Written by cycleguy on October 13th, 2019

As I wrote that title I couldn’t help but think of Bon Jovi’s song Dead or Alive. My sermon this morning was on the postcard to the church at Sardis. I called it “To the Dead Church.”  One of the ideas I tried to stress was that we need to see this letter as more than one sent to a church body, but we also need to apply it to ourselves as individuals.  One of the thoughts during the message was asking the question When is a church dead? The answers are jarring, but I also want to apply them to us as individuals. So, I’m going to put the four answers I gave to that question and then allow you to make the personal application. I have already done that as I prepared; misery loves company so join me! 🙂  When is a church dead?

#1- When it is content to rest on its past laurels.  Many churches have banners and plaques throughout their building which testify of their past. It’s like little Johnny who was being shown through the church building by his father when they came upon a plaque with names. He asked his dad what that was for and his father said, “They are the names of the men and women who died in the service.” He asked, “Which one-morning or evening?” We chuckle but sadly that is way too often true. (Nowadays it is first or second not morning or evening).

#2- When it is more concerned with form than spiritual reality. We make sure we fit into a mold. The pastor can’t speak too long we have things to do, places to go. Besides, we want to beat the other churches to lunch.  This can be especially harrowing in a small town where options are limited. We make sure we have communion, take offering, sing all hymns or no hymns, offer an invitation. Seriously? That shows a church is alive?

#3- When it focuses more on social ills and politics than changing people’s hearts and minds through the life-changing message of Jesus. There is nothing wrong with being socially aware and conscious, but the church does not exist to change the environment. We exist to carry the message of the God’s life-changing message.

#4- When it is more concerned with material things than spiritual things. “Nuff said. When we hired Ryan one of my first words to him were “People over programs.” We have reminded ourselves of that often. Another: “People over buildings.”  We had a dream of an adult worship center but it was cost-prohibitive.  I was so proud of our leadership when they said, “No” to the building and put things on hold.  God made it possible to pay off our mortgage early as well as build the youth addition debt-free.  We are now in the dreaming stage again and will remember the adage: “People over buildings.”

I think you can see how those can apply to individuals. But it is one thing to see; it another to do. Let’s do it! Let’s not be caught in the “Sardis cycle.”



9 Comments so far ↓

  1. These are great and thoughtful points you’ve made here, Bill. The one that stood out to me in these contentious times is that the church shouldn’t be embroiled in the quandary of modern culture, but needs to be the moral compass, shining God’s truth, love and light to the world. Yes, we can all have political differences, but they pale when we put people first, acknowledging that they are created in the image of God.

    • cycleguy says:

      Thanks Martha. I wish I could take credit for them but at the same time I am not sure where I saw them. 🙂 But they do probe quite a bit. But i will say I take my stand with the Word not with some environmentalist.

  2. Lisa notes says:

    The list of four things is great, Bill. And yes, apply it to individuals too! I wasn’t thinking of that, but I always should be. 🙂

  3. Pam says:

    Excellent post, Bill! And a great test both for churches and individuals. Definitely God-breathed!

  4. Linda Stoll says:

    Oh there/s a whole lot of meat here this morning. I could sit with each of these bold truths for quite awhile.

    Thank you for sharing what God is teaching you.

    • cycleguy says:

      Like I told Martha I wish I could take credit for them but then again…I can’t remember where I found them. LOL Appreciate your kind words Linda.

  5. floyd says:

    That’s a good list. You nailed it… and it all begins with putting Him first. When that fails it’s the fall is inevitable.