Dead And Living Parish: The Sympoms And The Characteristics
Evang. Festus Otele
The Chirstian Church is like a tree and each end of the tree has a branch (parish). For example the Celestial Church of Christ is a worldwide church that has many parishes around the world. Some branches of
a tree may be alive while some might be dead. In comparison to the tree, some parishes have learned or incorporated characteristics that have helped them to significantly move forward while others have remained stagnant by not observing or taking note of what might be hindering or hampering their growth both physically and spiritually.
Some of these characteristics of a dead church are:
a. Not having a functional prayer group, b. Lack of purpose to worship,
c. Lack of authority in the true word of God,
d. Lack of spiritual growth and mentoring,
e. Unwillingness to serve by the members and elders of the church,
f. Focus on title and rank promotion instead of spiritual growth,
g. Lack of inspiration,
h. Non involvement in the community where the parish is located,
i. Tolerance of sin instead of discipline.
Signs and characteristic of A Dead Parish
No Functional Prayer Group:
The book of 1 Thessalonian 5:17 states that “Pray without ceasing.” In a parish where There is little to no functional prayer group. Prayer is a powerful tool used in conquering the enemies of the Parish. When few people show up to pray and seek God together but have no sense of His presence among them or the congregation have no faith in their prayers being answered, the book of Act of the apostle chapter 2 gives us an insight into the power of a functional group. The disciples were in one accord when suddenly the spirit came in and filled the disciple and they were bold enough to go out and preach the gospel to the multitude. A living parish ensures there is no lapse in their constant seeking of the face of the Lord on the congregation through fervent prayer. Prayer cannot only break bonds but also heal the church and provide strength in times of weakness.
Lack of purpose to worship:
A parish affiliated to a bigger body of a church should be a place where believers gather to worship, learn and be uplifted by the word of God. There should be a sound doctrine and an emphasis of personal relationship with God and spiritual growth while also providing support for members on how to achieve the growth and personal relationship. In a living parish, there is an emphasis on a personal relationship with Christ, while using doctrine as a tool to aid in reaching the goal. Dead parishes on the other hand push the doctrine down the fold without proper education on the purpose of those doctrine, members might feel like they have been forced to accept what is not clear to them. As a result, the parish members begin to seek other parishes where they can understand not just the doctrine and teaching but also how that teaching can bring about a personal relationship with God.
In the book of revelation Rev 3:1 “And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead,” and “Rev 2:5–Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” It talks about the importance of working. How will the members of the parish know the work they are being called to do if they do not have a sound teaching or personal relationship with the vision and mission of the parish? A living parish ensures that the members are in tune with their vision and mission through their teaching, doctrine and explanation of the word.
Lack of authority in the true word of God:
The book of Romans 10:17 says “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” How can the parishioners grow if the words that they have been taught are not taught with the Authority and faith in the words they hear? In a dead parish, there is limited sound teaching of the word of God, many in a dead parish do not use the word of God to grow and develop, but only listen to the words being rendered without seeking to understand. The word also is not spoken by the parish leader with spiritual authority, Mark 1:22 “And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority and not as the scribes.” the head of a dead parish might use more logic and what they believe the fold wants to hear instead of inspiration of the holy spirit. In a living parish the word is spoken with confidence and is used to encourage the folds into having an abundance of faith in the God they serve and also showing them in the word where they can relate to and use to strengthen their faith.
Lack of spiritual growth and mentoring:
Matthew 28:19 “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” One of the major tasks for a parish as related to a church is to continuously provide mentorship to all aspiring to grow spiritually and also physically. A living parish uses the skill of the members of the church to provide mentorship to those aspiring to grow in that particular field. There are different groups in the living church that provide various avenues for growth for both the young and the old. For instance, there could be a media group that provides opportunities for those who are technologically inclined, and those who will mentor them as they are already in that field, Prayers group, for those that want to be an intercessor, the administrative for those that have business and organization accumen. The strength of each member is put into use to ensure the church works as a unit and not as a different entity. In a dead parish, the skills and spiritual gift of the folds are not optimally used and sometimes mismatched with a different skill. For example one person might be responsible for too many roles without diversification of task and role.
Unwillingness to serve by the members and elders of the church:
Proverbs 11:14, “where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” In a living church there are multitude of counselors that continually ensure that the fold understands what it means to be in service at the parish. There is an emphasis that the parish is owned by all and for it to grow everyone should be involved in service.
Psalm 110:3, “The people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb to the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.”
In a living parish more people are
always willing to serve in any department of the parish, they are ready to invest their finances into any projects that promote God’s kingdom but if a few people volunteer to serve constantly the parish will be dead. The living parish makes use of the youth in all departments of the parish, and a support group. There must be a sense of mission and purpose, when there is no vision, the people perish (prov 28:18)if the parish has no compelling purpose that motivates them to fulfill their biblical calling the parish will be dead.
Focus on title and rank promotion instead of spiritual growth:
The focus of a parish is to provide spiritual guidance to members to help them have a personal relationship with God, teaching them humility, love and perseverance among other things that can help parishioners have a purpose and a sense of growth in their faith and belief. However in a dead parish, there is a push to be recognized and “promoted” instead of focusing on the growth. This sometimes is a result of people not seeking the glory of God, but they depend on affirmation from other people and once they get the affirmation they believe they should be elevated.
In a living church just like those of the apostle, there is emphasis on equality in the work of God and each member through difference has to be treated as a member of a larger unit. Through mutual respect, and directive from God through spirituality, the member will be lifted up like Apostle Paul was in front of the apostle. An evaluation not based on who you know but how much you have grown spiritually and how much impact you have had on other parishioners will be taken into account. The values and principles outlined in the bible for promotion will also be evaluated before a promotion will be issued. There will also be transparency, where every parishioner will accept the decision of the promotion.
Lack of inspiration:
For a dead parish, there is little to no inspiration as many parishioners only go to the church due to earlier ties to the church such as being a founding member, because that is what they have always known, or because that is the only parish available within their vicinity. Some of the reasons for lack of inspiration could be that the word of God lacks inspiration. There is constant repetition and emphasis only of some portion of the word, such as Tithing and sowing of seed. But no emphasis on what really matters to the parishioners or lack of understanding of what the members need to feel inspired.
In a living church, the words are sound and inspiring, there is a focus on the real life application of the word, the parishioners are encouraged to research and share the word with both believers and unbelievers. There is a bible study group where the parishioners are not only listening to the word but also actively participating in the discussion under the guidance of the spiritual head or leader. There are also team building activities that provide another avenue for the parishioners to engage outside the parish, that way interpersonal relationships can be built and trust can be had among members. The shepherd, teacher and the church leader must always develop themselves in various studies that can further enhance their parish, they have to constantly look for opportunities that can develop and grow the parish and the folds that worship in the parish. Also, they have to continually grow in their understanding of the word of God through some type of classes, having mentors in the parish to teach.
Non involvement in the community where the parish is located:
Mark 5:13-16 uses salt and light as an analogy to explain what our part should be in the community. Verse 16 says “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven” in a dead parish, there is minimal engagement in the communities where they are located. The leaders and members Isolate themselves from the community thinking they should not mingle with unbelievers. However, that mentality prevents them from understanding that Christ came not for the believers but for the sinners so they might know Him.
In a living parish, there is an understanding that they are part of the community and they provide support services to the community such as Cleaning, care packs, feeding, visitations and so on. This kind of service provides an avenue to the members to serve and also strengthen their faith through the preaching and teaching of the word of God to the community. The service base orientation of a living church will also give the community an Idea of what the church is about and what they provide, as a result, they will have more members of the community willing to come to participate in the church.
Tolerance of sin instead of discipline:
Hebrews 3:12-13 “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of Sin. As we live in the world, we do from time to time fall into sin, and as a christian we should pray and ask for forgiveness. We should not normalize or tolerate iniquity as normal. When a parish is tolerant of iniquity and sweeps most or every act of indiscipline under the “carpet” with no correction of any sort, and then pivots to teaching about love, and tolerance. Confusion will set in to such a parish especially if the judgment is not uniform or only tolerated among the leaders or elders of the parish. The young believers might think it’s okay, the seasoned believers will look for alternative parishes and as a result the church will not grow.
A living church will ensure transparency, they will have rules and regulations in place for discipling any act of iniquity, provide coaching and mentorship to help the person back into the church, they will provide or suggest support where needed to help if the person needs higher intervention.
In conclusion, there is a lot that goes into a living parish and there is also a lot not considered or reformed that results in a dead parish. Every parish has to have a way of evaluating what their deficiencies are and how it can be addressed and what their strengths are and how they can better use it to grow the parish. Everyone in the parish comes in with a unique gift, or talent that can be used to grow the parish and those who worship in it. If the parish has a sound mission and vision statement, responsible leaders who are accountable and care about the parish, have involvement in the community and build their foundation of the absolute word of God, it will continue to be living. But, if iniquity is tolerated, no sound doctrine, no mission or vision statement, no community involvement, teaching and spiritual growth is non-existence, then there is a potential the parish will become dead. As evangelists in the word it is our call to ensure we uplift our brethren and sure they do not fail or fall.
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