The Lifeless Church

Bible Book: Revelation  3 : 1-6
Subject: Church; Seven Churches of Revelation
Series: Deeper - Seven Churches of Revelation

Nothing seems more frightening than to think that one day we could look back with fond memories of what we used to be, but no long were. May our end be better than our beginning. Sardis was a church that was only a shadow of its former splendor. Somewhere, in its past, it had grown comfortable and content and was living on its past reputation. There was a reputation without reality and a form without a force. It gloried in past splendor, but ignored present decay.

The name Sardis translates remnant. It was this initial spiritual remnant that held the future of the church’s ministry. They were the only hope, for Christ had said, “that are ready to die” (v.2).

Astronomers tell us that light from our nearest stars are trillions of miles away. We measure the distances in light years. One light year equals the distance that light, traveling at more than 186,000 miles per second, travel in one year more than 6 trillion miles. That star could have plunged into darkness 30 years ago, and its light would still be pouring down to earth. It would be shining as if not happened. It could be a dead star, shining solely by the light of a brilliant past. The church of Sardis was like that. It had a name that it was alive but Jesus pronounced, “you are dead.”

They still shine with the reflected light of a brilliant past. Yet the spiritual darkness of false teaching and sinful living has extinguished the light on the inside. Sardis could well be nicknamed “The First Church of the Tares.” Example: HAITI-Pearl of the Caribbean

I. A Word To Awaken Them 1-3

A. Appearance 1

Little was lacking in the outward appearance of this church. It was possibly recognized by the world as an outstanding church. Probably gave 10% to missions, had a five star WMU, well staffed, great Sunday School, and a great discipleship program. However, note Jesus, “He who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars” denotes fullness and completeness. The Holy Spirit gave birth to the church and He gives life to His church. When the Spirit is grieved, the church begins to lose life and power. When sin is confessed and church members get right with God and with each other, then the Spirit infuses new life.

Isaiah 11:2 - “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.”

The “seven stars” – are the seven pastors or messengers, held in the hand of the Savior.

“I know your works…” - Sardis had a look of life and a reputation for religious activity but it lacked evidence of a spiritual life.

Have you ever commented on the beauty of a flower, later to find that it was artificial?

A Blast to the Past - Remember Milli Vanilli? They were only moving their lips, but not singing the song.

Matthew 23:27-28 – “’Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’”

Verse one depicts Christ as the One who sovereignty works in His church through the Holy Spirit and godly leaders. This shows Sardis what they lacked. Devoid of the Spirit, the church at Sardis was dead.


If the Holy Spirit departed our church, would we be able to continue business as usual? This church had been more influenced by its city, then the city had been influenced by the church. The city was known as a city of failure. It was conquered twice in its history, both times through a lack of vigilance and carelessness. This church did not have a heart that beat for Jesus. Problem: They were dead but didn’t know it.

SAMSON: Judges 16:20 - “”And she said, The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’" “So he awoke from his sleep, and said, "’I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!’" “But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.”

What are the signs of a church with life?

1. Growth in the life of the church family, living and serving the Lord. They are maturing in their witness, sharing the Lord.

2. A Living Church will have compassion, love for each other and love for the lost. It will have unity.

3. Will have emotions. Nothing wrong with emotion. Don’t be afraid to feel your faith. I weep, I sing, I laugh, I mourn. That is a sign of life.

“The Autopsy of A Dead Church” Thom Rainer

1. The church refused to look like the community.

The community began a transition to a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.

2. The church had no community-focused ministries.

his part of the autopsy may seem to be stating the obvious, but I wanted to be certain. My friend affirmed my suspicions. There was no attempt to reach the community.

3. Members became more focused on memorials.

Do not hear my statement as a criticism of memorials. Indeed, I recently found a memorial in memory of my late grandson. The memorials at the church were chairs, tables, rooms and other places where a neat plaque could be placed. The point is that memorials became an obsession at the church. More and more emphasis was placed on the past.

4. The percentage of the budget for member’s needs kept increasing.

At the church’s death, the percentage Was over 98 percent.

5. There were no evangelistic emphasis.

When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.

6. The members had more and more arguments about what they wanted.

As the church continued to decline toward death, the inward focus of the members turned caustic. Arguments were more frequent; business meetings became more acrimonious.

7. With few exceptions, pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter.

The church had seven pastors in its final ten years. The last three pastors were bi-vocational. All of the seven pastors left discouraged.

8. The church rarely prayed together.

In its last eight years, the only time of corporate prayer was a three-minute period in the Sunday worship service. Prayers were always limited to members, their friends and families, and their physical needs.

9. The church had no clarity as to why it existed.

There was no vision, no mission, and no purpose.

10. The members idolized another era.

All of the active members were over the age of 67 the last six years of the church. And they all remembered fondly, to the point of idolatry, was the era of the 1970’s. They saw their future to be returning to the past.

11. The facilities continued to deteriorate.

It wasn’t really a financial issue. Instead, the members failed to see the continuous deterioration of the church building. Simply stated, they no longer had “outsider eyes.”


“Be watchful” –wake up! It’s time to make a difference ; no time for indifference. Wake up to your spiritual state. Recall your original commitment “strengthen the things which remain” – this is produced by getting back to the basics, spending time in God’s word and in prayer.

Means to establish them, put meaning into them, put life into those former. We do not abandon the former, we breathe life into them.

“ they are ready to die” – hardly any pulse.


“I have not found your works perfect before God” - If external things lack internal forces they will decay and crumble. If what we do in the name of God does not come from a heart in love with God, it will decay and crumble.

“Perfect” – finished or fulfilled, they were not carrying out God’s purposes for their existence.


1. Remembrances of the past.

“Remember therefore how you have received and heard” – Vance Havner use to say that spiritual ministries often go through four stages: a means, a movement, a machine, and then a monument.

Every church is born at some time of the Spirit’s moving. The drive, the dynamic of the former years is replaced with a more formal, ritualistic, traditionalized, stereotyped and complacent form of activity. They had forgotten their heavenly calling and holy character. God looks to the truths you once embraced, remember the gospel, reaffirm your belief in the truth about Christ, sin, salvation and sanctification.

1 Timothy 6:20 “Timothy, guard what was committed (entrusted) to your trust”

2. Recognition of the Present “hold fast and repent” – they dynamic of the former years has to become again the morals for today.

This calls for a self-examination and self-judgment. “Hold fast” what you received and heard. Orthodox theology apart from bedient lives would not bring about revival.

“repent” – with remorse and sorrow they were to confess and turn away from their sins.

3. Readiness for the Future “I will come upon you as a thief” – a stern warning, carries the idea of imminent judgment. The Lord would come and put this church out of business.


 [Editor's Note: The sermon notes end without further comment in writing]