With ordination in sight, and hence actual church ministry in prospect, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the parlous state the church in Britain is in with declining attendances and the collapse of the moral values that underpin the British constitution and all that. Worst of all it seems as if the type of Christianity most churches settle for is a pale shadow of what Christ intends for his church. Luke 4:18 says that the “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
How many churches in Britain do we see doing any of that, let alone all of it?
So what’s the problem? Many blame society and seek to change it and engage with it apologetically. Now I don’t want to knock apologetics, but surely if the problem the church faces could be solved by making Christianity seem more reasonable we would have succeeded by now after so many years of brilliant people working so hard at it?
I found this quote from the great Francis Schaeffer, via Christ is deeper still, that suggests another reason for the failure of the church:
“The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us [nor, I would add today, postmodernism or materialistic consumerism or visceral sensualism or whatever]. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat. The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually or corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”
Francis A. Schaeffer, No Little People, page 64.