The Dead Church

Many of us have attended a dead church. There is nothing worse than dead orthodoxy, or dead traditionalism. The services are dull, lifeless, empty and irrelevant. In my own experience, not only have I attended one, I have preached at one (that was dead for the most part). There seems to be a disconnect. People nod off, fall asleep, look at their phones or watches, and simply act like they do not want to be at church. The worship was lifeless, a small handful of people sing, most with not much energy or excitement to lift praise to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is mention of a church in the Bible just like this. The church at Sardis in Revelation 3 is this church. The Lord actually says to this church “Wake up!” How scary is that? A rebuke from Christ. This rebuke applies to a church in regards to evangelism, as well. “Wake up!” There is a certain sequence of events that looks like this: lively (personal and corporate) worship produces a zeal for evangelism (personally and corporately). The million-dollar question is: “what prompts this livelihood,” “what prompts the individual Christian to be filled with with passion?” This question is of great importance because everything we do stems from this passion for Jesus: the way we live our lives (our daily worship), which, more likely than not, is the same spirit we bring into our corporate worship on Sunday. If we aren’t worshiping Christ at our Sabbath worship services, it is probably due to the lack of personal worship taking place in our lives whether that be at school, work, and/or at home. So, what sets us on fire, figuratively, for Christ. Two things: 1) Jesus Christ himself. Many times we don’t meditate or reflect upon the gospel. In order to have this livelihood or awaken-ness, we need an awareness of the gospel, or a gospel perspective. In my day-to-day walk journey through this life, I need awareness of my sinfulness and need for repentance. I need awareness that I fail to meet the standards of God, but at them same time, an awareness of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ has forgiven me. In my rebellion and sinfulness, Jesus Christ has paid the debt I cannot pay, and all the while, robing me in HIS righteousness. This should make us rejoice. I do think that one reason this reality, of the substitutionary work of Christ doesn’t produce joy in the hearts of those who profess to believe, is because we have such a low view of God’s holiness and what is required to meet His holy standards and, inversely, we have too high of a view of ourselves and, our righteousness, though we truly have none. If we can grasp the infinite gap between our unrighteousness and sinfulness and God’s holiness, and Christ’s work of standing in the gap on our behalf, we’d be better apt to rejoice and be awake, so to speak. JESUS IS SUFFICIENT in causing us to worship. He should be the sole recipient of our worship. 2). The Word of God. We have, in our possession, God’s message to humanity. From it we know His desires, standards, commands, will, sacrifice, work, faithfulness, holiness, sovereignty, righteousness, wrath, justice, mercy, grace, vengeance, and love. God communicates through His Word. The Bible is centered on God. It contains songs of praise, it offers comfort for the hurting or despairing soul, it tells us of the origin of mankind, it tells us of the great redemptive work of Christ and how we are to live as regenerate people. All we need can be found in the Word of God. It is sufficient in our worship. When we rely and lean upon Christ and His Word, we are brought to a state of worship. This Divine Book produces life. Real life. Regenerated, justified, saved life. Those who are disconnected from Jesus Christ and His Word have no desire to worship because it is likely they are so focused on themselves, they forsake things eternal, things not temporal. Individuals and churches who are lifeless like the Church at Sardis suffer from a sort of gospel-amnesia. Their focus is maybe on the appearance of the church, or on the number of attendees or the financial situation of the church. The same principles apply for individuals today: focus on materials (clothes, technology), health, financial situations. This focus on the temporal, while appropriate in at times, produces a deadness: being bogged-down in all this other stuff, Christ seems to be out of the picture. Adrian Rogers once said that the reason we see so many lifeless churches, believers and pastors is because people are “bored” with the Bible and with the gospel. May this never be so for us. It is a great tragedy to take for granted our Lord and His glorious, life-altering gospel. While we could argue that maybe those who genuinely do not care for the gospel are truly lost, apostates, we save that for another time. We must return to the basics, the reason for why we should truly be involved in corporate fellowship, the very Person that caused us that initial joy in our conversion. If need be, we reflect on where we were when Christ found us, heading for death and damnation and see how we got to where we are now, a new creation (2 Cor. 5) with new desires, new thoughts, a new slate, and a new eternal destination. If you are a believer, He has given you life anew. Let us worship, study, evangelize and live with a brightness that comes from the eternal life found in Christ. Let us not be found asleep or dead, but alive, working, serving in obedience to Christ, glorifying Him in all we say and do, all the while anticipating His glorious return.

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