Every time I have visited the Disney World Theme parks I have sworn I will never visit them again. Long lines, grumpy people trying to convince themselves they are having fun, and sheer exhaustion trying to see everything. And I read something recently where someone spoke of a large church they had visited as “Six Flags over Jesus.” That made me stop and wonder, did Jesus ever visit a theme park?
The obvious answer would seem to be “No.” Of course there were no ‘Thunder Roads” or “Space Mountains” or any of the high powered rides. But thinking of the places there are “Six Flags”, I can think of “Seven Flags over Jesus.” When the apostle John was exiled to the isle of Patmos he had the vision that is recorded as the Revelation. And in the beginning of that which became the last book of the Bible, Jesus sent letters to seven churches. We remember two of them more vividly, I think.
The church at Ephesus had it going on. It was a model of church growth for that day. It had the been name pastors. And yet Jesus said they were in danger of losing their “candlestick” because they had left their first love. The church at Laodicea was lukewarm and made Jesus want to puke. In fact in that letter we discover Jesus on the outside of the church knocking at the door to get in. Seven churches, and all but one receiving a rebuke of some form.
Scholars have argued about whether they were seven real churches, or represented seven ages of the church. I think they were real, but I also think that we see churches go through different degrees or even stages of similarity to each one. Churches need to continually be “reborn” in their Vision of Christ’s mission. It would do every church well to continually evaluate where it is in light of Christ’s perspectives, not our own.
Every once in a while I hear someone say, “I want to be a part of a New Testament church.” That is a great thought in some ways, but the question that pops in my mind about that is, which one. Do you want to be like Ephesus, or Laodicea, or even Corinth? Just some early thoughts for a Saturday.