IVP - Online Pulpit - Wake Up and Smell the Coffin

January 1, 2008

Wake Up and Smell the Coffin

What part of dying don’t we understand? The mainline churches are dying. I do not need to quote statistics. We all know them well, and many of us are in churches where we can see the death daily. And I am not only talking about aging, gray-hairedcongregations. I am also including congregations that are dead spiritually. These churches are going through all the motions of religion but denying its power—its power to quicken, transform, reorder and revitalize life now. The problem is we really do not believe we are dying, either physically or spiritually. Many of the long-time members of these congregations insist that the church be about them and their way of doing church. Over their dead bodies (sometimes literally) will the church be allowed to change or be relevant to anyone but them!

When I encounter such people, I try to love them and gently nudge them toward realizing what God will do long after they are gone. I try to give them the opportunity to bless the future before they die. But honestly, I want to shake them and say, “Wake up and smell the coffin! You are dying. This church is dying. Do you want to die clinging, clenched-fisted, to your church, knowing that means it will die shortly after you do? Or do you want to die with open hands, giving a future to Christ’s church?”

But it isn’t only the older members of these congregations who are dying. We are all dying. Death is certain for all of us, and it is no respecter of persons, regardless of age. All of us, whether ninety or nine years old, are only guaranteed today. We do not know what tomorrow may bring. In reality, the question isn’t, Are we dying? Rather it is, Do we acknowledge we’re all dying? Will we make our remaining days count to the glory of God and to work to build Christ’s church for the future?

I am convinced that dead churches are not the result of style of music, polity or poor facilities. At the core of every dying church is a loss of the centrality of the gospel message. The world—everyone—needs Christ. And the church’s main business is delivering the good news of Christ to whoever will listen.

We don’t really believe we are dying and that the only future of the church is Christ living through us. Wake up and smell the coffin!

Posted by Candie Blankman at January 1, 2008 8:52 AM Bookmark and Share

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