Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Epitaph of the Church?

Tuesday, March 16, 2015
"Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones represent the people of Israel. They are saying, ‘We have become old, dry bones—all hope is gone. Our nation is finished.’"   Ezekiel 37:11 (NLT)
On any average Sunday in Europe something less than 5% of the population attends worship.  Before we shake our heads in disbelief or pity for those poor heathens, we need to remember that roughly only 25% of Americans are in church as well.  And the average American church member only attends an average of 4 Sundays in 10.
Some of the more pessimistic pundits proclaim the epitaph of the church has been written and published; the more cynical and disbelieving call for a funeral.  Like Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones we are pronounced Dead on Arrival in the 21st century.
I think not.
I think not for several reasons:

Reason #1

The church is not dead because it’s God’s church and there is nothing that is truly connected to God that can be pronounced dead.  If we seem a little dead on Sundays it may be because we have forgotten that.  We need to be reminded, and I think the lack of commitment to worship services and programs and Christian service is because we have opted for immersion in activities and behavior that is less than that which is best, that to which we are called.

Reason #2

Following on reason #1, God will not long tolerate His church acting dead.  And because of this malaise the church is in a lukewarm condition, neither on fire, nor totally apostate, but getting there.  We are much like what Jesus said about to the Laodicean Church in Revelation:
I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold.  I wish you were one or the other!  But since you are like lukewarm water, I will spit you out of my mouth.”  Revelation 3:15-16 (NLT)
Lukewarm is made up of hot and cold mixed together.  The cold may get a little warmer, but the hot cools off!  The worldly (sinful) mixture that has cooled off the church’s passion for righteousness and seeking God’s Kingdom as a first priority is what makes Jesus sick.  This is an appropriate metaphor because the phrase spit you out of my mouth is like the vomiting reflex following nausea.  I heard a sermon on this text one time where the preacher gave the title, You Make Me Sick.
If you think about this analogy of the lukewarm church, we understand why it’s too early to pronounce the church dead or doomed.  Jesus is not willing for his church to stay in a condition of making him nauseous.  He will do something with us to heat us up! 
Usually that heating involves something we used to call a woodshed experience; discipline to motivate and change our behavior.  A Good Shepherd will guide!
The guidance Jesus gives for each disciple is pretty simple:
 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;  Matthew 6:33a (KJV)

For You Today

As you go about whatever you’re planning to do today, make sure everything is seen through the Kingdom lens – seek God’s direction and will in everything; be ready for the passion he places inside your heart to warm up yourself and others.
Don’t let the epitaph writers become prophets!

[1] Title Image: By Bill W Ca at en.wikipedia, from Wikimedia Commons

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