Now I'm realistic enough to know that the church graveyard is a thing of the past. We probably won't see seminars on how to plan for a really good cemetery at any pastor's conferences in our lifetime. But maybe we would see something of what we're missing if we took some time to actually walk among the tombstones every once in a while.

Sometime, when you get a moment, find an old church graveyard and walk through it. Not for the goose bumps or ghost stories, of course, but to remind yourself of some matters of eternal weight.

Walk about and see the headstones weathered and ground down by the elements. Contemplate the fact that beneath your feet are the bodies of men and women who once had youthful skin and quick steps and hectic calendars, but who are now piles of forgotten bones. Think about the fact that the scattered teeth in the earth below you once sang hymns of hope -- maybe "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder I'll Be There" or "When We All Get to Heaven." They are silent now. But they will sing again. They will preach again. They will testify again. They will laugh again.

And, while you are there, think about what every generation of Christians has held against the threat of sword and guillotine and chemical weaponry. This stillness will one day be interrupted by a shout from the eastern sky, a joyful call with a distinctly northern Galilean accent.

Maybe if we did this more often we might reconsider the need for those church graveyards.

I wonder if we might be able to speak more honestly to a people scared to death of death with a visible sign that we know what death is too. We hate it too.

But we haven't forgotten our dead. We're just waiting for them -- and for us -- to hear one last invitation hymn. And when those quiet little mounds begin bursting, with headstones flying about, and clap of thunder resounds across the sky.

Then we'll know what we're talking about when we say, "Man, this church is alive."

Russell D. Moore is dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. This column was adapted from Moore's blog,
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