Corpses: A Look at Today's Church
is an interesting phenomenon. For some it brings excitement;
for others it strikes fear and creates consternation. The
way in which one deals with change usually has a direct
correlation to how closely they walk with God. Because people
are not walking with God, they are so confused about so
many things, especially about what's valuable and what isn't.
wrote, "One year, my best friend and I devised what
we thought was a brilliant and creative plan for mischief.
We decided to break into the basement of the local five-and-dime
store. We did not plan to rob the place (Sunday School boys
would never do that sort of the thing); instead, we planned
to do something that, as far as the owner of the store was
concerned, would have been far worse. Our plan was to get
into that five-and-dime store and change the price tags
"We imagined what it would
be like the next morning when people came into the store
and discovered that radios were selling for a quarter and
bobby pins were priced at five dollars each. With diabolical
glee, we wondered what it would be like in that store when
nobody could figure out what the prices of things really
I think that Satan has played the same kind of trick on
believers today. He seems to have broken into our lives
and changed the price tags on things. Too often, under the
influences of his malicious ploy, we treat what deserves
to be treated with loving care as though it were of little
worth; and then we find ourselves tempted to make great
sacrifices for that which has no lasting value, delivers
very little gratification, and makes no eternal impact whatsoever.
One of the more serious consequences of our fallen nature
is our failure to understand what really is important in
past few years, I've been studying the Church from the perspective
of being a Pastor, from the perspective of travelling and
preaching while between churches, and now from the perspective
of serving as Pastor once again. Quite honestly, I'm floored
at what I've found. In fact, I am very grieved.
church gets nearer and nearer to the beginning of end-times
events, she is so weak and unprepared for what will take
place on the apocalyptic landscape that it's appalling.
She desperately needs to finish strongly, but won't without
a miraculous spiritual awakening. The Bible mentions that
in the last days, there will be a falling away, a turning
away from God by believers who are not well-rooted in their
faith, by those who seek emotional and sensual gratification
from a world hell-bent on entertaining itself to death rather
than being content with the spiritual gratification we have
in Jesus. That falling away has begun. In fact, recent church
growth statistics indicate that some 80% of American churches
are plateaued or declining in membership and attendance.
with that is the dismal record of the American church today.
Some churches I know have been declining for more than two
decades, yet they insist on holding on to their way of doing
church for no other reason than because that's the way they've
always done it. The resistance to change and innovative
approaches to ministry is unfathomable. People are not giving
new ideas and up-to-date approaches to ministry the slightest
chance to work…because they've never done it that way
before. Their way of doing church is tried and proven…proven
to fail, that is. An old adage says: "If we keep doing
what we've always done, we'll keep getting what we've always
gotten." Most churches today act as though they've
never heard that.
and approaches to reaching people have been the same for
the last 20, 30, 40, even 50 years. With the decline in
membership and attendance, churches not meeting their budgets,
morale being at an all-time low, we can and must conclude
that the energy, bitterness, and outright hatred being expended
to protect dead programs is unjustifiable. If a church has
been doing a few select programs for the past 20 years and
participation in those programs has dwindled since their
inception, then the keepers of the programs are keeping
them going for no other reason than to keep the memory of
those programs alive. It doesn't matter that something significant
and Kingdom-impacting would be a much better fit for that
time slot, they just want to hold to the status quo. If
they know that the church was once strong but has been dwindling
for the past 20 years and haven't corrected course, then
it's as though they're saying, "We've been trying to
kill this church for the past 20 years. Leave us alone.
Don't be coming in here with new and vibrant ministries
to replace our dead, out-dated programs because, if you
do, it'll disturb our plans to kill this church."
tooth-and-nail with deacons over the years who were convinced
that the church is a business. Every decision they made
and every approach to decisions was from a business persuasion.
Faith never entered the equation. They were, therefore,
intent on treating it as such. It is not. But, with that
said, what would one think if the above scenario happened
in the business world?
say that you own a store that sells audio components. And
let's say that in 1968, you received an exciting offer of
a promising, state-of-the-art program from one of the leading
manufacturers of 8-track tape players. It was the new thing
and so you gladly signed-on to be in the program. They offered
you the best components and the assurance that they would
keep them coming if you signed on the dotted line. For the
first five years, business was great and you fell in love
with the whole 8-track tape idea.
1972, sales and interest in the components have dwindled
to the point that for the past 15 years, you've been able
to interest only the occasional old, die-hard, 8-track tape
enthusiast. This has translated into one or two sales a
year and you are struggling to keep the lights on. Oh, you
had the opportunity to modernize over the years to keep
up with current trends. You remember when young adults began
coming in asking for cassette players, and then CDs and
Walkmans, and even iPods and MP3 players. But you refused
to consider modern components and were committed to keeping
the 8-track dream alive, even if it cost you your business
in the process. You are the kind of person who is resistant
to change and rejected the notion that these new concepts
might help you to reach new customers, grow your business,
and meet the needs of scores of new people.
you were that business owner and told me that story, I'd
quickly become convinced that you had a 15-year-plan to
kill your business. Since hundreds of churches operate similarly,
I've become equally convinced that they have also embraced
some sort of plan, consciously or unconsciously, to kill
their churches. Why else would they keep doing the same
things that have caused the church to decline steadily for
the past few decades?
I'm a Southern Baptist, I will speak of my experience in
Southern Baptist churches. In most of the churches I've
served or attended, the people have been taught well what
it means to be a Southern Baptist, but they have not been
taught what it means to be a Kingdom-focused disciple of
Christ. This is a mindset I've fought for decades. It manifests
itself in predictable ways. The churches are about propagating
their programs, not being on mission with God.
outreach program comes along, for example, most churches
will do it solely because it's a Southern Baptist program,
not because they've suddenly become interested in being
on mission with God. So, they give the impression that they
are on mission with God because they're doing the
program, but there's no spiritual power in what they're
doing because doing a program is not the same as being involved
in a ministry of the Church. For awhile, the program will
be popular because it's in vogue. But after the new wears
off, the interest dwindles because it was established on
a flawed spiritual foundation; or on no spiritual foundation
at all. Many times these programs become permanently etched
into the church's DNA, fixed in certain time slots, and
are almost impossible to replace. That program becomes sacred
because so-and-so started it; and its leaders become guardians
of "the sacred cow" even long after the "cow"
differs from a ministry in that a program is something that
is done at a specific time, in a specific place, with a
specific goal: completing the agenda set forth in the leader's
guide for that particular meeting. The concepts are generally
not transferable, meaning that they are usually not acted
upon outside the classroom setting. The place is established
and becomes almost as sacred as the time at which they meet.
Changing the time or place takes a consensus of the group.
Oftentimes, that which is set forth in the lesson plan is
rigid and the leader feels compelled to get it all completed
within the timeframe laid out regardless of what else may
be happening in the group.
that which churches should be doing, is not program-driven
or narrowly-focused. It changes as necessary depending on
the needs of both the "ministers" and those to
whom they are ministering. It is not staffed by those who've
been recruited for a specific program but rather by those
who have discovered their spiritual gifts and are using
them in that particular ministry because it is something
about which they are passionate.
and place are flexible and the concepts are transferrable,
meaning this ministry is not something that only occurs
when everyone is together. It, rather, is the lifestyle
of each "minister."
being completed depends on whether or not each "minister's"
needs are met, meaning that if someone's hurting, time is
spent strengthening and encouraging them rather than pressing
on to complete the agenda despite the fact that someone
may be falling apart over in the corner. It's Kingdom-focused
and people-driven. It has an obvious spiritual power about
it because it is something that can only work if it's Spirit-empowered
defenders of programs would become defenders of the faith
and get on-board with what God is trying to do rather than
fight to protect their pet programs, the church would see
wonderfully exciting things happen. Things like revival,
repentance, people returning to God and rededicating their
lives to Jesus, and believers actually getting right with
each other, would be commonplace occurrences. The Luke 9:23
solution is that we must get out of the way and let God
work. There are so many dead programs and dead church members
that we spend most of our time stacking corpses rather than
loving the lost and ministering to those in need.
remember the people who were just in the way when the four
men were trying to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus?
Many of the people were just there to hear Jesus, to see
who was there and why, and to gawk; they had no intention
of their lives being changed by His message. In fact, they
were so much in the way and so unwilling to get out of the
way that these four men had to lower their friend through
the roof. The gawkers were what I call consumers rather
than contributors. Our churches today are filled
with Consumer Christians; but God has called us all to be
church, we have an inordinate number of people who are just
standing around doing nothing; just in the way. Stacking
the corpses of dead believers and dead programs is not what
we're called to do. We're called to be ministering servants,
to make disciples, and to love one another. Are you spending
more time stacking corpses, standing in the way, and defending
dead programs, or have you discovered your spiritual gifts
and begun to minister in Jesus' name? The difference really
is like the difference between day and night…or rather,
light and darkness.
to you today is three-fold. First, go before the Lord and
ask Him to reveal to you where you are spiritually. Have
you spent an inordinate amount of time defending dead programs?
Are you standing in the way of Kingdom progress in your
church? Or are you really on fire for Jesus and leading
the charge against the kingdom of darkness. These two polar
opposites really are mutually exclusive.
if you haven't already done so, make a commitment to the
Lord to discover your spiritual gifts and to begin using
them in your church. If you know your gifts, take some time
for self-evaluation. Paul encouraged Timothy to fan into
flame the dying embers of the spiritual gifts he wasn't
using. Do you need to do the same?
commit to being a part of the solution instead of being
a part of the problem. If your only job in the church has
been stacking corpses, stop it. Get on board with those
who seek to bring the changes necessary to move your church
from being program-driven to being Kingdom-focused. And
pray and pray and pray that God will strengthen those who
are fighting for the soul of the church that they not lose
sight of God's plan; that they not forget the vision God
has given them of what the church can and should be; and
that the Lord will save, remove, or revive those who are
just standing around in the way. These, too, are mutually
exclusive as well.
church is too much on His heart for Him to abandon. And
we already know the gates of hell will not prevail against
it. We are either for Him or against Him; there is no middle
ground. Purpose in your heart today to be on mission with
God, not because it's the fad; but because it's His will.
You'll be glad you did!
Then He said to them all, "If anyone wants to come
he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow
1 Anthony Campolo's "Who
Switched The Price Tags?"
Copyright © 2011. Faith
Matters by Dr. Ken Lovelace. All rights reserved.