one ends with John being instructed to write down Seven Letters to Seven Churches in Asia Minor. These letters are lovingly dictated to John by Jesus Himself.
There has been much scholarly debate about these Seven Letters and the congregations they are addressed to. Some have postulated that each of these letters represent a historical chapter in the church's journey. But this is problematic: If we knew the end of the world would be soon, then we'd be the Seventh Church, but if it is another thousand years before Jesus returns, then which church are we? I think there is a better explanation...
The Seven Letters were written to seven real congregations in seven real geographical contexts in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and they all existed at the time that John wrote to them. The number seven is symbolic of completeness and I think it is best to say that at any time in history there are congregations that are loveless, persecuted, tempted to compromise, overwhelmed, depleted, courageously faithful or lukewarm. (Or some combination of these!)
These letters represent God's heart toward the churches and there is a phrase repeated in all the letters: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
As we noted earlier, Jesus stands among the Lampstands, He is passionate about the church. His plan is to be at work in the Church. John had been at the first church, Ephesus, for many years. These Seven Churches would have been familiar to him. As he writes, he experiences God's care, concern and priority for these congregations, and we are once again reminded that God cares about the local church.
So, if God cares about the local church, so should we.
I found this great quote recently:
If you donâ™t cross over from "What-can-I-get?" to "What-I-can-give?", your church will become increasingly unsatisfactory to you. (James MacDonald)