Of the seven churches in Revelation, the church at Laodicea has become nearly synonymous with Christ-less Christianity. Professor Michael Horton of the Westminster Theological Seminary wrote a book with this title, Christless Christianity. He questions whether America is fast arriving at the point where Christ is left out of the church and out of His own gospel.
One of the chapters in his book is titled, “How We Turn Good News into Good Advice.” In this chapter, he argues that reducing the good news of Jesus to good advice makes the gospel no better than any other method of life coaching. If all the gospel amounts to is a better way to feel good about ourselves, there are many competing philosophies that will be sworn by as better methods. If this is true, how do Christians rightly argue for the exclusivity of the gospel? The issue with this dilemma is that the modern church has replaced the person of the gospel with a plan of the gospel. Neither Christ nor His church is about a plan. Both are about the person of Jesus Christ. Without Him the plan has no more value than any other plan. Some rightly argue salvation is not a plan although we often term our presentations of it as the plan of salvation. Salvation is to have Christ. If He is not the center and focus, we will never have the salvation offered in Him.
This is the problem of the Laodicean church. Without Christ, it is a social organization. The word church means assembly. It comes from a common Greek word that means nothing more than people gathered in one place. However, our Bible translations render the word church when the translators are certain the assembly refers to people who are born-again, assembled to work for Christ, to obey His commission, and to glorify Him. In this sense, the Laodicean church is better termed the Laodicean assembly. Christ is not their focus.
As the time grows nearer to the coming of Christ, the Bible seems to indicate that more and churches will become usurpers of the term. They have been turned into assemblies. Though they carry Christ’s name, Christ can have no part of them because He is no part of them. If He stayed in those assemblies, He would only compete as another life coach with many other coaches and their paths to success. We already know Oprah wins that one hands down.
There are several indicators that you might be a member of an assembly rather than a church. Among these we might ask, is their gospel about your economic prosperity? It is not a church but an assembly for financial seminars. Is the preaching absent the Bible and people are not encouraged to carry, read, and study the scriptures? It is an assembly of rationalizers weighing the best methods of success.
Christianity is a person—Jesus Christ. His church is an expression of His redemptive work that only cares how our lives can best glorify Him. Sometimes the way is through sickness and poverty. Plug that into the assembly’s plan and see how much traction it gets. Until you are ready to make Christ central no matter how it affects you physically, financially, or in any other personal way, you must remain a member of the Laodicean assembly. You are not ready for membership in Christ’s church.
Pastor V. Mark Smith