Dad received Bullet, the bird dog, as a gift because he was born with one ear grown flat against his head and wasn’t marketable. Other than that, he was completely normal and loved to hunt quail. Dad, my brother, and I went quail hunting in the fall of the year. When we would return around noon, our neighbor would borrow Bullet and spend much of the afternoon hunting. After that outing, Bullet was tired, but not too tired to go out again if someone lowered the tailgate and said “Let’s go, Bullet!”
Bullet had one major fault: he would have nothing to do with a dead bird. That was Dad’s fault. One day, Bullet dragged a dead chicken into the yard. To teach him a lesson, Dad “spanked” Bullet with the dead chicken. Bullet never repeated that annoyance; but, it also stopped Bullet from retrieving a dead quail.
If we downed a quail, we could say “Dead bird! Dead bird!” and Bullet would sniff back and forth; but once he found the dead quail, he was ready to go back to hunting. He just wouldn’t retrieve it!
What’s my point?
Many of our churches are like those dead quail; and many of today’s seekers are like old Bullet. They will “sniff” to see what’s there; but, once they’ve discovered there’s no spiritual life, they’re ready to move on! We may keep the youth coming back; but, in many instances, it’s not for the spiritual life–it’s for the table tennis, the basketball, or the pizza. This isn’t to say these things aren’t beneficial; it’s just that youth attendance shouldn’t be the primary goal!
What’s happened? By our “social club” mentality, we’ve allowed the spiritual life to die! In too many instances, we’re like the church of the Laodiceans. We see ourselves as rich and increased with goods, having need of nothing. God sees us as “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Rev. 3:17) And, like the church at Sardis, in too many instances, we have a name that we live, but, are dead. (Rev. 3:1)
When Jesus built His Church, He gave it spiritual life. That’s what happened on the Day of Pentecost. He had told His disciples, “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Lk. 24:49) He also said, “These signs shall follow them that believe…” (Mk. 16:17a) What were those signs? They were works that can’t be done by human ability; they would require that “power” of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus promised, in Mt. 24:14, that there would be a last-days return to spiritual power. Sadly, it will not be experienced first-hand by many of our churches. Their experience will be second-hand, if at all. They will call for an individual who is capable of taking away their reproach. We believe that’s the message of Isa. 4:1, which tells us, “And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.” An anointed circuit-riding preacher will serve a different congregation each of the seven days of the week.
In the New Testament, women typify churches. John said, in his second epistle, “The elder unto the elect lady and her children.” He concluded the epistle by saying, “The children of thy elect sister greet thee.” (2 Jn. 1, 13) We see the type used again in 2 Tim. 3:6. In that verse, whole congregations (silly women) are held captive by men who deny the power of godliness. They will not allow the truth to be spoken! To allow the truth of God’s anointing to be taught would be to contradict their own traditional beliefs!
The verse we referenced in Mt. 24:14 promises, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” What is the gospel of the kingdom? Contrary to many expositors, it isn’t the message of salvation. The gospel of the kingdom always was, and is, accompanied by miracles performed under authority from God. When Jesus expelled the dumb spirit in Lk. 11:14-20, He did it with “the finger of God” and declared “The kingdom of God is come upon you.”
When Jesus sent His twelve disciples, He gave them authority to do similar miracles. (Lk. 9:1-2) He did the same when He sent the “other seventy” in Lk. 10:1-9. They didn’t PRAY for people! They performed healings, etc., just as Jesus had done. In each instance, reference was made to the kingdom of God. (Lk. 9:2; 10:9) Of course, it did draw men to the Savior.
When the gospel of the kingdom becomes, again, the message of the Church, multitudes will pack the assemblies. Many will rejoice! Regrettably, some will be ashamed! Their folly of denying the power of godliness will become apparent to all who have witnessed their denial. (2 Tim. 3:1-9)
What will it take to bring life back to these dead churches? It will take a fresh manifestation of the power of God. Sadly, those who will not repent until they see it will not get ready in time to attend the wedding. (Mt. 25:1-10) Those who seek a sign never get it in time to reform until it is too late. (Mt. 12:39) But, according to Jesus’ promise, it is coming!
Lest it seem I am “tooting the horn” of the Pentecostal churches; let me say that I believe this next great move of God will know no denominational boundaries. In too many instances, those who profess to have Pentecostal power are having the same difficulty as others in attracting those desiring an experience with God.
Much more might be said regarding this topic. Those wishing to correspond may e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: Dead Churches.
Photo credit: Terekhova (Creative Commons)