A SWOT Analysis from Jesus

April 22, 2016 | Martin Weber

A time-tested evaluation tool for corporations and other secular institutions is the SWOT analysis. It summarizes significant strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to that organization.

Corporations hire consultants to conduct a SWOT analysis of their operation. But some organizations have no interest in a searching and fearless inventory. Perhaps their leaders are too careless, ignorant, insecure or arrogant to care about the corporate good.

During my lifetime of church service at every governance level of Seventh-day Adventism, I’ve noticed that some churches and administrative organizations welcome evaluative tools while others seem averse to scrutiny. Certain pastors and administrators who sermonize about personal accountability for lay members shy away from institutional evaluation.

Jesus operates otherwise. He actually did a SWOT analysis for seven congregations in the book of Revelation. Are you curious about His assessments? I’ve coded the strengths He identifies with a S, weaknesses with a W, opportunities with an O, and His threats with a T.

We only have room here to chart three of the churches. The first one, Ephesus, is included so you can see all four SWOT elements at work. Of the other six churches, Smyrna has been purified by persecution and thus has no weaknesses worth mentioning. You might guess which one of the seven has no strengths.

To the Church in Ephesus (Rev. 2:2–7)

S: “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.

 "I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.

W: "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

T: "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

S: "Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. O: To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”

To the Church in Smyrna (Rev. 2:9–11)

S: “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.

O: "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.

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. O: The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.”

To the Church in Laodicea (Rev. 3:15–21)

W: “I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! T: So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

W: "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

O: "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.

T: "Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

O: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Sadly, Laodicea can receive no affirmation of any kind from Jesus. Our faithful and true Lord tells the truth about its weaknesses and cannot deny threats to its existence.

Seventh-day Adventists candidly identify with Laodicea as the church of the final generation. Sadly, we typically limit its warnings to individuals rather than the church’s administrative structure — as if individual Adventists can be lukewarm narcissists that had better shape up or be shipped out of the kingdom when Jesus comes ... but corporately, we supposedly enjoy once-saved, always-saved status.

Yet mercy lingers. Christ offers a pointed yet poignant plea for repentance. Do we have ears to hear Him?