Summary: A message atfer preaching at a church in St Louis during the SBC. This was once a thriving, soul winning church.
A MESSAGE FROM A DEAD CHURCH
Date: June 23, 2002
Place: Allendale Baptist A.M. Service
Text: 2 Timothy 3:1-5
Over a month ago I was asked to preach in a church in the St. Louis area while we were there for the Southern Baptist Convention. I spoke with a man from the church several times and asked him to give me some history of the church and an idea of her spiritual condition also.
He began to tell me of the church’s history: She had ran 600 in Sunday School at one time during the early 50’s & 60’s. The church was located in downtown St. Louis and the church facilities sat on nearly a full city block. The church had great vision, great leadership, and a passion for missions but most of all a desire to reach the lost. The neighborhood began to change to more of a diverse ethnic area. The pastor decided to do church as usual. Now remember this was in the mid to late 60’s. They church decided not to reach out to the blacks & few Hispanics in the area. Attendance began to drop. No souls were being saved. There was no discipleship.
The pastor lead the congregation to sell the property, which they could no longer fill or afford, to a black congregation and purchase 10 acres outside of town in a new suburb. Oh, by the way the Black congregation is thriving. Reaching not just the community but also outside through missions.
On this particular Sunday morning I preached at this church, there Sunday School attendance was 33 with some 60-80 in worship.
What had happened to this once great church? A church on it’s way to becoming even in those days as one of the first Mega-Churches. These folks told me the answer; “THEY HAD DIED”……..
The Spirit of God had departed them. They had not closed the doors. They were still meeting. They were still having Sunday School. They were still having worship services on Sunday morning and Sunday evening. They were still having a few show up for prayer meeting on Wednesday evening.
But the Holy Spirit of God had left and my dear friend when that happens you might as well board up the place.
This morning let’s see why a church dies
A Church dies when…
I. Reputation Replaces Repentance.
A. In Revelation 3: 1, the Lord Jesus gives a strong rebuke to the church at Sardis “You have a name that you are alive but you are dead.”
1. That word name carries with it the implied assumption of notoriety & fame; to be known by what one has spoken or accomplished.
2. The church at Sardis was oozing with reputation- but the tragedy was they knew it.
3. they were proud to be proud
4. Like my favorite preacher Bill Stafford says, “they could strut sitting down.”
B. Looking from the outside they were a great church, which great activities.
C. But God was not working through them. They were working on their own. THEIR CHURCH HAD DIED.
D. Reputation and a great past is not necessarlarily a bad thing. We should remember our great heritage & the Heroes of the faith who have paved the way before us. But we cannot continue to live in the past.
E. We need to stop polishing our reputations and start practicing repentance.
There is another reason churches die, because
II. Performance is Preferred Above Praise.
A. This can be seen all around us. Churches that would rather be popular than be right; Churches filling their calendars with activities.
B. But one Sunday mornings there is no praise.
1. No praise in the people
2. No praise from the pulpit
C. The Bible tells us we “should enter His presence with praise.
D. Praise comes from the innermost part of the child of God. Responding to the presence of God in their lives.
E. Praise cannot be demanded. Praise must be desired…
F. Someone once showed me a list of questions of the search committee of a church looking for a new pastor the committee used to evaluate one of the candidates.
1. Did he preach too long?
2. Was his voice too loud?
3. Was he too funny or too serious?
4. Was his message pleasant or irritating?
5. Would you consider him well dressed?
What about did his message bring praise to the Lord Jesus…
Also a church dies when
III. They Worship Without Witnessing
A. For many years our churches have taught that the primary purpose of the church is to worship God.
B. That is true somewhat. When we gather in this place we are to worship the one true Holy Living God.
C. One truly who worships God, like Isaiah when has an encounter with God responds, “Here am I, send me”