If you have never seen Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail, then you are probably better off for it. Personally, I have probably seen it a dozen times, and I haven't the foggiest idea why. For some reason, it cracks me up. Anyway, one scene in particular reminds me of how some people view the local church.
There's this scene in which an undertaker is going about collecting the bodies of plague victims. He's continually yelling, "Bring out yer dead! Bring out yer dead!" Anyway, he has this dude draped over his shoulder, and the undertaker is intent on taking him off to bury him. The only trouble is the guy isn't dead yet.
A conversation ensues involving a passerby, the not-quite-dead guy(hereafter known as NQDG), and the undertaker. It goes sort of like this:
NQDG: But I'm not dead.
Undertaker: Yes, you are.
NQDG: But I feel better.
Undertaker: Shut up!
Passerby: You're not fooling anyone you know.
NQDG: But I feel fine. I feel happy.
NQDG: I think I'll go for a walk.
At this point, someone bashes the Not-Quite-Dead Guy over the head with a club and kills him. The Undertaker then goes about his business. Silly, isn't it?
Unfortunately, I hear this sort of dialogue all the time concerning "dead" churches. Spiritual undertakers look at "plateaued" numbers or an "elderly" church membership and say, "Oh. That's a dead church." Or, they will go in, hear an organ playing and say, "Oh, the worship here is dead. This is a dead church."
To which I respond, "No it's not!" Why isn't it dead? For one thing, it is still a confessing church, and where there is gospel, make no mistake, there is life. It may be a smoldering light, but it is a light. Remember, our Lord will not snuff out the smoldering wick nor break the bruised reed. Further, I know that the gospel can breathe life into dead bones. So, I stick to my guns; where there is gospel, there is life.
In the day of church-hopping, band shopping, me-driven ministry, it is rare to find a person of enough spiritual maturity to fan a smoldering flame to life. Instead, pastors and people come in and bash in the head of a living church. It may be struggling; it may be diseased, but it is alive.
So the next time you diagnose a church as dead, make certain of your bold claim. Make certain that the gospel is gone, that the people have ceased to profess life in Jesus Christ, and that the Bible has ceased to be believed. If not, you may inadvertantly turn into a sort of Dr. Kevorkian to a living Church; you may kill something that yet has life and hope and a future. I say again, dear brother or sister, where there is gospel, there is hope.
We Must Do the Impossible
4 years ago