There are many distractions, temptations and tribulations that can cause a church or an individual to die spiritually, as happened with the church of Sardis. There are signs to watch out for, and also ways to come back to life, Pastor Greg Laurie shared with his congregation Sunday.
Chapter 3 of Revelation in the New Testament carries a story of a sick church, Laurie of Harvest Christian Fellowship church in Riverside, California, said as he began his sermon, "How to Come Back to Life Spiritually."
Referring to the church in Sardis, mentioned in the Bible, Laurie said the problem was they didn't know their church was dying.
The pastor then read Revelation 3:1-6, "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, 'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."
There was every indication from the outside that this church was on the move, but it was not fulfilling its purpose, Laurie said, and explained that the church is here for the glorification of God, for the edification of the saints and for the evangelization of the world.
"Often, the person who is dying spiritually is the last one to know," he stressed, and warned that one could be doing all the right things outwardly and still be dying spiritually.
Laurie then shared five marks of a dying church, which, he said, he had shared some time ago with the church.
One, a dead church worships its past, he said, underlining that we need to live in the present and plan for the future. Giving an example of such a church, he said some congregations boast of conversions that happened years ago, but are not happening any longer.
Two, a dead church is inflexible and resistant to change, Laurie shared. Sometimes, we're flexible when we need to be inflexible, and inflexible when we need to be flexible, he said, explaining that we need to be inflexible about essentials or things that are non-negotiable, but flexible about how to express them, like embracing new technology or different genres of music for the sake of the outreach.
Three, a dead church has a lazy leadership, Laurie added, explaining that, due to lethargy, the leadership of a church might resist change that is needed to be relevant to the people of the time.
Four, a dead church neglects youth, the pastor told the congregation. It is important for the older generation to reach out to the next generation, he said.
Five, a dead church lacks evangelistic zeal, he shared, underlining that new believers are the lifeblood of the church.
Good news is that Jesus has prescribed ways to seek spiritual renewal so that a church doesn't die spiritually, Laurie said, referring to the same passage in Revelation.
We need to wake up, stabilize what's frail, be watching for the return of Jesus Christ, be constantly filled with the Holy Spirit and live a life that brings glory to God.
Laurie also shared with his congregation how God blessed Harvest America 2016 held in Texas earlier this month, as the church was flexible in expression of the Gospel. He said 82,000 people attended the event at AT&T Stadium, and 6,300 indicated they accepted Jesus into their lives. Additionally, 7,000 small churches and groups hosted the event online across the U.S. and other countries. He added that 180,000 people attended the event through these host sites, and 18,000 said they accepted Christ.