The following are very important realities of a dead church that has lost its first love: When a group of disciples no longer generates a mission environment that naturally produces evangelists who go out with the message of the gospel, then the group has lost its first love.
If the local church is no longer supporting missions, then the members have become introverted. In such situations, their local budget is usually reserved for the support of works that are only within driving distance. They focus on programs and buildings for themselves. They have lost the flavor of the gospel, and thus they no longer have a gospel environment among the members that naturally produces those who will go forth with the gospel. When we cease living in gratitude of the gospel, we cease sending the gospel to all the world.
We have found that introverted churches become quite narcissistic, that is, they focus on themselves in order to survive the spirit-stifling effects of their own death. Exciting assemblies of dead churches are like flowers at a funeral. Death is all around, but the beauty of the assembly and the smell of the music drowns out the reality of having died to our first love.
When a church starts focusing on making their assemblies a Hollywood production in order to keep the attendees coming back, then the reality of death has already set in. Death has set in because the attendees are focusing on what they can get out of the assembly, that is, what they can get out of one another. On the other hand, those who attend gospel assemblies cannot wait to get out and go into all the world.
When those of the religious world lose sight of the power of the gospel, they usually turn up the volume on the amplifiers. The attendees at the concert show up for themselves. They confuse mesmerized experientialism with gospel evangelism. The mission of the church, therefore, becomes a series of Sunday performances that are inward focused and experiential. Hollywood assemblies are often the result of a church that has lost its mission. The mission of the Sunday performers is often to inspire the attendees to return next Sunday.
Dead disciples become religious, and thus are not drawn together in assembly because of their gratitude for the gospel of the incarnate Son of God. They are drawn together primarily to get something for themselves or a leading spot in the Sunday morning performance. In the assembly, some churches seek to fill a vacuum in the inner soul of the attendees who have lost their aroma for Christ.
This is particularly revealed in those religious assemblies on Sunday where the attendees feel no need to celebrate the gospel through the Lord’s Supper. There are those churches that have digressed to a legal celebration of the Supper. However, we are certain that the Lord respects even a legal communion with Him on a simple legal basis, rather than ignore the gospel of Jesus until “Easter Sunday.” Those religious groups who have only “Easter Sundays” wherein the Supper is observed have forgotten the purpose for the assembly of the blood-bought saints. Satan has changed their focus for assembly from Jesus to themselves. They calibrate themselves, but have forgotten to celebrate through the Supper the reason why we come together. When Jesus said of the Supper, “This do in remembrance of Me” (Lk 22:19), they have changed the “Me” (Jesus) to “me” (myself and I).
The reader might think that we are somewhat obsessed with the digression of the dead church into an assembly-oriented religion. But consider something that we recently read in reference to church growth studies in America. A survey was completed that focused on the decline of the “conservative” churches in America. The figures that were given were quite startling. Several church-growth studies have been conducted over the last three decades in America. But recent studies were quite revealing.
The particular writer who introduced us to the most current church-growth statistics informed us that the decline of the conservative church of America was the result of two problems. After calculating the diminishing numbers of both attendance and the number of church assemblies, the problem for the decline was focused on the following: (1) Declining churches that traditionally use no instruments in their assemblies are falling in numbers of both attendees and the number of local assemblies. (2) Declining churches are those who do not incorporate women into their Sunday assemblies.
What is surprising about the two reasons for the decline was that nothing was mentioned about the decline in the evangelistic outreach of churches. The decline was focused on assembly performances and participation, not on missions. This is the conclusion of church growth religionists who judge the body of Christ by the rules of what happens in the assembly. But is the church about what happens between an opening and closing prayer on Sunday morning?
[Next in series: June 5]