Yesterday I took a train home from the Midlands. When we got to Kettering it Stopped. There is a point on a train where everyone realises that this isn't a routine halt to let passengers on and off, but that something worse is up that will delay everyone. Usually 10 uneasy minutes before any announcement is given.
This time it was a new one. I have personally been a victim of the wrong kind of leaves and wrong kind of ice on the line. But a hole in the fuel tank?? When we were instructed to get off we weren't in any doubt. The station reaked of diesel oil which you couldn't smell on the train.
Let me try a really weak link. (If you are a preacher don't do anything this cheesy too often). We didn't need to know what was wrong in order to know something was wrong. That was obvious from the fact that we had stalled. We weren't going anywhere. We were seated comfortable, we had access to refreshments. And we were in a train. All well and good, except the train was broken. And nobody could tell what was wrong without getting out and having a good look (or good smell). When we took an objective look it was obvious.
Sometimes Christians stall in their spiritual lives. You can be in a church, comfortably seated, nicely refreshed but not going anywhere. And it may be difficult to tell what is wrong. But you don't always need to know what is wrong to know that something is wrong. You can tell that from whether you are getting anywhere. If you are not, it is a sure signal that you need to start taking a long hard look to see if there is a hole in the fuel tank.
Sometimes churches stall. Again you don't have to know what is wrong to know something is wrong. When churches stall a common option is to look at superficial things like the style of services, times for meeting, that kind of thing. Daring to suggest we look to see if there is something really bad like a hole in the fuel tank is rare. A train will go without any number of comforts. We didn't need the refreshments. If it came to it we didn't even need the comfortable seats for the train to move. But we did need a fuel tank. A church will go without any number of comforts. If it stalls it is almost never because the superficial stuff was wrong. But it won't go without a fuel tank. That is alwasy the place to start investigation when the thing won't go.