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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Can Dead Churches Come Back to Life?

I really don't like playing Bible Roulette. That's when you drop your Bible and say something like, "Let's see what God has for me today?" Reading the scripture to which the Bible randomly opened is chaotic. God is not the god of chaos.

However, this morning I was moved to a scripture. I don't know how to explain it other than I remembered the story and, after praying for the Spirit to fill me, looked for this scripture. It is found in Ezekiel 37:1-14.

 Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NIV)
1 The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign Lord, you alone know." 4 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to these bones and say to them, 'Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.'" 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.'" 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet--a vast army. 11 Then he said to me: "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, 'Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.' 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.'"

I read the scripture and knew why I was reading it. I have been concerned over churches which are dying. Each year the witnesses of many churches are snuffed out because the church closes its doors. The property is sold and the work of God is abandoned by that church. It is as if the church was exiled from its own promised land. Unfortunately, there are few left to mourn the death of these churches. The congregations are elderly. Within a few short years hardly anyone remembers the church.

At one time each of these churches had life. They had children running in their halls and being disciplined by their parents. They had celebrations of weddings, baptisms and birth announcements. But, sometime, somewhere each of these churches decided to hold onto what they had rather than stretch out and reach others. They decided that change was only inevitable outside the church. They worked to keep things exactly as they had  been.

At first, it seemed like a great idea. Old time members wanted to keep things exactly as they had always had them. After all these were the tithers who kept the church in good financial condition. The church would remain fine as long as these people were made happy.

But, they got older and started dying. Some of them were placed in nursing homes by their children. Others hung on as long as they could but eventually couldn't drive to church. The neighborhood changed until it wasn't safe. Some of the long time members moved closer to their children. Attendance dropped a little every year. Hardly anyone noticed. Some of the people still talk of the church's "glory" days but they are all in the past.

Can these churches be brought back to life? The answer is yes. But that's not the real question, is it? The real question is, "Will these churches be brought back to life?" The only answer is the same as Ezekiel gave, "O Sovereign Lord, you alone know." I do know what it will take.

It will take God calling people who will speak His word as prophets. They will know they are speaking as God has spoken to them. They will say what He has commanded them to say. They will be filled with the Spirit.

These Spirit-filled, God called people will prophesy over these churches. They will call upon the Spirit to fill the churches. Those whose spirit's were formerly dead will come together. They will breath life again and believe again and have flesh on their bones again. It will be as when God opens the wombs of the barren. That which produced nothing will produce life!

It will be a work of God and only He can receive the glory for what is happening in these churches. No one can cause the dead to rise other than God. No one can cause a dead church to rise other than God.

These churches will become like a vast army to bring the gospel back into neighborhoods which desperately need the word of God. This army will take that which the enemy has claimed. Those who have been lost will be redeemed. Those who were of no use to God will be used miraculously.

This morning I placed my hand over this scripture and prayed for churches that are dying. Maybe I prayed for your church. Maybe you know a church that is dying.

Would you pray with me that God will bring these churches back to life?

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