Perhaps you’re in a church that is dead or, at the very least demonstrating the death rattle. What should you look for to know you’re in a dead church and why should you even care. Starting with the second question: A dead church will soon deaden you. A dead church truly is a useless church. It’s like pouring fresh, clean water into a stagnant pond. The fresh water will not turn the stagnant pure. In fact, the stagnant water will corrupt the fresh.
Revelation 2:2-5 says
“I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.”
You’ll notice that the church of Ephesus seemed to be doing all the right things. They had works to back up their faith because, after all “faith without works is dead.” They labored for the Lord and even confronted the evils within their society. They were by all accounts a proactive church. This church had dealt with false prophets and yet, they never lost faith. They marched on holding strongly to the faith and knowing who their redeemer was. In today’s church we also have our share of Ephesus churches. They may have wonderful programs. Programs to care for the homeless, the widows, the hungry, the imprisoned and even the addicted; however programs is all it is. They have substituted their goals for God’s goals. They may be feeding the hungry but they aren’t fulfilling the Great Commission. They may be helping the addicted but they aren’t sharing the Savior. They have replaced the love of God with programs.
They don’t passionately praise and worship. They aren’t humbly falling before the mercy seat of Almighty God or boldly entering the throne room of grace. They aren’t crying out in prayer, “We need more of you, Lord. Show us your face.” This sort of church may not necessarily be dead but they are clearly sending out the sound of a death rattle. Without a hunger for God the Ephesus church will surely die. God is telling them to return to the first works. I believe those first works are to passionately seek His face and share Him with others.
Revelation 2:12-16 says
“And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write,
‘These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: “I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
The church of Pergamos and Thyatira have resurrected themselves in today‘s American society. All we need to do is look around to the controversies within the Lutheran, Episcopal and Presbyterian church in order to stare Pergamos right in the eyes. Sexual immorality within the church has hit an all time high, with sexual abuse in Catholic churches and a lack of moral clarity in the Protestant churches. Sexual sins are attributed to Gods natural will for a persons life and the church regulates Gods Holy word to an archaic book of fairy tales. They are no longer transforming the world into the image of Christ but are now transforming the church into the image of the Beast. “Pastors” within these churches tell the body to do whatever feels good; just trust your heart. However Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart is deceitful and cannot be trusted. What we can trust is Gods eternal word. Such churches will lead people to hell, all the while bragging on how progressive, welcoming and modern they are.
These selfsame churches are also welcoming in any sort of false doctrine that tickles the ears. After all, why wouldn’t they? They have already turned God’s holy word into a fallible self-help guide. Need proof? Look to the popularity of “Christians” such as Rob Bell. God tells us that He will actively combat these churches. Our Holy God has no tolerance for “Christian Pastors” who choose popularity over truth. This is a scary statement. God is saying that He is going to roll up His sleeves and do battle. If you are in the Pergamos church, God is giving you a little message. Allow me to clarify it for you, “GET OUT!”
“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,
‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
This is possibly the most prevalent problem we see in the American church today. The church has become lukewarm; complacent. We come to church, sing our little songs (none of which are truly a “joyful noise“ unto the Lord), say some “amen’s,” listen to a self-help, watered down sermon, devoid of repentance and go on about our life. We are unchanged by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit because we never welcome Him in. He is too radical for our stuffy little liturgy. We don’t evangelize because we’ve adopted a “my four and no more” mentality. We don’t change because “we’ve always done it this way” and we never press into the Spirit because, Lord forbid we should feel some conviction. A verse of the southern gospel song “Close to the Cross but Far from the Blood” by the McKamey’s comes to mind
Sitting in a sanctuary hearing robed choirs sing, viewing emblems of His suffering but it doesn’t mean a thing. They will sing of His forgiveness that they’ve never yet received, listening to a word they don’t believe and they will leave this house of worship never changed by His love. They are close to the cross but far from the blood.
Our God has not called us to be complacent. He looks for a hungry and thirsty people; a people who will answer the door when we knocks, a people who will seek not only His hand but His face. Satisfaction is our enemy! We should never become satisfied in our walk with God. The more I learn of Him and experience His power and presence, the more I want of Him. In Isaiah 6:8 the Prophet Isaiah hears the Lord say “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” With boldness of spirit, Isaiah responds, “Here am I! Send me!” May we all have the boldness of Isaiah to eagerly say, send me Lord!
So, what are some basic signs that you are in a dead or dying church?
1. The Pastor preaches a gospel not founded in Gods word; a compromising gospel. This self-help gospel spends more time telling YOU how to be a “better you,” rather than teaching and equipping you to be the man and woman of God that our Savior intends for your life.
2. The Pastor is more interested in being hip and cool than in lovingly shining the light of The Word on the sin of our society and calling the sinners to repentance.
3. The Pastor never bothers with an alter call. He lacks the passion to see people brought to the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
4. The Pastor allows the things which God condemns to thrive within His church (Sexual immorality, gossip, backbiting, false doctrine and etc).
Many other signs exist but a study of Gods Word will reveal them to you.
Signs Within the Congregation:
1. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit an not evident within the congregation. There is no prophecy, there is no gift of tongues - basically, there is no move of the Holy Spirit. He is not welcome and therefore not present in the services.
2. Praise and Worship is nothing more than a concert. No one lifts their hands in praise, no one runs or shouts in the Spirit, no one bows down in adoration and praise. God hasn’t called us to be flaky but He is looking for RADICAL PRAISE. David danced before the Lord in radical praise. Did the onlookers think he was mad? Probably. Did he allow that to stop him? No! Neither should we. Our Lord went to the cross for our sins and took the keys to death, hell and the grave. If that’s not a reason to get excited and, yes … even a little wild I don’t know what is!
3. The congregation lacks a passion to see souls saved. Evangelism isn’t just the Pastors job. Perhaps we aren’t all called to travel the world preaching but we are all commanded to share the Gospel. For some that may mean traveling to a poor village in India. For other is may simply be telling that unsaved co-worker that Jesus loves them. Jesus never gave us permission to leave Him at the door of our place of business or school simply because others may think us strange. Don be flaky but do be faithful.
4. They don’t seek the face of God. Many times we seek Gods hand in prayer. We ask that He help us with this or that. We may ask that He give us this desire or that desire but do we simply seek to be in relationship with Him? All services don’t need to be jumping, shouting services. However we should be seeking the presence of God. Many times, I have found that when we seek God’s face He will show up demonstrated by a humbling affect on us. This is one of those services where God just seems to show up to give us a glimpse into the Holy or Holies and love on us.
I feel it necessary to state that this is not an attack on any church or pastor. Look hard enough at any congregation and you will find flaws. The Word says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God but we cannot survive as the Body if we simply stand still. A stream will stagnate and die unless it continually flows and moves. So too will our walk with the Lord. Be bold! Step out in Faith! If others think you’re a fool, proudly and boldly be a fool for Christ! Radically praise Him! After all, how radical is it that He died on the cross for you? Seek His hand when you need it. He is faithful to provide for us. But don’t neglect the face of God because you are so concerned with His hand. Know your Bible. No one can deceive you if you faithfully study the scriptures as the Bereans did.
May God bless each and everyone of you