Dead VS. Alive

Excerpt from notes on Sardis:

I frequently find myself discussing with folks from other churches, and even at times, with those who are unbelievers; a matter that is close to my heart: the nature and substance of true worship. It comes up from time to time, especially with those who attend larger and more contemporary services, as they observe differences in the way we worship at Casey. While I would fully hold to the fact that our church is not immune from much of the words spoken by the Lord to the seven churches, and that the words to Sardis would be no exception; I would certainly not regard our Church as being dead. But that is the opinion that some from these more ‘vibrant’ congregations have suggested. I may be accused of simply being a biased pastor when I defend such allegations, but I believe that my defense is based upon scriptural foundations and that I seek to be instructed of the Lord through His Word and Spirit if I err. Here is what I see.

I see that our church, as I think most churches, while not being dead, would certainly have some health concerns. I think that some arteries may be facing blockages and would render the greater body in a condition of less than perfect health. That remains, however, far from being pronounced dead. That those health issues must be addressed or they will result in further deterioration is without question. The question here, though, is, what do you regard as the signs of life?

If by life you mean that the auditorium (or a more appropriate reference: sanctuary) is purpose built, high tech and astronomically mortgaged, then, yes, we would, it seems, appear dead.

If by life you meant that we feature a rockin’ band whose appeal to the flesh evokes responses of emotionalism and adrenalising reactions, and that no distinction need to be made between such and the term ‘worship’; then we must certainly, to some, appear dead.

If by life you mean a team of engaging and motivating speakers whose worldly anecdotes and secular witticisms evoke smiles and warm fuzzy feelings, or whose personal views or biases dictate to the use of the Word rather than vice versa – you may suspect death.

On the other hand, if by life you mean that we strive to foster an atmosphere conducive to the worship that Christ proclaimed was possible within one’s own closet, viz. independent of fleshly stimulation or external devices; but was wrought by a quiet and true contemplation of God and His truth – I would say that one must conclude that we are alive. Again, I would certainly conceive that we would be far from receiving a full and flawless bill of health; but death could certainly not be a fitting prognosis.

If by life you mean that we regard the Bible to be the only source that contains all things that pertain to life and godliness, and that such a regard would elevate the Word of God to be the most important and relevant proclamation that could be uttered each and every Sunday from the pulpit; and that we would endeavour to regard it with appropriate solemnity so as to foster conviction and summon encouragment, and thereby yield ourselves to be discipled by its truths – life would be a more fitting analysis.

Where there is life there is great joy and love, in its purest form, non-sensationalised, but pure and true and honest. These truly are the signs of life.

But there are so many, today, I fear, who would turn from a church such as ours, proclaiming it to be dead. I would strongly hold and argue that what they term ‘life’ is little more than fleshly experience and involves little or no quickening activity at soul level. And that, I believe, is precisely the point the Lord is addressing in the case of the Sardis church. There was no spiritual concern or effort at all. Their entire operation was driven by and appealed to the flesh and the wisdom of man.