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                        "WHAT CAN KILL A CHURCH"


INTRODUCTION

1. In Re 3:1, the church at Sardis was described as a "dead" church...

2. This reveals that churches can die - and they often do...
   a. Where are the congregations we read of in the New Testament?
   b. At some point in their history, they died

3. There are at least two ways a church may die...
   a. It may cease to exist
   b. It may die inwardly, even while it still lives outwardly

4. What can kill a church?
   a. Are we aware of the different weapons Satan can use to destroy
      us?
   b. Are there things that threaten our very existence even now?

[In this lesson, "What Can Kill A Church", we will examine four things
that can jeopardize any congregation of God's people.  The first is
perhaps a rather obvious one...]

I. PERSECUTION

   A. SATAN HAS OFTEN RESORTED TO PHYSICAL PERSECUTION...
      1. E.g., against the church at Smyrna - Re 2:9,10
      2. Indeed, he did so against many churches in the first century
         - 1Pe 5:8-9
      -- We should not be surprised if he does so today - 1Pe 4:12

   B. PEOPLE RESPOND TO PERSECUTION DIFFERENTLY...
      1. Some are silenced by it - cf. Jn 12:42-43
      2. Others rejoice in it - Ac 5:41-42; Ro 5:1-5; Jm 1:2-3

   C. HOW WE REACT WILL DETERMINE OUR FUTURE AS A CHURCH...
      1. A church that is silenced by persecution will soon die
      2. A church that rejoices in persecution will not go unnoticed by
         the Lord - Mt 5:11-12
         a. As the Lord took note of the church in Pergamos - Re 2:13
         b. As the Lord took note of those in Philadelphia - Re 3:8

[But persecution is not the only weapon in Satan's arsenal; when a
congregation resists persecution, he will often seek to kill it through
another means...]

II. FALSE TEACHING

   A. SATAN HAS USED THIS TACTIC TO THREATEN MANY CHURCHES...
      1. It threatened the church at Ephesus, but they had overcome
         - Re 2:2,6
      2. It threatened the church at Pergamos, who while handling
         persecution faithfully, they were floundering with error in
         their midst - Re 2:13-15
      -- Both Paul and Peter warned of the danger of error - Ac 20:
         29-30; 2Pe 2:1-2

   B. TWO THINGS ARE NECESSARY IN GUARDING AGAINST ERROR...
      1. We must not turn away from sound doctrine - 2Ti 4:3-4
         a. Sound doctrine involves preaching the word, which includes
            both negative ("rebuke") and positive ("exhort") elements
            - 2Ti 4:1-2
         b. We must beware of "pop" preaching which simply entertains
            rather than instructs
      2. We must not support those who teach contrary to the doctrine
         of Christ - 2Jn 9-11

[When a church stands strong against persecution and false doctrine,
that is certainly a good sign; but that does not mean Satan cannot yet
kill it.  Many "sound" churches have been destroyed by one of two more
tools used by Satan.  The first of these is...]

III. WORLDLINESS

   A. WORLDLINESS INCLUDES IMMORALITY AND MATERIALISM...
      1. Immorality is the lust of the flesh
      2. Materialism involves the lust of the eyes
      -- Both are included in "the love of the world"- 1Jn 2:15-17

   B. SATAN USES WORLDLINESS TO DESTROY CHURCHES...
      1. E.g., the church at Thyatira was threatened by the influence
         of Jezebel - Re 2:20-23
      2. Immorality has made havoc of many churches today
      3. Materialism has drawn many Christians away from their service
         to the Lord
      -- Churches are hindered when their members are rendered
         fruitless by worldliness - cf. Lk 8:14

   C. TO WARD OFF WORLDLINESS...
      1. We must have "the love of the Father" - 1Jn 2:15-17; cf.
         Jm 4:4
      2. We must not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the
         renewing of our minds - Ro 12:1-2
      3. We must "watch and pray" - cf. Lk 21:34-36

[A church that is "sound" on certain issues can still be a dead or
dying church if worldliness is allowed to infect its members.  A
similar spiritual malady that Satan can use to destroy churches is...]

IV. INDIFFERENCE

   A. A SUBTLE, YET EFFECTIVE WEAPON USED BY SATAN...
      1. It jeopardized the standing of the church at Ephesus, who had
         left their "first love" - Re 2:4
      2. It characterized the church at Laodicea, making it almost
         repulsive to Christ - Re 3:15-17
      -- We do not have to oppose the church to kill it, just be
         slothful and indifferent! - cf. Pr 18:9; Mt 12:30

   B. SYMPTOMS OF INDIFFERENCE...
      1. Irregular attendance of services
      2. Lack of participation in the services (worship, Bible classes)
      3. Consistently arriving late to services
      4. Waning efforts to win souls to Christ
      5. No personal and private devotions (Bible study and prayers)

   C. FERVENT SERVICE IS THE ONLY ANTIDOTE TO INDIFFERENCE...
      1. We must not grow weary in doing good - Ga 6:9
      2. We must be diligent, and not become sluggish - He 6:11-12
      3. We must hold fast the hope we confess by encouraging one
         another - He 10:24-25

CONCLUSION

1. While there might be more ways to kill a church, these four are
   certainly effective:
   a. Persecution
   b. False teaching
   c. Worldliness
   d. Indifference

2. What about this congregation?  Is Satan making any progress in
   killing us?
   a. We might be free from physical persecution, and be known as a
      "sound" church
   b. But is worldliness and indifference taking its toll?

3. To be forewarned is to be forearmed...
   a. We need to be honest with ourselves - are we vulnerable in some
      areas?
   b. Don't let the Great Deceiver succeed in deceiving us!

May we each do our part in bolstering our defenses against the one who
seeks to destroy us!  As Paul wrote:

   "lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant
   of his devices." (2Co 2:11)

Note:  The main idea and several thoughts from this lesson were taken
from a lesson by Gary Henry.  The URL for his web site containing many
excellent articles and sermon outlines is:  http://www.wordpoints.com
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