Of all the revivals recorded for us in the Bible then one of my favourites, if I'm allowed to have such a thing, is the revival in the city of Nineveh as told us in Jonah 3. It's a short chapter so I'll quote it all:
"Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.
When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:
“By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened."
It is easy today to take a negative view over the future of the church in Britain; it isn't exactly doing well at the moment. Inside the church then errors abound, reformed truths have been cast aside and the church seems to be trying to conform more to the world than to the likeness of Christ. We're exactly like the woman in Songs of Solomon: "I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My beloved is knocking." We hear the knock of Christ, we hear the thud of our conscience but as we stir we say: "I have taken off my robe - must I put it on again? I have washed my feet - must I soil them again?" We care, but not enough to fully wake up, we want to change but we're too lazy to put good intentions into practice, we know we're not what we should be, we're also unwilling to be more than we are.
Looking outside of the church will hardly encourage us to hope either. Our government has taken the first steps to legalizing gay marriage, not that it is surprising, we lost the battle for marriage decades ago; the tide of secularism is rising and persecution of Christians is a reality closer than we want to think. Society is falling into a type of madness only found when departing from biblical truth, good is called evil and evil good.
Yet despite the darkness of the day then we still have any reason to hope. Sure, looking upon things with the eye of sight gives us every reason to despair but the eye of sight is an uncertain, narrow, short sighted thing that has no foundation. If we look upon things with the eye of faith then we find a new picture, a sure and certain picture, and that of a God in complete control of everything.
I think it’s fair to say that humanly speaking the Christian Church is on its way out in the Western world. Just looking at the UK alone will show falling numbers of church goers, falling numbers of people who fear God and even smaller numbers yet of evangelicals.
I’ve seen this trend first hand in my church, Bellevue Baptist Church (we meet here every Sunday at 11:00 and 6:30pm). About five years ago there were seventy of us in the church, a smallish yet thriving congregation. But over the last few years in ones and twos then people have left. And they’ve left for good reasons, new jobs, getting married, university, death, etc, etc. Just to be clear I’m in no way, shape or form criticising those that left. So now on a good day we get into double digits, our church is now small, smaller than most of us ever thought it would get. Oh yeah, and we run out of money in September. Humanly speaking then my church is dying much like the church in the UK is dying.
And it’s hard. It’s very hard. All the questions you ask yourself: are we doing something wrong? Will things ever improve? Why has God let us get so small? Will we just fade and die? Why isn’t God bringing more people in? What’s the point in this all?
I’ve asked myself all of them at some point or another. Most reveal a lack of faith on my part, most reveal a terrible unbelief, so I thought it would be helpful to answer the question: