"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” - Luke 19:10 (ESV)
It was one of the most amazing scenes I had ever witnessed up to that point in my life.
One of my friends from church had asked me to spend the night at their farm. Being a city boy, I was continuously amazed and mentally stimulated as I learned about and experienced the day to day life of my good friend living on a farm. The chores were...well...different...feeding cattle was amazing, I mean, I knew what it was to feed my half and half mix of Chihuahua and Fox Terrier dog every day, Teddy, but to feed what seemed like hundreds of huge cattle was fascinating.
The whole week end was full of one new and exciting lesson after another. But when lunch time rolled around I was taken to the barn and asked to pick out dinner for the night. That’s right...dinner...and I was looking a group of chickens and they didn’t look anything like Kentucky Fried Chicken...anyway, we made our choice and then it happened...kind of suddenly and without explanation. Jon’s mom took the chicken to a tree stump...she had a little axe in her hand...and without hesitation she quickly and efficiently separated the head from the rest of the chicken. I was shocked and then amazed...and yes, I will admit it, a little scared, maybe a lot scared...because she let go of the chicken and it started running around the yard, without its head. He didn’t run too long or too far really, but run he did. They thought it was all so funny...because I started running too... away from the chicken, even though my head was still attached...proved by the sound barrier breaking screams coming out of my mouth. AMAZING...didn’t see that one coming!
After the entire family clan, who had ventured out for the event without my having noticed, finished their hooting and hollering, and it subsided from seeing my immediate and expected reaction...real funny, I thought. Then they explained that the chicken was dead...everything was okay...he wasn’t going to hurt me...he was dead and he just didn’t know it yet. You know, since that day I’ve learned that if you chop the head off a chicken they can run around for a few seconds because of a neural network in the spinal cord that is pre-programmed to direct the muscles in frequently used movement patterns such as running. The chickens are already dead...they just don’t know it.
That can happen in the life...and death...of a church. Here you have a church in the beginning of its life, started by a group of outward looking Christians...by outward...meaning, they have the desire to fulfill the Great Commission and seek and save the lost...they have the heart and passion of the Lord for lost people and they are driven to grow and mature and fellowship and become complete in Christ that they might let Christ live through them and when He does that He is always seeking and saving the lost...and boy a church like that, well, is it alive...the people are looking outward...trying to reach as many people as they can with the gospel and then bring them into the fellowship of the church. The Great Commission is emphasized and the church has the heart and passion of the Lord to seek and to save the lost.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" - Matthew 28:19 (ESV)
Then, that local church begins to get a little larger and if they are not careful the church begins to look inward, mostly...and all they really care about when you get down to it, is... themselves...what they are learning...what they are receiving in fellowship...what their buildings and transportation and ministries can do for them and over a period of time the church begins to slide down the slippery slope of death. It becomes a “Me” church because it’s about what’s in it for me and my family. The goal revealed in the Great Commission, and the heart of sacrifice, to seek and save the lost which was demonstrated by Christ on the Cross, become distant, unimportant thoughts and are largely ignored. And that kind of church will eventually die. America’s landscape is becoming littered with empty buildings that use to house the church of the Living God.
After all... the buildings and the teaching and the preaching and the people are gathered together for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission and reaching out to those who have never heard of Christ or trusted Him as their Savior...and then bring them into the family of God where they grow spiritually, to maturity in Christ so that Christ will live through them and well...you get it...seek and save the lost.
Unfortunately, in fact, there are many churches that are “dead” and they don’t even know it yet...they’ll be able to run around for a while...they’re used to being engaged in frequent movement patterns and rituals...just like the chicken...but they are on their way out because they turned inward.
Yes, according to Smokey the Bear, it’s true; you can help prevent forest fires, by not lighting a match and throwing it down in the forest. But more importantly, you can help prevent the death of a church...for people are the church...you...you are the church... and by asking yourself if you are doing everything the Lord wants you to do to reach out with the good news of Jesus Christ you can help prevent our death.
Some churches are dead and they don’t even know it. Pray it never happens here.
... they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also"- Acts 17:6 (ESV)