In the movie “Princess Bride”, Miracle Max lifts the lifeless arm of Wesley and lets it drop to the table, massages his chest, and searches for signs of life. The situation looks awfully grim to Wesley’s companions, but then Miracle Max exclaims, “…it just so happens, your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There is a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there is usually only one thing you can do…go through his clothes and look for loose change.”
Church is Dead. Truth or an Exaggeration?
Has your church lost its healthy glow, or worse, is it displaying no vital signs whatsoever? Before you go scrambling for loose change, let’s first determine if your church is only MOSTLY dead. There may be hope.
Is your church malnourished?
When a body is malnourished, the first symptoms include low energy, delayed recovery from infections and wounds, irritability, depression and an inability to focus. To translate that spiritually, is your church body lifeless, listless, stunted and static? Do you find that the prevailing spirit of your church body is dissention, double mindedness, frustration, anger and a complete lack of vision? It’s always a good idea to look at diet, or the lack thereof, as the possible root of the problem. “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom.” (Proverbs 10:21). The human soul is starving and must be fed. “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). Pragmatic application of cultural norms will only get you so far and the “I’m okay, you’re okay” fuzzy feelings of pop psychology are like junk food to the soul. A slow death will ensue without a good, steady diet of God’s word. Just as a developing child needs to be nourished and eventually taught to feed themselves in order to survive, a church becomes vital and healthy when it has feasted on God’s word and it remains healthy when it learns to feed itself.
Does your church have the will to live?
When you step into your building on Sunday morning, do you see a people with a healthy regard for God and His word? Does the reigning spirit of your church delight in God’s law or does it refuse to eat? Do the people lack vision and no longer care about the things of the Lord; are they bogged down by the traditions of men? Usually when spiritual indifference toward God and His work occurs, something else has taken His place. Idolatry is more common in the church than you might think. Jesus said there are two commandments that sum up all of the law and the prophets: 1. Love the Lord you God with all you heart, soul and mind; and 2. love your neighbor as yourself. When it ceases to be about those two things, it is no longer a church. Sure you are a building with people in it, going through the motions, claiming to have moral standards or belief s but your affections do not line up. This is the definition of hypocrisy. If the law of God is not fueling your church, you are just another building for people to see. “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” (Matthew 23:27).
Is your church fighting a real enemy?
Underestimating the spiritual nature of our warfare is deadly. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12). If you think the direct enemy is the slanderer, complainer, scandalmonger, the jealous and proud among you, then you are gravely mistaken. These kind of troubles are merely fronts to the diabolical strongholds they represent. Scripture teaches us that in order to bring down these strongholds it will take divine power (2 Corinthians 10:30) and the complete armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18). Even if you are standing now, will you be able to withstand when evil comes to find you? Be prepared spiritually.
What to do if your church is “mostly” dead”
The expression, “you are what you eat” really rings true and if we consume junk it will manifest as weight gain, clogged arteries, addiction and eventually premature death. This is just as true spiritually as physically. If your church is dying, dead or mostly dead, the spiritual defibrillator that will zap them back to life is the word of God. Start by reading the Bible and encouraging others to do the same, then proceed to live it with vitality. If you are a pastor (or even if you aren’t), teach sound doctrine from the scriptures. Draw out from the text instead of reading into it, and don’t give into the temptation of teaching soft things to tickle itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3). Pray –a lot, and encourage others to do the same. If you have grave concerns for your church, gather with like minded folks and pray earnestly. Consider going on a fast and really seek the Father’s heart and will. Appeal to God to revive the church –it’s His church, after all.
When Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18 NKJV), He didn’t mean that we should merely take a defensive posture and simply survive the attacks from the evil one. We are to go on the offensive and take back ground from the enemy. The battle is the Lord’s! So, put on the whole armor of God and fight the good fight. Help your church to regain consciousness, come alive, go beyond survival and THRIVE! Or as Miracle Max says, “have fun stormin’ the castle!”