For the past couple of months, I have been preaching through the first few chapters of Revelation at my church. We have been focusing on the seven letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor. In my research I came across the following letter that really seemed to say a lot of the things I have been thinking. In 1999, Christianity Today asked some prominent pastors/thinkers/authors to write an “eighth letter” to the church of today. Here is one from Eugene Peterson:
To the Suburban Church of North America.
A message from the Son of God, Jesus, who you call Master and who calls you to follow him.
My churches in suburbia are one of the wonders of the world – there has never been anything quite like them. What energy, enthusiasm, generosity! And you’re honest. Hypocrisy has always been a big problem for me, and I don’t expect ever to eradicate it, but it is not conspicuous among you. Of all forms of pretense, religious pretense is the worst. Thankfully, I don’t find many pretenders among you.
But I do have this against you: you’re far too impressed with Size and Power and Influence. You are impatient with the small and the slow. You exercise little discernment between the ways of the world and my ways. It distresses me that you so uncritically copy the attitudes and methods that make your life in suburbia work so well. You grab onto anything that works and looks good. You do so many good things, but too often you do them in the world’s way instead of mine, and so seriously compromise your obedience.
I understand why, for most of you have gotten along pretty well in the world – you’re well-educated, well-housed, well-paid, well-thought-of; it’s only natural that you should put the values and methods that have worked so well for you into service for me. But don’t you realize that however successful these attitudes and methods have been in achieving American benefits, it has come at a terrible price: depersonalizing people into functions; turning virtually everything into a cause or commodity to be used or fixed or consumed, doing everything you can to keep suffering at arm’s length? The suburban church has a lot of people in it, it functions very well, you can make almost anything happen. But honestly, now, do you think that this is what I had in mind when I said, “Follow me,” and then headed for Golgotha in Jerusalem?
Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to start off the new millennium by purging your imagination of your suburban assumptions. I want you to do it by spending the next couple of years reading carefully and repeatedly the sixteen Hebrew prophets, Isaiah to Malachi. I have used these prophets over and over again through the centuries to separate my people from the cultures in which they lived. They are one of my standard ways of putting my people back on the path of simple faith and obedience and worship in defiance of all that the world admires and rewards. My Spirit continues to use these prophets to train my people in discerning the difference between the ways of the world and the ways of the gospel. He wants to use them with you.
To the church that not only believes what I say but follows me in the way I do it, I’ll give a simple, uncluttered life that is hospitable to the wanderers and misguided, the hurried and harried men and women of this world. I want to use you to give them a taste of sabbath and heaven.
Are you listening? Really listening?
Imagined by Eugene Peterson
This really summed up a lot of the conversations that I feel like I’ve been having in response to our reading of Revelation, so I decided to share them. What do you think? Does this resonate? What might you add/subtract/modify?