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The Editorial

Time to prepare

George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilisation, visited our congregation.

John Benton, Editor

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Giving an ironic advertisement for his book Messiology, he parodied Matthew 18.20: ‘For where two or three come together in my name, there… will soon be a mess.’ Christians have a tragic ability to fall out with each other. While the Holy Spirit seeks unity in the gospel, we often do the devil’s work for him. He comes at us both internally and externally.

From inside

The Keswick motto, ‘All One in Christ Jesus’, is a great aspiration.

Of course there is the danger of adopting a ‘unity at all costs’ approach, which embraces heresy and no longer identifies sin as sin or calls for repentance. Scripture and recent history proves that this leads to Christ removing his presence, and to empty churches. We imperil ourselves by ignoring internal threats from formalism, false doctrine, sexual immorality, spiritual hypocrisy and nominalism (Revelation 2.4; 2.14; 2.20; 3.1; 3.15,16).

But often among conservative evangelicals the splits come down to prioritising tradition over Scripture, power games among leadership teams or clashes of personality. Spurgeon rightly said: ‘Beware of no man more than yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.’

From outside

Yet, as this column often has to repeat, there are not only inward threats – the church faces an ever-growing danger from our increasingly secular society.

In July an exchange of letters emerged in The Guardian over the traditional Christian attitudes of the Democratic Unionist Party which is shoring up Mrs May’s government. One correspondent wrote: ‘We are used to seeing articles attacking and even mocking traditional views, but never any that question, let alone criticise, liberal views. So the question arises: is there room in The Guardian world for traditional views on social issues?’

This was given very short shrift by a respondent: ‘ “Traditional” is a cuddly word that is used here to soften concepts of prejudice and discrimination… it is not “traditional” to believe that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married, it is homophobic. It isn’t “traditional” to believe that women should be forced to give birth to babies they don’t want, it is sexist… Accordingly, then, no – there is no place for such views in The Guardian, or in any other modern newspaper.’

Taking the latter view to its logical conclusion, there is no place for a Bible-believing church in the modern world. It is not a popular message, but we need to take seriously that dark days are coming for the churches, and prepare accordingly.

One young pastor said to me recently: ‘We have many people coming, but I don’t think they will stand if society turns against the church.’ He is probably right. It is not always the best thing to make it too easy for people to join the church (Luke 14.25-34).

We would be foolish to invite it, yet persecution will bring blessing. In his book, Prepare: Living your faith in an increasingly hostile culture, J. Paul Nyquist points out that in Scripture persecution is the norm, but that to suffer for Christ is to be blessed, not cursed, and God will reward us and not forget us. He reminds us that trouble not only refines the church, but can even be a step towards true revival.Is now the time for pastors to be thinking about teaching such neglected truths to their congregations? Perhaps then they will stand.