Jesus walks among His churches.
That's the image given in Revelation 1 and expanded in the following two chapters. Jesus dictates letters to seven churches. Those letters evidence an intimate knowledge of the character and circumstances of each local church. Jesus acknowledges what is plainly visible. Jesus discerns what is profound in the unseen; not only what is obvious on the outside but what is critical on the inside.
Churches are like that. What is seen are the raw details of location, demographics, and the data of programs, attendance and budget. Unseen - but critically more important - are the capitulations to the powers of a fallen world and/or the bulwark faithfulness to the kingdom of God. Jesus sees both. Jesus sees all.
A church may look powerful on the outside, say, like Ephesus or Loadicea, yet on the inside be ravaged by a lack of love or a tepid, fecklessness of faith. If a book cannot be judged by its cover then, even more so, a church can't be judged by its bulletin (or web site!).
That Jesus does walk among His people is both a comfort and a challenge. I am comforted that Jesus cares about His people at an intimate, even granular level. No item too small. No member unimportant. No decision trifling.
Yet such care carries a challenge. This fallen world is no friend to grace. Perhaps that is the greatest challenge. Do we - the church - believe we live in a fallen world? Not just a world pock-marked by intermittent eruptions of God-rejection. Not only a world where events occasionally seem to spin out of control, declining now and again into blatant wickedness. (Wars and rumors of wars.) But a world aligned in fiber and synaptic connection of a rebellion against the glory of God? Do we see this? Do we understand our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against cosmic powers?
The signal markers or such a struggle are not the devolution of supposedly "God-honoring" laws, replaced by civil policies more amenable to a secular point of view. No. The signal markers are churches who capitulate in worship, apostolic doctrine and basic discipleship. Is Jesus the Savior? Are people sinners and, if so, do they need saving? Is Jesus the only Savior? Is He the only Lord?
This is the enduring challenge. Extolling the glory of God in all things and, particularly, in the salvation of sinners. Rallying the church to the cross. Emboldening the church by the power of the resurrection. Shaping and maintaining a cruciform church, a pilgrim church, an outpost of the eternal kingdom.
This is the challenge facing every generation. This is how Jesus walks among us.