A Painting of a Dying Church

An artist was hired by a church to paint several pictures of a dying church. How alarmed they were when he returned after a week or so with pictures of a stately looking meetinghouse with a towering steeple, lavish surroundings and throngs of people entering the doors. In another painting he depicted the interior as being expensively furnished with chandeliers costing thousands of dollars hanging from the ceiling. In the lobby there was their display of the youth meetings, dinners and quite a display of human institutions they had taken on for support and promotion. He had another painting of the “fellowship hall”, the recreation room, the day nursery and the hobby and craft shop.

“What is this?” implored the elders? “We asked you to paint pictures of a dying church and we expected to see a run-down building with the weeds growing all around and windows broken. We expected to see an interior of a drab, lifeless and unkempt and disheveled place of worship with none of these modern things we have here.” The artist replied that he had studied the Bible and read of the church at Sardis (Rev. 3:1-5). He concluded from reading this that a dying church would be dying a spiritual death and the best way to accomplish that is to include all the finery that money can buy, support all the human institutions who wil1 drain the church of any personal responsibility and engage the church in all kind of recreational and social activities. This would surely kill it!

This is all too true and it reminds me of an article I have from the pen of a Baptist preacher called, “The Autopsy Of A Dead Church.” He gave the following characteristics of a corpse that when measured against many of the Lord’s churches today should cause someone s o m e sleepless nights. Here they are:

1. A corpse does not realize it is deed. The same is true with a dead church. Because a church “has a name” for being “alive” does not mean it is alive. It might be a “beehive” in man’s sight and in God’s eyes as dead as the proverbial mackerel.

2. A corpse cannot do anything for itself. Plans are not made until they check “headquarters” to see if this is what should be done. When a church gets to the place that it must have sponsoring churches to preach for it, benevolent societies to care for its needy and some College to do its thinking and edifying, it is dead. Some churches today are just one-third dead, some are two-thirds dead and others are lying in state. You know what I mean--don’t you?

3. Everyone speaks well of a corpse. No one ever tells a dead church that they are narrow or too strong. Jesus said “Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). Friend, does the world think the church you are a member of is too strict for them-or have they come into it and made no change in their life? How do-the denominations regard the church you attend? Check--you might be a member of a corpse!

4. The preacher always delivers a positive sermon over a corpse. There is no fighting of sin in a dead church. Whenever you hear, “Our preacher is never negative” just mark it down that that is a dead church.

5. Embalming fluid only delays the decay. After a person dies he is embalmed in order to make him look natural for a few days. When a church loses its fire and zeal for the ancient order of preaching it dies. Then the elders and deacons meet and ire an “embalmer”. This man injects the fluid by starting all manner of social and secular programs. They have all manner of parties, banquets, youth activities and entertain the members of the dying church. But, even though it might be made to look natural the embalming only lasts for a little while and then decay will begin to eat away and it will plunge into the oblivion of apostasy.

Friend, investigate. Take the pulse of the congregation where you worship and see if you find any heartbeat. Do you see the characteristics of a corpse? - DRS

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