‘That’s a dead church’. This expression can also take on similar forms, such as: “That church is dead” or “The Holy Spirit is not in that church”. Granted, there are churches that fit the description of Sardis (Rev 3:1), but all too often this expression is not found on the lips of someone who is saying that a church has forsaken the true Gospel and the preaching of Scripture; rather, it’s often simply someone’s way of saying that, by their standards, ‘the people are just too quiet’, ‘no one raises their hands when they sing’ or ‘they only spend 15 to 20 minutes singing songs’.
So… they’re dead?
Never-mind the Biblical litmus tests of sound doctrine, love, and obedience (see I John). Forget those things. The real question is: “Do people say ‘Hallelujah Lord’ in between worship songs? Do people say ‘amen’ at different points during the preaching? Do people speak passionately and demonstratively?”
Nothing is wrong with any of those things. Each can be very good. But they are by no means a litmus test of whether or not a church is dead or alive. Sadly, some people can sit in churches where the Bible is not exposited, where the Gospel is moved to the periphery, and where love and obedience are not championed as the evidence of having seen the glorious gospel, and then feel just a little bit more holy by saying “Such-in-such church is dead”.
Avoid applying that so called Christian saying to any church that preaches Jesus Christ and Him crucified; that Gospel is the one that the Holy Spirit uses to bring dead men to life and edify saints (Eph. 2:1-9, 1 Cor. 15:3-4). It is arrogant and unwise to say “that assembly is dead” when the Holy Spirit is living inside the people who comprise the church, when He guides the sheep through the exposition of the Word He inspired, when saints are pursuing holiness and loathing unrighteousness, and when the Gospel is at the center.