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Why Your Church Is Dying

Deadly sins are at work.

by Everett Wilson
January 26, 2011

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Why Your Church Is Dying

             If you are afraid your church is dying, stop fixing blame and start taking responsibility. 

            First, the good news.  The Church is the Body of Christ. It cannot die.   Its head is the risen Christ, the King of all that is and will be.  He takes his people one by one into eternal glory when they die, there to await  [here language fails: how do you wait for anything  when time is no more?]  the day of the Lord, "when earth and heaven are one."

            Second, it is neither good nor bad news that your local church can die, because it isn't news at all.  Your church is a community of mortals; if they die and are not replaced, the church is dead in that place.  The  American rural Midwest is dotted with cemeteries bearing the names of local churches that are no longer there.

            Some of these churches did not die, of course. The living people relocated but sensibly left the cemetery behind.      That may be sad, but it is part of the natural order of earth and is usually okay--if the people were Christian in their attitudes and behavior during the crisis. 

            Now the bad news, and it is very bad.  A local church can die from enemy action—sometimes from without, but  I perceive  from long experience  that it is usually from within.   

              During the dying process, several of the  church members become experts  at naming and  blaming the enemy inside and outside the church. They are usually shocked and hurt to learn that they are on the enemy list  that other church members  are making, when they  have only the good of the church at heart!  

             Of course, it is inherent in expertise that experts do not agree. There is always another way to see it.   In this respect a dying church resembles  a criminal court  in which  both the prosecution and the defense  present  "expert" testimony arranged to prevail in argument.  Instead  of fighting the terminal disease that is the   common enemy of the church, we end up fighting each other.  

            Even good religious people would rather fix blame than take responsibility; I know my own temptations in this respect. We are   pious, self-assured, and confident enough to throw our weight around in defense of  the tradition or the truth.  We mean well.  In my own case, I took to heart my daughter's words when she observed, in the midst of a church fooforaw,  "I am   sick and tired of people who mean well."  Doing right always trumps meaning well. 

            Sometimes discerning unbelievers  can see   what is really driving us.  The chief priests of the Jews were some of the best men in the world of their day, and Pontius Pilate was one of the worst; but when the chief priests brought Jesus before Pilate hoping for a death sentence,  Pilate   saw that these good men had no case.  "Do you want   me to release to you the king of the Jews?" asked Pilate,  knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him" (Mark 15:9-10). [Emphasis mine]

            Envy killed Jesus? It sounds trivial, but why  not?  It's one of the seven deadly sins.  All of them  are killers if persisted in  and unrepented; that's what deadly  means.       The deadly sins   kill   Christians and churches  and threaten  bystanders.    You don't have to look for sociological or psychological reasons when one or more of the deadly is active in your midst. You  cannot confess other people's sins, (which naming and blaming tries to do), but you must confess your own if the church is going to recover from its terminal state. 

         Here are the seven, in case you need reminding.  

  • pride, when acted out in self-justification and determination to get your own way because it is your  way. 
  • envy, when you are dissatisfied with your place in the church and act  out your dissatisfaction  by subverting those who hold the place you want;
  • gluttony, when  your consumption consumes you, and you have no time, energy or will for anything else.  
  •  lust,  when your physical desire for another is loveless and  selfish.    
  • anger, when directed at hurting and destroying yourself or others. 
  • greed, when your only goal is more for yourself.    
  • sloth, not being bothered. 

            Pogo has been quoted endlessly:  "We have met the enemy, and he is us."  If your church is dying, maybe it's your turn to quote him!         

 

 

           

           

 

 

  

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ashley moo from Indiana writes:
January 30, 2011
pride, when acted out in self-justification and determination to get your own way because it is your way.
Everyone has a dream. a vision. who does not try to seek this dream but for the desire to seek out what one would love. It is foolish to give up your goal due to an individual declaring it prideful. Who among us would throw the towel down because another believes it is only pride. If the human population gave up on their goals, desires, wants, needs, etc..... Where would we be? How many times did Thomas Edison try to make the light bulb before he succeeded? Obviously, he truly wanted this. As many, many, heroes have done. They've sought after goals for the better of their lives and others. To seek not, is foolish. To give up and seek nothing, is even more foolish.
envy, when you are dissatisfied with your place in the church and act out your dissatisfaction by subverting those who hold the place you want;
Envy is wanting what others have because you don't have what they have and stomping on people to get what you want. It is not envy to be dissastisfied with your place in life when you know you can do so much more and become more for the greater of the family that you love. Sometimes... onlookers might confuse this with envy while those that look deeper might understand that it is simply effort to seek which is your god given right. Seeking to know what someone knows in hopes that it will better your family is not envy, it is simply looking to better the lives of those that you love.
gluttony, when your consumption consumes you, and you have no time, energy or will for anything else.
lust, when your physical desire for another is loveless and selfish.
Gluttony is an overendulgance in items and unnecessary items consuming you beyond what you do not need. Knowledge to understand is the only reason that the human species has evolved. physical desire is a part of the human nature. It is an enstinct that we were created with. To deny this is ridiculous. Many people lead many different paths. Sometimes, people push harder than anyone could imagine and they don't understand why so they chalk it up to selfishness. When a person is consumed in the desire and need to make those they love have a better life and to be able to be with them no matter what the cost... that is far from selfish.
anger, when directed at hurting and destroying yourself or others.
The Lord himself has righteous anger. BE ANGRY AND SIN NOT! Jesus was insulted when the Lord's house was made into a mockery by selling and buying items seeking greed for money. What did he do? He turned tables over, throwing items off! No one would dare try to say that this was poor behavior because he was justified in knowing what was wrong and what was right. If someone steals something from you, would you feel at ease with this person? Probably not. Anger might flare up but it is only natural. Knowing that we have made similar mistakes gives us the humbleness to forgive and not condemn. We are not God nor should we give in to hatred. It is meaningless.... no matter how many people hurt you.... you will never survive if you can not forgive. To have anger is normal, it is what we do with our anger that will stumble us or give ourselves a better position in how we deal with the situation.
greed, when your only goal is more for yourself.
sloth, not being bothered.
Greed is truly a goal for only one self. Greed is not when an individual has a goal to better their lives for the sake of their family. To lay down your life, live in a car, give up all that you have, jump as many times as you have to, seek out knowledge, TRY, TRY, TRY! This is beyond greed. This is effort.


Art Speakman from Glen Ellyn,IL. writes:
February 11, 2011
Yep,The age old problem is sin. We can all see the log in our brothers eye but our own goes unchecked most of the time.

Mike Bull from Katoomba, Australia writes:
June 28, 2011
It's a good lesson when we realise that the best kind of "well-meaning" is not the one that manipulates a bad situation to make it better but falls on its knees and puts it on the Altar to be consumed by fire. But that takes a lot of faith! Like Hezekiah, we need to take the threatening scroll, unroll it before God, and let Him roll it up. Not an easy lesson.
I think another good thing to realise is that each trial or dispute is an opportunity for growth. We see it as a danger and desperately try to protect the church by any means possible, to preserve what God gave us. It's a refusal to move forward, to allow what God has built through us in the past to become broken bread for the future.
Thanks for the post.

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