On the Death of a Local Church

We used to feed homeless people from the kitchen of a church in an older section of Kansas City. In 1920 the pastor of this Baptist church had aspirations of being president of the U.S. By 2004 its buildings were a decrepit shell of what had once been a thriving church. Its small congregation merged with another urban congregation and its buildings were sold to a theatre group.

Perhaps this church had accomplished its task during its 100+ year lifecycle? Perhaps closing its doors was only the next inevitable phase in its years of faithful gospel ministry? However, as I walked and prayed through the church buildings, I wondered if God’s Holy Spirit at one point or another had pronounced over that church the word Ichabod, “The glory has departed” (1 Sam 4:21).

This eventuality brings attention to a very interesting warning left to us by Moses in Deuteronomy 28:

Deut 28:62, “You shall be left few in number, whereas you were as the stars of heaven in multitude, because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God.”

God has solemnly warned His people that if they failed to obey the voice of the Lord their God, they would surely diminish in number.

The sequel to this warning and its promised result can be seen all around the U.S. in the diminishing size of local church congregations preceded and predetermined by their doctrinal downgrade. Church after church languishes in spiritual and physical disrepair. Faithful members wring their hands as they remember the “glory days” of the church. Surely they must ponder, “Has the glory departed from our church?”

The www.simplechurchathome.com website makes the following statement based on contemporary research: “Every year approximately 7000 churches close their doors for the last time.” With 52 Sundays in a year, the resulting calculation means that every Sunday across the U.S. an average of 135 churches close their doors for the last time.

God gave one sure condition for the glory departing from a local congregation: disobedience to the words of His voice.

Uncompromising faithfulness to the Word of God is absolutely necessary to avoid the word “Ichabod” from being written over the doors of any church. And surely an important command of Scripture comes to us directly from the mouth of our Lord and Savior when He was on earth—that is, the Great Commission:

Matt 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

This command represents the martial call of our Savior: that every one of His children should be a fisher of men, an evangelist, a verbal witness to His death and resurrection. When a church moves away from its evangelistic roots, it writes “Ichabod” over its front door.

If they do not return to their Great Commission roots, surely God has a warning for them in His word:

“You shall be left few in number … because you would not obey the voice of the Lord your God” (Deut 28:63).

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