Have you ever been to a ‘dead’ church? Perhaps you wonder what that even means. It really is a contradiction in terms, isn’t it? A church is a group of believers who have been born again, who are supernaturally transformed, redeemed people in whom the Holy Spirit has come to live. There is nothing ‘dead’ about it! Instead, they have been truly made alive in Christ. And yet a church can slowly die through a cold, lifeless orthodoxy, or through liberal compromise. The ministry at Sardis was on life support.
Sardis was the church that was dead even though it had a reputation of being alive. Charles Swindoll writes, “Maybe it means their sanctuary is a morgue with a steeple. It’s a congregation of corpses with undertakers for ushers, embalmers for elders, and morticians for ministers. Their pastor graduated from a theological cemetery. The choir director is the local coroner. They sing “Embalmed in Gilead” and “Amazing Grave, How Sweet the Sound.” At the rapture, they’ll be the first church taken up, because the Bible says, ‘The dead in Christ shall rise first.’ They drive to church in one long line with their headlights on. Whenever someone joins their membership, the church immediately notifies the next of kin. Each week they put an ad in the obituaries. The church van is a hearse and the sign is a tombstone. Their motto is, ‘Many are cold and a few are frozen.’”
A dead church is one that has become a monument and ceased to be a movement. Preserving the past becomes more important than pursuing the future. Worship is no longer characterized by passion. Discipleship is no longer characterized by holiness and selfless expression. Personal evangelism and love for lost people is nowhere to be found. All of this and more is true of a dead church. The church at Sardis could have hope because Jesus Christ was the Head of the church. As the living Lord of the church, He was able to bring new life through His Spirit.
Here’s a question to ponder as we consider these seven churches: “If every member of my church were just like me, what kind of church would my church be?”
For more, read Revelation 3:1-6