Revelation 3:22 – What is the angel of the church?
The beginning of the book of Revelation starts with this slightly strange set of mini letters addressed to the “angel” of the church. One particular understanding is that the word “angel” in the letters to the churches represents the corporate identity and the corporate calling of the individual churches. What does this look like?
Most schools, church congregations, or even rugby teams have a unique “vibe” about them, a kind of corporate psyche. It is amazing how you can go into Starbucks and then Clements on Botanic Avenue and even though they are essentially identical businesses selling various versions of coffee…yet they can feel so different. This difference is a result of different management, possibly some different mission statements, different staff, and different clientele. Have you ever thought that churches can be the same. You can walk into one Presbyterian church and it has a very different feel to the one down the road.
It is the same in these letters to seven churches at the start of Revelation. It is as if each church had an identifiable personality, with strengths and weaknesses, and a unique calling. God in these letters is speaking to the corporate identity of the churches and is calling them on to address the things which are beginning to corrupt the dna of the churches.
One of the most profound messages in these verses that has always struck me, is the letter to the church at Ephesus. In it we hear these words: “I know your good deeds, your hard work and perseverance…yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” In many ways I think that these words could describe many churches in Northern Ireland. The corporate personality of our churches has become industriousness, busyness, and a strong work ethic. Yet have we forsaken a love relationship with God.
Can we sing the words “My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose went forth and followed thee.” Or has this become a distant memory? If we have become obsessed with the work of the Kingdom, we can inadvertently find that we have forsaken the King of the Kingdom. Mike Breen wrote that many Christian leaders have sacrificed the “transcendent vitality of a life with God, for the ego satisfaction of a life for God.” If we are not careful this unbalanced approach to the Christian life can overtake not only our own lives but also it can be manifested in our church communities as a whole. I wonder whether the Spirit of God is calling us afresh to remember what it was like when our “chains fell off”, and to do the work of the Kingdom, motivated by our love and relationship with the King!!
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”