The Mausoleum Church

            Where did the phrase, “dead as a door nail” originate? In 1590 William Shakespeare used the term in his play about Henry VI.[1]  The character John Cade said, "...and if I do not leave you all as dead as a door-nail, I pray God I may never eat grass more." In 1843 Dickens used the expression to describe Scrooge’s old partner Marley as being dead as a doornail.
In Medieval days when doors were built using only wood boards and hand forged nails, the spike fasteners were long enough to dead nail the vertical wooden panels and horizontal stretcher boards securely together. This was done by pounding the protruding point of the nail over and down into the wood. A nail bent in this fashion was not easily pulled out and therefore dead for future use; thus the expression – “dead as a doornail.”
            The Mausoleum Church is “dead as a doornail.” It may as well post a sign on the door that reads “Closed due to Death.” There may be parishioners inside, but they have no life in them. The church building may be architecturally attractive, but it serves more as a tomb for those who have lost the Spirit and trampled afoot the truth of Scriptures. What these churches have become are good-looking sepulchers. The people that occupy the tombs are nothing more than zombies, thinking they are alive, but in actuality are dead. They are the church of lost hope because they forgot the purpose of their existence, which is to reach the culture with the gospel of Christ.

Church at Sardis
The Church at Sardis in Revelation 3 was dead as a doornail. It protruded into the community, but was bent over dead. The Lord addressed the church, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead (Rev. 3:1). The worse thing that could be said to a church is: “You have the reputation of being alive, of being a great church, but in actuality, you are dead.”  What makes a dead church? Failed leadership! Leaders frequently fool themselves into thinking their church is vibrant when in actuality it is much like the Church at Sardis.
Churches become dead because leaders sleep on duty. They are called to be watchmen and shepherds; but when they fail to be vigilant in keeping the church alive for the sake of Christ, the people become lethargic, set in their ways, and centered on self and not on the gospel reaching their community. When leaders snooze, their spiritual muscles atrophy. Like muscular dystrophy (MD), a physical disease of progressive weakening of the body’s skeletal muscles, spiritual dystrophy is the progressive decay and weakening of the muscles of scriptural truth. The church becomes a mausoleum in the community, for spiritual growth ceases and deadness takes over. It is difficult to maintain the power of godliness when a universal deadness and declension prevails.
When the spirit decays within, our outward devotion becomes merely form without substance. We look good on the outside, but inwardly we are rotten. Poor leadership causing dead churches was affirmed by Jesus when he accused Pharisees of being whitewashed tombs (Matt. 23:27) – all dressed up and looking good on the outer surface; but full of corruption, decay, and deadness on the inside. When the spirituality of leadership degenerates, the church reflects the atrophy in becoming ingrown and gospel irrelevant to the community.
Christ exhorted the Church at Sardis to wake up and strengthen the things that remain (Rev. 3:2). Evidently, there was some breath left, which needed resuscitation. But are leaders willing to do CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)?  In other words, are they willing to make the changes necessary to resuscitate life into a dying church and inject gospel truth into their local ministries?

[1] Act 5, Sc.10, l. 40-1