What will kill a church?

casket

Scripture (Genesis 1:26-27) tells us that God created human beings in His own image.  Apparently God takes this seriously for God has chosen to do His work in this world through us.

I would have thought that God’s work in this world is too important to leave it in the hands of fallible people like you and me.  I would have thought that God’s work in this world requires far more wisdom and integrity and truth and grace than we tend to demonstrate in our lives.

Yet God trusts in the fact that we are made in His image (and He trusts in the power of His Spirit working in us), so He chooses to do His work in this world through us.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31 offers an interesting perspective on this truth.  In this passage Paul describes God’s people as various parts of one body.  To function properly, a body needs each of its parts to do the work it was created to do.  Paul stresses that the same principle holds true for the “body of Christ”—the church.  For the church to function properly, each member of the church needs to do the work God has called us and equipped us to do.

In his book, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren points out, “In some churches in China, they welcome new believers by saying, ‘Jesus now has a new pair of eyes to see with, new ears to listen with, new hands to help with, and a new heart to love others with.’”

He goes on to add, “What happens when one part of your body fails to function?  You get sick.  The rest of your body suffers.  Imagine if your liver decided to start living for itself: ‘I’m tired!  I don’t want to serve the body anymore!  I want a year off just to be fed.  I’ve got to do what’s best for me!  Let some other part take over.’  What would happen?  Your body would die.  Today thousands of local churches are dying because of Christians who are unwilling to serve.  They sit on the sidelines as spectators, and the Body suffers.” (p. 230)

Lloyd Cory adds to Rick Warren’s observation:

“I think a vivid illustration of this comes from a true story of a young minister in Oklahoma who went to this little, though long-standing, church in hopes of reviving the ministry of it.  He had stars in his eyes and great hopes for the future.  He thought he could turn it around, and he gave it his best effort week after week…to no avail.

“Finally, he had one last idea.  He announced in the local newspaper on Saturday that the church had died, and on Sunday afternoon there would be a funeral service at the church itself, and all who wished could attend.  For the first time in his years there, the place was packed.  In fact, people were standing outside on tiptoes looking through the windows to see this most unusual funeral service for a church.

“To their shock there was a casket down front.  And it was smothered with flowers.  He told the people that as soon as the eulogy was finished they could pass by and view the remains of the dearly beloved whom they were laying to rest that day.  They could hardly wait until he finished the eulogy.  He slowly opened the casket, pushed the flowers aside, and people filed by, one by one, to look in.  Having looked in, they left sheepishly, feeling guilty as they walked out the door, because inside the casket he had placed a large mirror.  As they walked by, they saw the church that had died.”

As Paul stresses in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

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