Christ’s words to the local church at Sardis are painful: I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. (Rev. 3:1) That verse triggered something in my mind about the state of the local church today. In the past few years, thousands of pulpits that used to flame with the fire of righteousness have fallen to the “Ichabod syndrome”. They are left with about as much power as a wet firecracker. It is true that some of them have just gone out of existence. That is bad enough, but nothing compared to the tragedy of churches that are dead and don’t even know it.
Like marionettes, they dance, jiggle, and pretend to be real; but there is no real spiritual life in them. They are good at crowds and, just like the super bowl crowd, they make plenty of noise. They use a lot of good words and talk about God, even quote at times from the Bible, but truth was buried a long time ago. They flail about like a body that has just been beheaded, but from which real life is gone. The shell, buildings, and trappings are all there, but they echo with the sounds of those who are eternally lost.
WHAT CAUSED THEM TO DIE?
Leadership with no integrity has deliberately led them like the pied piper. Change is their mantra, and culture is their God. As II Timothy 3:5 says, …having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof. Because man is at the center of things, they cannot tolerate established faithful believers. Old things are out, and old people are just in the way. With no shame for their dishonesty, they use craft to assume ownership of ministry and money and then replace it with a consumer mentality. All vestiges of the past have to be removed, with nothing left to remind people of those days of genuine revival and powerful conversions. It may not be deliberate, but this is also the plan of the communists – “kill, destroy, and remove” any reminders of the past, then replace them with things that make people of the world comfortable. It is all about what they like.
Peter warned the people that false teachers were coming. Jude told them that they were already here. Those apostates didn’t rush in with guns blazing. That wouldn’t have worked, because the church would then wake up from its dull sleep. Modern day false teachers are bullies and cowards; like the ISIS demon butchers, they cover their faces. They strike at the elderly with little compassion for broken hearts. The truth is that they couldn’t hold a spiritual candle to most of those seasoned believers, but they are cowards. They hide while they attack the simple and immature, and then finally it is too late.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS HORRIBLE DEATH?
This part is really the most tragic. The majority of the congregation could have prevented the death, but they did little or nothing. In fact, like Lot in Sodom, they fit right in. There are times when they might think back to a ministry of truth and righteousness, but then they are drawn back to the den of death. It is so much fun, and it feels so good, and the communicators are so effective. No real thought is given, though, as to what those leaders are not saying. It never crossed their minds that worship leaders didn’t have enough Bible truth in them to fill a thimble.
It never dawned on them, in the beginning, to recoil with righteous indignation when they began “singing lies”. They never thought to ask why the majority of great doctrines were never addressed. Their spiritual axe was so dull that they failed to realize that when nonsense – and sometimes heresy – were being taught, they should be asking questions. By then, those who originally were able to recognize error had either been run off or had left with the pain of a grieved soul.
In the end, thousands of so-called churches had “Ichabod” written over their doors, and they never even saw it coming. Like zombies or “the living dead,” they go through the motions with no feeling at all of the “burning” that Jude talks about. It is true that many of the deceived had never known the grace of God personally, but woe unto those disobedient believers who were not prepared, who remained silent and then joined the thundering herd.
FOR THOSE WHO CARE
Ministry always rises from what one believes. The idea that someone can change methods without it relating to their belief is part of the death lie. Disobedient people hate this, but it is possible to walk into an empty church building and know exactly what questions to ask. When you attend a so-called worship service, many of your questions will be answered. Worship is in the Spirit, and it is about God. It has to be in truth; thus, when people are singing lies, that is not worship. That is not truth. Worship is about God, not man. When a worship service mimics the Israelites dancing around the golden calf, it is not hard to tell that God is not the focus there.
I am for good change. I am for enthusiasm. I have no criticism of those who are moved emotionally by a song, message, or testimony. It is not that hard to tell, though, when someone is exuding hypocrisy. Don’t demonstrate your ignorance by talking about judging. We don’t condemn people; that’s God’s task. Ours is to be loyal to true grace and to a holy God. That relationship of obedience requires us to recoil at false teaching and fake worship that is not backed up by the daily life.
Let me be pointed – the Emerging Church movement is filled with this death cult, and yet blind people run rapidly toward disaster just because it is all new. It feels good to be saying, “I like it!” Oh, for the days when it was about what God loves and hates! You do have a choice, you know. Why in the world would you choose to stay trapped in something that grieves a holy God?