"That's a DEAD church!"
I imagine some of us have heard this statement from time to time. Perhaps some of us have even used this phrase to describe a church to others. Interestingly, I have never heard a person use this description of a church they regularly attend. After all, who wants to broadcast that they attend a dead church?
What is a dead church? What does this mean? How would you define a dead church? If a dead church looks like this _______________ (insert own definition), then a church that's alive looks like this ____________ (insert own definition).
Is church deadness or aliveness measurable? Is it based on the preaching? The music? The programs? Is it the sense that the Holy Spirit, like Elvis, has left the building? How does one quantify and measure whether a church is dead or alive? Is there a pulse? Is there an EKG that can detect that?
There's a book I would like to recommend to the Cross Creek family. It is written by John Stott and it is entitled, The Living Church: Convictions of a Lifelong Pastor (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. 2007). Stott writes in a very easy-to-understand style. In fact, I think this book would be a wonderful read for small group discussions. The title speaks for itself. It's a work dedicated to thoughtful examination of the critical areas of the church if she is to be considered alive.
This is what Stott writes (p.33) concerning the importance of being an evangelizing church:
"We don't have to wait for the Holy Spirit to come, for he did come on the Day of Pentecost, and he has never left the church. Indeed, there is a sense in which the Day of Pentecost cannot be repeated, any more than Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter and Ascension Day can be repeated. For Jesus was born once, died once, rose once, ascended once and sent the Holy Spirit once. But what we do need to do is to humble ourselves before God, and seek the fullness, the direction and the power of the Holy Spirit. For then our churches will at least come close to the essentials of a living church in apostolic doctrine, loving fellowship, joyful worship and outgoing, ongoing evangelism."
This Sunday in worship we will continue with this theme by looking at Colossians 3:17, "A Balanced Testimony." My hope is that we would approach this time together with prayer and longing to be a church that is vibrant and meaningful to the community the Lord has placed us. If Cross Creek were to shut her doors today would the community even know we were gone? And, in case you're wondering, I believe we can always find areas to grow as a church, but I also believe that we are alive in Christ. I don't often share notes I receive, but here is one penned by Derek Leonard as they prepare to travel to India for two months that I think you'll find very encouraging.
I wanted to send a quick note to thank you and the church family at large for having touched our lives and embraced the Leonard family in so many ways! Today, we were simply blown by all the people who came and hugged us, wished us, prayed and committed to praying for us. It was interesting that, in our kids ministry today, a little girl asked us a simple but profound question - how do we love and serve God?
Sarah and I just saw that in action as the church came together to pray selflessly for us, despite it being Mother's Day. We lift up our church daily in our family prayers and we will continue to pray for Kingdom impact to our community via this broken and leaking vessel called Cross Creek- may we become even more leaky as we see His Love and Grace and Truth permeate through us into this community.
We will keep you posted on our adventures in India and hope to come back rejuvenated!
Derick & Sarah Leonard
I'd say the Leonards are right. We love them, pray for them, and ask God to bless them.