Dead and Dying Churches

Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach at my church. I really, really enjoy proclaiming God's truth to our entire congregation and since I am the associate pastor those opportunities only come a few times a year.

My text was Revelation 3:1-6, and it dealt with the church in 1st century Sardis (which is located in what is now modern day Turkey). The words of Jesus to this church are direct: Your works look good, but in truth you are a dying church. He then exhorts them to stand on the truth by which they were founded and to repent of their dead ways.

As I was preparing this message, it was too easy for me to think of a few churches that I know of that fit into that mold. Some of the people I spoke to after the service told me that they, too, were mindful of some churches in that position of near death. What we studied yesterday was solemn reminder that, if we grow spiritually complacent, we too could be on the verge of death.

I don't know the statistics off hand but I do believe that there are large numbers of churches who shut their doors for the last time every day. These churches don't shut down primarily because of financial issues (although some surely do) but rather because of a spiritual decay that no longer allows them to be viable. The theology in dying churches isn't necessarily the problem either. If they are founded on the gospel of Jesus Christ then I am sure that their foundation is solid. But when you cease building upon that foundation and do nothing with which you have been entrusted, there is no other direction to go but backwards.

Let me stress that a decline or plateau in numbers is not necessarily a sign that a church in dying. In China and other countries where the church is not allowed by law to flourish, there are "underground" groups of believers who remain static in number yet they are brimming with life.

Jesus said it best in Revelation 3:1 when He called spiritually lazy churches dead.
The Greek for the word dead is 'nekros', which literally means a corpse. You can dress it up on the outside but inside there is nothing but decay.

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