Tuesday, April 12, 2011


    I just returned from a weekend at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, and I have some bad news.
     What I’m about to say is going to bother some of you.  For some of you, you won’t want to hear what I have to say.  None-the-less, I am going to say it.
     The church as we know it today will soon be no longer.  The church as we know it, is in fact a dying breed.  The church most, if not all of you grew up with, will simply be no more.  Everything you have come to know and love and cherish and use as the foundation of your faith and family is on a fast track to extinction.
     I know that is not what you wanted to hear this morning.  But it is true.  And there are three reasons I say this.
     First – The church as we know it is rapidly becoming more like an entertainment center than a house of prayer and worship.  I recently read in a popular religious magazine, that the churches with the highest attendance rates are those with the most audio visual stimuli.
      It is the churches which have the biggest and baddest projection and sound systems that are attracting the most people.  We live in a culture where people have to be engaged at every level and in several areas at once, or they loose interest and leave.  They come for the show and not the Savior.
     This is not to deny the use of multi-media in the church, because there is certainly a great value to proper use of the technology, but those churches who cannot afford or who do not wish to stay on top of the latest and greatest bells and whistles soon find themselves lost in the dust of technology and the need to be entertained.
     The second reason I say the church as we know it is a dying breed is because of the Progressive Theology currently being taught at our seminaries.  For example, the morale and ethical values you have been taught are now being questioned and the standards loosened.
     Every thing you have been taught about the Bible is now going under severe scrutiny and is being changed so it is more palatable and less offensive.  The very Word of God is being changed to suite a pampered and spoiled society, instead of using the Bible as the model for society.  God is quickly becoming subservient to the people, instead of the people honoring and serving God.
     The area between right and wrong, good and bad, sin and righteousness is being challenged and rapidly becoming simply grey areas instead of Biblically based criteria for holy living.  Even the judgment of God has been reduced down to mere discernment of how we used our gifts while here on earth, instead of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  The judgment of God between believers and nonbelievers, Evil and goodness, and heaven and hell has been replaced with simple levels of goodness and reward in our final days. 
     If the current trend of Progressive Theology continues and is carried on by those graduating and become pastors, the church will soon become nothing more than an emasculated free for all where there is absolutely no personal responsibility or accountability. 
     The third reason the church is headed for extinction is seen in Ezekiel’s vision of the Valley of Dried Bones.  The bones God showed Ezekiel were the Israelites.  The Israelites who, even thou they were the chosen people of God, had become complacent, had turned to other gods, and who, in many instances, refused God.
     They had become lifeless in their relationship with God and in their service to him.  They had become merely perfunctory in their worship and attention to the ordinances of God.  These people reached a point where they cared more for themselves than for the people around them.
     Jesus calls us to reach out to the least and the lost.  In Luke 4:18-19 Jesus tell us, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’
     I Matthew 28:19-20 He says, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’
     We have become a society of individualists.  We can find God by ourselves, in the woods, on the golf course, or in our recliner watching the tube.  We don’t want the headaches or responsibilities involved with going to church and participating in corporate worship or becoming active in their little programs.
     As disciples of Christ, we are called to the assembly of believers.  In Hebrews 10:24-25 we read, ‘And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.’
     We as believers are called to the community of faith.  As believers, we have become ‘the Body of Christ’ and are to gather and work together.  We are called to the assembly of believers, church, to praise God together, the pray for one another, to be a support network for one another.  To share in the tears, fears, joys and praises of each others lives and families.
     The church is a network of fellow believers designed specifically to encourage one another, the build each other up, to lend a hand or shoulder to each other.  To help one another go through the challenges and victories of this life, to help strengthen our walk with the Lord and be with us when we fall.
     Even in our own lives, we have become spiritually lifeless.  How often do we practice spiritual disciplines like daily prayer, reading of the Word, times of private and family devotion.  How often do we share the Word of God with others?  Reach out to the poor and hurting.  How often do we bring life to someone else by acts of kindness and grace?
     As I speak to many pastors from all across Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri, I here how the church is like the Valley of Dried Bones.  Yes, we go to church.  Some of us give to the church.  And a few of us actually participate in the ministries of the church.  But over all, the church is as asleep as ol Lazarus. 
     The church, or the Body of Christ, has gotten lacidazical, lazy, and self-oriented.  The numbers speak for this truth.  With churches having ‘memberships’ in the hundreds, at actual weekly attendance in the dozens.  It’s getting more and more difficult to get people to serve on committees or boards.  The church is like the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision!
     Incidentally, that’s exactly why society is able to dictate how the church is run and how the Gospel is presented.
     Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time we called out like Ezekiel, ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that we may live.’  It’s time we again hear the words of Jesus in John  11, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’
     It’s time the stone was rolled away and our grave clothes loosened and we come alive like Lazarus.  It’s time we accept the Word of God in Ezekiel 37 – ‘I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land.’
     If we don’t, we have no hope.  If we don’t hold fast to the solid teachings of the truth we have grown up with, we’ll fall for anything.  If we don’t keep a firm grip on the Biblical morale and ethical standards, we have no hope.  If we don’t keep our faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and His blood shed for us on judgment day, we have no hope.
     If we just remain complacent, and not work our faith, or help it grow, or help others to a relationship which Christ, we have no hope.
     But we do have hope.  We have the God’s word!  Listen - ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord!  ‘Thus says the Lord God to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.’  ‘Lazarus, come forth!’
     Our hope is in a living God who wants to put the breath of life in us.  A God who wants to give us living hope.  A living hope that brings life to us, life to the church, and life to our neighbors. 
     Jesus Christ is the breath of life, and He is calling out to you and me -  come forth! And receive this living hope, and as freely and you have received, freely give.
     For living hope – lives forever.  Amen.