5 Marks of a Dead Church, Part 1

Is the church you are attending alive or dead?
Or perhaps somewhere in the middle?
In the book of Revelation, Jesus addresses the Church of Sardis, which He classified as “having a name that lived, but was dead” (Revelation 3).

Chuck Swindoll in his excellent commentary on the book of Revelation has an outline on “The 5 Marks of a Dead Church.”
I have taken it and added some of my own thoughts.

1. A Dead Church Worships Its Past.

Maybe some of the old-timers can relate inspiring stories of miracles, conversions, and changed lives “back in the early days.”
That’s okay as far as it goes. But we have to move on. We can rejoice in what God did twenty, thirty, or forty years ago. But what about now? God doesn’t want us to live in the past—even a glorious past. A living church lives in the present and plans for the future.

2. A Dead Church Is Inflexible and Resistant to Change.

Sometimes in the church we are flexible where we should be inflexible and inflexible where we should be flexible. In other words, we should be inflexible in the essentials. We come together to worship God and to study the Word. There’s no need to change those essential priorities.
But there are other areas where we ought to be flexible—in things like music and worship styles, which change with the years. People get very sensitive about these things.
“Well,” someone will say, “I prefer this style—it was what I was raised on, and I don’t like anything else.
Your style offends me, and it probably isn’t even valid.” But this is an area where we ought be flexible rather than rigid and unbending.

Some people don’t like it when churches embrace new technology and resist or drag their feet over changes.

I remember back in the mid-1990s when our church put up our first video screens. Some people were upset about it. Some even said, “We’re leaving the church over this! We don’t come to church to watch TV.” But it’s different now. When I speak these days, I notice some of these same people looking at the screens more than at me, though I am standing right in front of them. The fact is, the video draws you in closer, making it more intimate. I only wish they had invented HD technology when I was thirty instead of when I was 61!
I remember hearing Christians being critical of churches having websites. Now everyone has them. The point is, these new technologies are like a massive, updated Roman road system that opens up the world to us. We ought to use and leverage every technology platform—radio, TV, film, the Web, as well as social media like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and all the new ones as they emerge. This is an area in which we need to remain flexible. But there are also areas in which we must remain inflexible. For instance, the church must always be a place where God’s Word is taught and the gospel is proclaimed. The church must always be a place where the Lord is glorified through prayer and worship. We cannot “flex” in those areas. They are nonnegotiables.
I will give you the last 3 marks of a dead church in my next post.

Laurie, Greg (2014-05-08). Revelation: The Next Dimension (Kindle Locations 1334-1339). Allen David Books (Kerygma Inc). Kindle Edition.

8 thoughts on “5 Marks of a Dead Church, Part 1”

  1. hassan says:

    thank you man of God for opining our eyes to know the changes which it need to take place in our churches.

  2. Kate says:

    Thank you for this-just yesterday my husband and I were trying to make the difficult decision of whether or not to go back to a church we originally thought was “dead.” I think we’ll be sticking with that.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Great article ….. I agree!!!!

  4. matthew Friend says:

    This is the truth, dead churches stagnate because they dont go forward, Pastor chuck always said, If youre living in the past you cant go forward, and Remembering the past is a memory, but what is God doing today in your life, not 20 years ago. Im serving God today not yesterday. Im looking for a fresh move of the spirit, because i think God wants to bring revival to America today If we would but just listen to his vioce.

  5. Tamara Ratigan-Rosbaugh says:

    First heard you at a wedding in 1985! You are such an inspiration! Always uplifting! You are amazing! As famous as you have become, you are still Pastor Greg! I have since moved to PA and long for a Harvest!!Yes..thanks to Web-cast still can listen!

  6. Byron Culp says:


  7. jim Suehr says:

    It is always exciting when new technologies arive and I am thankful that Pastor Chuck always believed in keeping up with the times and his spiritual sons such as you skip Raul etc. are keeping it up as well God Bless you guys and keep up the good work.

  8. Eleana Coleman says:

    Love your teaching it is so plain that you can walk it out and live. Apostle Eleana Coleman

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