Is the church you are attending alive or dead?
Or perhaps somewhere in the middle?
In the book of Revelation, Jesus addresses the Church of Sardis, which He classified as “having a name that lived, but was dead” (Revelation 3).
Chuck Swindoll in his excellent commentary on the book of Revelation has an outline on “The 5 Marks of a Dead Church.”
I have taken it and added some of my own thoughts.
1. A Dead Church Worships Its Past.
Maybe some of the old-timers can relate inspiring stories of miracles, conversions, and changed lives “back in the early days.”
That’s okay as far as it goes. But we have to move on. We can rejoice in what God did twenty, thirty, or forty years ago. But what about now? God doesn’t want us to live in the past—even a glorious past. A living church lives in the present and plans for the future.
2. A Dead Church Is Inflexible and Resistant to Change.
Sometimes in the church we are flexible where we should be inflexible and inflexible where we should be flexible. In other words, we should be inflexible in the essentials. We come together to worship God and to study the Word. There’s no need to change those essential priorities.
But there are other areas where we ought to be flexible—in things like music and worship styles, which change with the years. People get very sensitive about these things.
“Well,” someone will say, “I prefer this style—it was what I was raised on, and I don’t like anything else.
Your style offends me, and it probably isn’t even valid.” But this is an area where we ought be flexible rather than rigid and unbending.
Some people don’t like it when churches embrace new technology and resist or drag their feet over changes.
I remember back in the mid-1990s when our church put up our first video screens. Some people were upset about it. Some even said, “We’re leaving the church over this! We don’t come to church to watch TV.” But it’s different now. When I speak these days, I notice some of these same people looking at the screens more than at me, though I am standing right in front of them. The fact is, the video draws you in closer, making it more intimate. I only wish they had invented HD technology when I was thirty instead of when I was 61!
I remember hearing Christians being critical of churches having websites. Now everyone has them. The point is, these new technologies are like a massive, updated Roman road system that opens up the world to us. We ought to use and leverage every technology platform—radio, TV, film, the Web, as well as social media like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and all the new ones as they emerge. This is an area in which we need to remain flexible. But there are also areas in which we must remain inflexible. For instance, the church must always be a place where God’s Word is taught and the gospel is proclaimed. The church must always be a place where the Lord is glorified through prayer and worship. We cannot “flex” in those areas. They are nonnegotiables.
I will give you the last 3 marks of a dead church in my next post.
Laurie, Greg (2014-05-08). Revelation: The Next Dimension (Kindle Locations 1334-1339). Allen David Books (Kerygma Inc). Kindle Edition.