UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.
[February 25, 2023: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
Compare these two churches —
(Revelation 3:14-17 ESV) (14) “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
(15) “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! (16) So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
(Revelation 2:8-10 ESV) (8) “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.
(9) “‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (10) Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Things are rarely as they seem to be. By all outward appearances, the Laodicean church had God’s blessing upon it. Just look at all of its finery. They probably were well thought of in their community. They didn’t upset anyone. They stuck to a definite middle-of-the-road Christianity. And Smyrna? Well, those people had a problem. They weren’t growing in size or finances. They were hated not only by their community, but especially by the other “faith communities” in their town. They were radical and stirred up trouble. They brought all of their troubles upon themselves. Outward appearances, you see.
Christ sees it differently. The prospering Laodiceans sickened Him. Their fence-sitting and lukewarm-ness was nauseating to Him. For all of their finery, He told them they were naked. He commanded them to repent or He would depart from them forever. The Smyrnans? Not one word of rebuke for them from their Lord. Their poverty and suffering for Jesus was a crown. It was about to get even worse for them. The devil hated them and he was going to launch another wave of persecution. The King’s call is to endure and persevere through it and don’t be afraid.
What does this say about how we should evaluate our own churches today? What does it say about prospering, wealthy, popular churches? And what does this tell us about what truly following Christ will look like in this world that hates Him? When people today look for a church to attend, what are typical criteria they use?
Let’s be clear. Mere size of the congregation is not the fundamental issue. Laodicea and Smyrna are mindsets — they are theologies. One is conformed to the world. The other is transformed by the Spirit of Truth. Many churches are small, yet they still will not come to the aid of the oppressed. They still permit abusers and wolves to hide in their ranks.
If you have been or are a victim of abuse, think about these things carefully. Which of these two churches is most likely going to come to your aid and stand with you against the deceiving, abusive person hiding behind a façade of Christianity? Laodicea? Ha! Forget that! Things are going just great for them, and they sure aren’t going to take the risk of making someone with power and influence mad at them. No, you will receive a tepid, lukewarm, non-committal response with a small-letter footnote highly recommending that maybe you ought to just take your problem and be quiet about it, or leave. Laodicean churches don’t take stands for righteousness. They are lukewarm. If in fact the majority of evangelical Christianity today is Laodicean, then it is no surprise that victims are being dealt injustice.
No, an oppressed person has a much greater chance of being dealt justice in Smyrna. Why? Because the Christians there are the real article. They have suffered and they are suffering for Christ. They know what evil is and how it operates. Suffering. Paying the price for confessing the name of Jesus. There is a sign of the real church.
It is ironic. The Laodicean style churches of our day talk all the time about things like mercy, grace, love, kindness and so on. This is their remedy for every situation. Just “love folks right to Jesus.” If you begin to ask them about telling people to repent, or talking about sin, or even hint at church discipline — they run right back over to their universal antidote — “Here at First Church, we like to think that a more positive approach to people is what Jesus wants.” Laodicea sees Smyrna-brand Christianity as waaaaay harsh and narrow and judgmental.
But here is the irony. Oppressed, wronged, abused victims will not receive love, mercy, kindness, nor grace at the hands of the Laodiceans. Lukewarm Christianity turns out to be cruel and harsh, and yes, abusive. It is among the Smyrnans — these unbending, uncompromising people when it comes to the truth of Christ — where the love of Christ is actually found. Laodicean Christianity is actually very abusive and power hungry. Just ask any abuse victim who has gone to Laodicea for help.
[February 25, 2023: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to February 25, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to February 25, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to February 25, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (February 25, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
9 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Churches”
I’ve been to Laodicea. They said this place would have a “warm climate” and “friendly people”….a “warm welcome to everyone”. “No need to fear….you will love it here.”
Why didn’t they tell me that once you arrive, you need to make sure you know the unspoken rules, such as “try not to rock the boat….you know what that means, don’t you?”
I didn’t stay long in Laodicea. I’m still trying to find my Smyrna church.
Yes, the Laodicean churches are on every second corner. The Smyrnan churches? Here on the internet: at this blog and a few other sites. Other than that? I’ve been to many churches that thought they were Smyrnan and seemed to even pride themselves on how small they were (because they thought this gave them a “doctrinal-purity” badge) but in reality they were small because they were into some cult-like aberration like Vision Forum [Internet Archive link]1 or some weird by-lane of eschatology, etc. But they were not interested in fighting for justice for the victims of abuse.
1[February 25, 2023: We added the link to Wikipedia’s page on Vision Forum. The Internet Archive link is a copy of that page. Editors.]
You’re right, Barbara. I was thinking some more about this last night. To be a Smyrnan church, it isn’t just about being small — that is often a result, but it doesn’t ensure anything to simply be small. It has to do with obedience to Christ and with being a body of genuine Christians, willing to follow Christ no matter what the cost. Normally, that will mean you aren’t going to be a mega-church in this world. Or maybe I should say, you will never be a mega-church.
I love Jeff’s site, but I also need to find a church that I can relate with, on a personal, face-to-face basis. Nothing so far. I left a message for the pastor at the church where I used to attend. He didn’t return my call, so I’m thinking that he was instructed not to do so by my to be ex-husband. He has been phoning and writing to people, with slanderous, ugly lies about my mind and body being “not at all well”.
Now Free – blessings on your continuing search. It isn’t easy anywhere these days. It may have to take the form of connecting with another Christian abuse victim and meeting for Bible study. Boy, if we could just afford to set up a satellite system and rent an ex-sports complex, then we could….no, that’s already been done in Houston. Doesn’t seem to produce godliness and sound faith. Better pass on that. 🙂 🙂
Don’t you just love that line? “Not at all well”.
wink, wink, nudge, nudge
Apparently, I’ve “always had issues” and mental instability “runs in my family”. 🙂
Sometimes you can find like minded folks locked up inside — like in a women’s Bible study or small home group. That’s where people tend to take off their religious robes and get real with each other. I’ve heard people say the Lord brought them a friend first and then they visited their place of worship. Still, the lack of face-to-face fellowship can be pretty depressing regardless.
Jeff and Ida Mae, thanks for responding. It made my day. 🙂
Yes, he also falsely accused some of my family about being “sick”. That hurt….a lot. He doesn’t want to remember the time his dad sexually abused his own grand-daughter. Think I’ll go get a punching bag and put his name on it. That’ll help pay him back for the physical abuse.
If any readers of this blog live in or around Portland, Oregon check out “The Well Community Church” in NE, a true Smyrnan church that my wife and I attend. 🙂
Thanks, Kenny. Kenny is correct! The Well is a great church!