Is your church actively administering the Gospel and evangelizing the name of Jesus Christ? With this in mind, church groups sometimes manifest signs that it has died spiritually. There is no zeal in worship. There is no enthusiasm for outreach visitation. There is no growth spiritually or numerically.
Sometimes, churches take on typical Laodicean qualities of deadness. Explanations are often given to validate deadened circumstances. Problematic preachers usually top the list. Problematic members are frequent excuses. Lack of finances is a popular reason cited.
A certain evangelist once explained in story form that dead memberships can consider a collective look at their back sides and date the start of their demise. It was absolutely one of the funniest church stories I had ever heard.
The preacher cited the location of this particular church as being in the deep south. It was a typical dead church, he said. Its membership was comprised mainly of a small elderly group. These members, however, had long been interested in traditional practices rather than seeking the power of God for their ministry and services. For too long they had sat down on their former experiences and accomplishments.
A most important tradition for them involved a yearly cleanup of the cemetery. Two sisters had faithfully participated in this church tradition since childhood.
Unfortunately, by the appointed time, one sister had gotten rather ill, and sought to beg off from fulfilling her duty. But, the other sister was adamant that she participate regardless. “Listen, I will place you on one of those low tombstones, and all you will have to do is watch the rest of us. You will not have to do anything, but it is imperative that you be seen there.”
So, from around 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the sister sat. But, toward the end, she got so ill she had to be taken to the local emergency room. There, she was told to dress down and don one of those one-quarter-gap-in-the-back-gowns, and wait for the doctor to come in.
Quickly, he made a startling discovery of something on her backside. He said rather bluntly, “Miss Pearl, I can see very clearly what your problem is. It says right here that you ‘Died in 1889.’”
Hearing that, I collapsed on my pew with laughter.
There is no doubt that a church will die spiritually when it symbolically sits down from trying to keep alive zeal and enthusiasm for the Lord. I once saw a striking example of this. I was called to preach a series of revival meetings at a church in another state. The congregation at that time numbered about 75. They met in a large and beautiful sanctuary.
It was told to me that at one time in the early 1900’s that the church boasted having the largest Sunday School attendance in the world. What had happened that it dwindled down so dramatically? For whatever reason, the church apparently sat down on its noteworthy statistics, and died spiritually. It had quit the Biblical principle of “going.”
Our churches can never be all that God intends if we are willing to sit down on past laurels and quit those refresher courses of doing the evangelistic duties given by God. Our churches must never, ever forget that the inherent principle of the Great Commission is to “go.” Our churches cannot do the going God wants us to do, however, if we are content to sit.
You cannot help but to sense the urgency of Christ’s expectations when He said, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my House may be filled.”
We are living during critical times when people around us need church groups to be effective with outreach. From where I stand, I see too many people in our at-large community not too concerned about the things of God. Part of the reason, as I see it, is that people associated with the church do not exhibit much concern about the things of God themselves. If we are dead spiritually, we can only expect that people tend to shy away from graveyards.
Pastor Ron Branch lives in Mason County and is pastor of Hope Baptist Church, Middleport, Ohio.