It is my great delight to introduce my very first guest blog written by none other than James Mildred on the state of the modern church. As usual comments, questions and debates are welcome. If you would like to write a guest blog feel free to contact me.
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. "
1 Peter 2 v 9 - 10
I heard a message just recently which struck a real chord. A recent guest preacher, an old friend of the Church, had a message which was one of directness and boldness; surely the same qualities missing in the Church today. Now, if we believe God will work in this land again, then it will start within the representation of his body on this planet, the bride of Christ. So until the Church returns to sound biblical doctrine, it is unwise to expect a revival; we should be looking at our churches in the light of the Bible and asking questions; it is not wrong to question the Church biblically; indeed, no individual should simply allow the work of a church and the preaching of the gospel to go untested.
Why then, is this a contentious issue? If we believe the Scriptural teaching that in hardship there are lessons to be learnt as an individual and that once God reveals these lessons, we find ourselves mysteriously closer to him; then it is common sense to see the current state of the Church as a problem and trial from which we should learn. The affliction of the Church, briefly, is that of a body of ‘believers’ who do not praise God as they should, who do not preach the truth and rely instead on gimmicks and worldly provisions to ensure their Church is appealing to the masses. Mistakes will then emerge because the Church is not intended for the godless, but for the believers. The elect whom Christ has called. The Church is not on earth to be popular. The tragedy of the modern day situation is simply a lack of faith and trust in God. The believers no longer trust that God will provide. That is the most fundamental error: lack of faith. And in some respects, this is understandable. We are all human and we are all weak, we are in the sight of the Almighty nothing but dust and yet, he still sustains us through our weakness and provides for our every need.
We must put faith into practise; it is God, not the Church who will bring about revival and change. The men of the Church nowadays presume they are the architects of gospel success, and suddenly the Church, their Church becomes all about their beliefs and what they want, with God consigned to a poor second. If the church were to put God at its very core, and it pains me to write about this subject knowing that in some Churches this is not the case, then we would be in a better position to put faith to work.
It is further important to recognise and recall this very simple yet powerful truth: the entire church is in God’s hands. His will has been worked out in accordance with his good pleasure and the Church is at the centre of this. The Church, after all, is the body of his elect people, for their uplifting, so that they might meet together and commune with God meeting in his courts twice on a Sunday, the one day in seven. If then, we are in God’s hands; we have an obligation, or more strongly, a reason to trust completely. There is a verse in Ephesians which I believe provides considerable food for thought: it states that God uses his church to reveal his wisdom and power to the rulers and authorities of the heavenly realms. Paul here is referring to the biblical idea of the Church having responsibility for areas of the state including education for example, and for care for the elderly.
The Church, beset by problems and internal strife, has neglected these areas because it simply does not feel it can continue to support them. However, it is in God we trust, completely, we may well see him bring the Church even lower, to our knees, but if that is what it takes to bring God’s people to cry out to him as in the days of old, how long, oh Lord, how long, then I pray he brings us lower soon, so that the manifold power of his plan for the Church in Britain can be worked out in its fullest extent. Paul also talks about unity in the body of Christ that we as believers might grow in Grace, in the power of Christ. And this truth of God’s word should resonate all the stronger with us today because I believe that Paul refers to a time where the Church as a whole will be blessed greatly, where unconverted people shall be added in great numbers and God will return to this land as he did in the centuries gone by.
We are called to live lives of inevitable sacrifice; we are in the world but not of it. Now, it would be naïve to assume that this is easy, and yet worth reminding ourselves that whenever we do fail it is because we are not dwelling sufficiently enough on the sacrifice that was made for us and more, the sheer blessed assurance we have in Christ, and the God who would choose to reveal him to us. We must live as children of light and we must not fear a day of small things. A quick point: it is not sinful in any way to refer to the day of small things; there are those that argue that is a lack of faith. However, surely we must recognise this truth also: Christ warned the first apostles that they would suffer for him, he was honest and truthful with them, and the same truth translates to us.
We will suffer for Christ, not perhaps in the same way; but to deny that God is in judgement on this land is to allow ourselves to be deluded as Satan wants. For the Evil One would far rather we were merely content to continue along the path. But we are called to stand as soldiers of Christ, the great hymn exhorting us: “Onward Christian Soldiers, until the battle is won”. We are at war and all too often we forget this fact. The failure within the Church to exercise real faith is not altogether that surprising, and yet we must also remember that if we as individuals take responsibility for our lives as Christians and support our brothers and sisters in this also, the Church will benefit. And as we begin to look more to Christ, we enter into a period of closeness to him, where God’s will becomes clearer in his providence to us.
So this author exhorts the people of God, all over Britain to plead with him to visit this land again in mercy and with salvation; we must put faith back to work, believing that he who holds the entire cosmos in his hands can answer our prayers and will do so in the fullness of time and in accordance with his will. It is my belief that this generation will know an outpouring from heaven of God’s blessings. We are also already greatly blessed because we can practise our faith without fear of persecution. We must honour God, by asking for that which man cannot do and see the Church uplifted, divisions healed. Through prayer, we can ask for the mountains to be moved and if we really seek to put faith to work they will move. And so, it is time the Church awoke from its slumber and met the challenge of this day of small things, praying, crying out to God and pleading that he will work again, in this land, soon. In faith, we can believe that he will answer.