"Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God." (Colossians 2:18, 19 ESV)
"For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands." (Ephesians 5:23, 24 ESV)
"And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." (Colossians 1:18 ESV)
Our church (the Village Church FM campus) is doing a series on the role and importance of the church in the life of the believer. They've called these sermons "the dearest place" after a Spurgeon quote describing the church as the "dearest place on earth."
This plus the World War Z movie's release (great book! But we still haven't seen the film) got me thinking about those churches who have ignored the dictates of their head. I call these sad imitations of God's original design "zombie churches."
Since Christ is the head of the church, a zombie church would be those believers who, though proclaiming Christ as their head, live "headless" lives. In other words, these are churches actively proclaiming a false gospel ("really no gospel at all." - Galatians 1:6-8) and living under the guidance of the flesh rather than the Spirit. That's all really abstract, though. What would a false gospel preaching, zombie church look like? Well here's some educated guesses:
1) Actions directed by base desires, without self-control or direction.
- zombies are just crazy, flesh-eating monsters whose only priority is to feed a limitless hunger. This kind of church feeds human desires rather than seeking God's purpose, spending their time on themselves, for themselves. In other words, they look nearly identical to non-believers in what they talk about, what they do, how they spend their money, and the things that get them excited.
Mostly, though, they are characterized by their boundless consumption. They want a church that serves them and meets their needs without any expectation of returned service or commitment.
I think prosperity gospel churches would fit pretty well in this category too, since they preach what people want to hear rather than harder-to-digest truth.
"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Timothy 4:3-5 ESV)
2) They take the easy ways - It's easier to go with culturally PC versions of Jesus and his desires and motives than to believe that God might wound us or even kill us to achieve his greatest glory and our greatest joy.
""Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? "Father, save me from this hour"? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven: "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again."" (John 12:27, 28 ESV - emphasis added)
"Though he slay me, I will hope in him;" (Job 13:15 ESV)
3) Zombie churches are dead. Though they appear to be alive, they neither grow, nor produce fruit, nor in any other capacity display signs of life. The heart is old, shriveled, and fossilized.
""And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: "The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. "I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. " (Revelation 3:1-3 ESV)
""Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:15-20 ESV)
"Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:19-24 ESV)
4) The zombie church has no communication with the head. It's a church defined by silence. It doesn't live a life flowing out of prayer.
"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. but test everything; hold fast what is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-19, 21 ESV)
So yeah, there's a lot of creepy zombie churches out there... But I take great comfort in this truth: if God could take my dead, rotting heart and make it new, he can do so with anyone, any church, any group of zombies!
"For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. " (Titus 3:3, 5-7 ESV)