As much as we either shy away from—or, get way too obsessed with—the book of Revelation, there’s pieces we don’t dare ignore, and the authors have focused on one of those pieces: the seven letters of Jesus to churches in Asia Minor in chapters 2-3. And through those letters, they point out, we might just learn a lot about our own churches.
One interesting insight the authors give us, and regularly hammer home over the course of the book, is that when Jesus addresses each church it’s in the single-person singular. Meaning: When He’s talking to “you,” He’s talking to the church as a single body of believers. Thus, we’re again reminded that church is not just some individual journey, let alone a “commercial” preference that we can take as seriously as we choose; we are in this together.
As the authors remind us, “The local church is a body, and as such becomes subject to all kinds of illnesses and infections,” as we often see with the churches cited in Revelation. Thus, for the bulk of the book, we’re walked through each of Jesus’ letters—credentials, commendation, criticism, counsel, and Jesus’ conditional promise—and invited us to put ourselves in each church’s shoes. This, in turn, puts us in good stead for the book’s conclusion, when we’re invited to envision Jesus’ “eighth letter” to our own churches, and examine the “illnesses and infections” we have, or still have lingering effects from even years later.
The biblical texts are analyzed well without feeling like some intellectual/ “theological” exercise, removed from our own experience. We know these churches. In fact, it’s tempting (and I daresay fun) to draw some denominational parallels to some of the churches here, and we wouldn’t be completely wrong to do so. But this book isn’t about that; it’s about drawing those parallels to the condition of our own (churches’) heart—which is brought out especially in the “Ponder This” sections at the end of each letter-chapter.
As Jesus addressed the church as a whole, so He calls it to discern and repent as a whole. The authors delve more into this in the book’s final section, as well as in the appendices—and make it clear that this process starts with the leadership. As they say in that final section: “Christ’s message to your church is not something to fear but to seek.” This book will get your church in a position to hear that message.