Beware Headless Chicken Churches!
Posted by Job on March 26, 2011
Those who have raised and eaten their own chickens are aware of a certain curiosity with this fowl that those who simply acquire the birds from the grocery store may not be aware of. Of course, having to cook a (formerly) live chicken requires having to kill it first so that it can be properly prepared (i.e. feathers and giblets removed). The simplest, most common way for folks who raise their own chickens to dispatch of them is to chop their heads off with an axe. And often, this is when the curiosity begins. Most other animals, when deprived of their head, have the rest of the body immediately go limp, or at the very most does a bit of twitching. Not necessarily though with chickens! They will jump up, run around, and do all sorts of other activities, and in some rare cases, this activity will continue quite awhile! This phenomenon is common enough for the “running around like a chicken with its head cut off” is an idiom, a saying, in some parts.
Now the saying “running around like a chicken with its head cut off” is not in any sense positive, such as a reference to toughness, perseverance, overcoming adversity, or beating the odds. Instead, it speaks of vain, useless, worthless activity, or of going about expending a lot of energy in a chaotic, random, mindless fashion. All the effort spent is wasted or even counterproductive because of the disorganized, frenetic, aimless, undirected nature of it. This cliche’ exists because though the headless chicken is running around, there is no rhyme or reason to its activity because the brain, which gives such purpose and organization to the body, is missing. Further, even if by chance the headless chicken did manage some semblance of useful, productive, logical or sensible activity, it would still be pointless from the chicken’s perspective, because the chicken is dead. It’s brain is gone. The activity is merely the result of nerve endings firing off, causing the body to go through the motions. Even if this goes on for quite awhile (there are stories of such animals lingering in this state for as long as two years!) despite all appearances, in a very real sense the chicken is dead! And it would be absurd for one who witnesses a headless chicken running around and say “that chicken is still alive.” It would be absurdity on top of absurdity to claim that – despite not having a head – this is a normal, healthy chicken with nothing amiss. Maybe it would be permissible if such claims were made by one lacking proper information – such as a small child – who presumes that any animal that is moving is just fine. But for an older person who has the experience (or the coursework in anatomy) to know better to make this claim would be inexcusable.
Yet, the equivalent of this inexcusable absurdity is commonplace in Christianity today. Make no mistake: the Bible declares that the Head of the church is Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 5:23). Jesus Christ said that He was the rock, the foundation stone, and that He would build His church. So, in a church, Jesus Christ is not merely present, such as a spectator. Jesus Christ is not just some advisor or board member. He is not part of a ruling committee or governing council. Jesus Christ is not the “co-pilot.” No, Jesus Christ is the Head. The church is wholly His, built by Him, owned by Him, governed by Him, completely ruled by His Lordship, and totally guided by His Spirit.
Only churches that love Jesus Christ are headed by Jesus Christ, and scripture declares that the only way to love Jesus Christ is to keep His commandments (John 14:15). The church that refuses to attempt to keep the commandments of Jesus Christ or despises the holy scriptures that reveal and contain the commandments of Jesus Christ does not love Jesus Christ and does not have Jesus Christ as its head. Jesus Christ states this in Revelation 2:5, when He says that churches that do not repent and return to Him in obedience will lose His presence. Of them, they are Ichabod, God’s grace having been departed.
Now if a church is the body (or at least a portion thereof in a local congregation sense) and Jesus Christ is the Head, and the Head is removed, what does that mean for the body? The only answer is that in a real sense, the body is dead. A church that does not have Jesus Christ at the head of it is a dead church. Whether your basis for believing this truth is the Bible, biology, experience or common sense, it is still a truth. Remove the head, and the body is dead. That which gives the body is ability to reason, its capacity to organize, its sense of focus, its knowledge of its reason for existence, its purpose and destiny, is gone. All that is left is a dumb, brutish stump. Now this dumb, brutish stump may continue to exist for quite awhile. That does nothing to alter the fact that a dumb, brutish stump is all that it is.
Now this dumb, brutish stump may deceive many. Why? Because the dead chicken while it is running around “seems” alive. It may have a pastor that delivers compelling, erudite and passionate sermons. (But he’s an expository preacher who expounds Reformed theology in a manner that makes it come alive!) It may have a very skilled and captivating choir (they sing the traditional hymns!), a moving worship (no flesh pleasing “relevant” faddish contemporary worship!) and a congregation that is very friendly, engaging, inviting and compassionate. This church may offer a strong menu of programs and activities (a Christian academy that provides excellent academic, moral and religious instruction!), immaculate facilities, outstanding amenities, a hard-working and professional staff, and experienced dignified deacons and ministers. It may steadily grow with a lot of baptisms, and do great works in the Name of Jesus Christ, including casting out demons and faith-healing. It may do all these things and still more, and to a great many people appear to be a lively, thriving, vibrant successful church. Yet, if Jesus Christ is not the Head of this church, it is still but a chicken without a head.
If Jesus Christ is not the Head because the church is not obeying His commandments, on judgment day they will be counted as goats and not sheep and therefore rejected and cast into the outer darkness. 1 Corinthians 13 compares such great works and achievements to “sounding brass and tinkling cymbals”, and gives lack of charity, or love, as the reason that it is so. Well, true love begins with the love of Jesus Christ, and we cannot love Jesus Christ without keeping His commandments. The church that is not in obedience to Christ is not headed by Christ, and despite all of its appearances, is one that is dead. Yet despite their dead condition, many headless chickens are quite popular and held in much esteem because of their ability to continue for quite a time running around aimlessly. That is enough to fool and please a great many people, for apparently that is all these people are looking for to begin with: a church that has a good reputation, is entertaining on some level, and activities to occupy them. Vanity is what these people seek, and vanity is what they will find. However, the Bible says that all things that are vanity will come to ruin on judgment day, so beware such vain things and flee them!
Of course, this is not to say that churches are going to be perfect. There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people to lead or attend them. Further, Satan and his evil kingdom is going to rise up against and attempt to thwart and destroy the people of God and their works, including work to cast many snares and stumblingblocks in the way of the faithful, and to try to cause tension and division: to create problems where there are none, and to magnify and exacerbate the problems that do exist. However, there is a difference between unavoidable imperfection and a church that is making absolutely no attempt to comply with the clear imperatives of the Bible on many serious fronts. The former is a church that is alive despite its flaws, the latter is a church that is dead in spite of its seeming virtues. Blessed is the Christian that perseveres in the former, and woe unto the man that is found in the latter when it falls, for this man will share in its sins and receive its plagues (Revelation 18:4).
This is not to deny all of the things that these churches do. This includes the ability of a great many of these churches to legitimately present the gospel, and for people to be saved, born again in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit as a result. Instead, our first and ultimate fidelity must be to Jesus Christ through His word. We cannot use good works, including those from which we personally benefited, to excuse our disobedience. If we do, we are elevating good works over the One for whom these works are supposed to glorify. In doing so, rather than worshiping God, we are making an idol of the works instead.
This issue is also not an excuse for neglecting fellowship, for the Bible clearly tells us not to forsake fellowship with other Christians. Instead, it is the duty of a Christian to submit to and obey God’s leading Him to a church headed by Jesus Christ, and to remain in that church as long as God suffers Him to do so. Anything less is disobedience. Anything less is being a goat rather than a sheep. Anything less is being akin to a chicken without a head that running around the backyard. Do not let that be you.
In conclusion, let it be known that being a member of a church that Jesus Christ is the head of will not save you. Instead, only being united with Jesus Christ so that your sins are forgiven and Jesus Christ thereby becoming your head with you being part of the body of Christ will save you. On judgment day, Jesus Christ will not confess you as being His based on your church membership. Instead, He will only do so if you are His; if you have responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ with faith, repentance, and submission to His Lordship. If you have not done so, please do so, and today. Otherwise, all of your works will be in vain, rejected just as was the faithless sacrifice of Cain, whose faithless, depraved and unregenerate condition was put on display when sin became his master and he slew Abel. Now is the time for your salvation! So if you are not born again in Jesus Christ, then please: