Can It Happen to Us?

Photo: Eldress Anna White (1831-1910)

According to the Associated Press, there are only two living members of the Shaker religious faith left in the United States.  The Shakers were a division of the Quakers in the 1700’s. They were originally known as “Shaking Quakers” because of their ecstatic dancing and spontaneous speaking in tongues during worship services. Major tenants of this religion included practicing a celibate and communal lifestyle, pacifism, and equality of men and women.

The two remaining Shakers live in the tiny village of Sabbathday Lake in New Gloucester, Maine. While there were over 6000 Shakers prior to the Civil War, it should come as no surprise that their numbers would dwindle due to their peculiar belief in celibacy.

Reading about this dying religious group reminded me of the seven churches of Asia Minor in Revelation 2 & 3. Where are they now? “Extinction” isn’t just a possibility for religious sects teaching false doctrine, but can also occur among congregations of God’s people. In my lifetime, I’ve known of congregations that were once growing and thriving, but are now barely keeping their doors open. As the membership grows older, others aren’t being added. Just like the Shakers, in a few short years they will cease to exist as a congregation.

In order to avoid this same fate, we need to be a people who look for ways to take the gospel to others. We should adopt Paul’s attitude, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). In other words, we need to get out of our comfort zone, give up our preferences, be willing to change if it means we can reach others with the gospel.

We must not forget the commission that Jesus left us with and make disciples of all nations (Mark 16:15-16). Otherwise, we too will fade away.