<< Previous | 5 of 15 | Next >>

Regular Columns

Is your church carrying too much deadwood?

Walking through the Bush near our home in Sydney my heart was heavy for the state of the church, both in Australia and in the UK. What is wrong? What can be done about it? I’m sure there are many answers to that, and I have spent a great deal of my life thinking about, and experiencing, much of what is wrong – as well as rejoicing in what is good, right, pure and holy. As I walked it struck me that there was an explanation right at my feet – deadwood. Here in Australia we are in the midst of bushfire season. Last year, as the world knows, it was one of the worst ever, with considerable areas of the country being burnt. But bushfires happen every year – and they are not necessarily bad. Except when there has not been a fire for years and there is a lot of deadwood which acts as fuel for a much more destructive fire. The fire cleanses, regenerates and enables plants to flower that would not do so without the heat. The Message translation of John 15:6 is fascinating: ‘Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire.’ What if the church has a lot of deadwood, including amongst the leadership? Jesus tells us that His Father is the gardener who cuts of every branch that bears no fruit. But what if the Father has stopped pruning and left us to our own devices? The indigenous people in Australia have for many centuries had a policy of ‘backburning’ or ‘controlled burns’. But the Europeans largely don’t like that. It seems wrong to deliberately set fires. Besides which it creates too much smoke. As a result, in recent years, in order to preserve our own comfort and because we can’t be bothered, there has been little controlled burning. So, when the fire inevitably comes it has years of deadwood to feed off. I wonder if one of the things that has been happening in the church is that we have forgotten church discipline and we have permitted a significant amount of ‘deadwood’ – just to keep the peace? Perhaps what Paul says in Romans 1 happens to society (God leaves us to have it our way), has also happened in the church?

Comment David Robertson
Figure Image
Fresh new life after the fire | photo: iStock

Why is there deadwood? Because it has not remained in the vine. It is attached to the vine but is no longer living. Sometimes you can’t tell until a wind comes and breaks it off, and the fire comes and renews what still has life. I wonder how many churches will survive when the storm comes? I wonder how much of our work will have turned out to be wood, stubble and straw, when the fire comes to test the quality of each person’s work (1 Cor. 3:14).