I am sure many reading this would not disagree when I say we live in extraordinary days. There are things going on around us we can’t figure out and those around us all too often see things differently.
It is true there are few around now who lived through the dark days of the World Wars but then I suspect many who did, were they alive today, would still look with consternation at what is going on. To narrow down “where do I begin” options, I want to focus on what I see as one of the most important issues – the Church.
Trump, Brexit, Covid-19, Racial Injustice, Climate Change and “Conspiracy Theories” are some of the issues in which church movers and shakers have fallen out over. While some, like one in my own orbit, can sit back and calmly announce “we are a people of praise, not politics” and therefore this difference of opinion should not overly bother us, but it is also becoming increasingly becoming clear there are fundamental differences as to what are the priorities and mission of the church and indeed what is the Gospel message. And as Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer (to name but two) discovered, you cannot divorce politics from praise. I have found, Christians like anyone else, see things differently, but we do best when we operate the “find common ground” principle, something that is played out when I do my next post on a new homeless initiative in my town, involving those of all faiths and none, but there also comes a time when we must take our heads out of the sand and take stock!
Often when I post on something I feel strongly about, and there are lots of somethings, there have been previously one or more triggers. The first thing to say, as I look at the extraordinary happenings in the world such as the right now with the ongoing Covid crisis, how Brexit is going to pan out and the aftermath of the recent US Presidential election (all still unresolved), yet these are still of lesser importance than what is God saying and doing in all this and especially concerning the Church (not building, organisation etc. but true followers of Jesus). I always have in mind the Jesus prayer in John 17 for the real Church, that they will be united in love and by being so the world will see the truth. It seems to me that at the top of the church priority list should be encourage personal holiness and fulfil the Great Commission to make disciples. Confusion, despair and disunity are obvious barriers. While we have to recognise things are as they are, we need not add to the confusion, not succumb to despair and humbly work for true unity.
When I checked out two videos by Jacob Prasch and his Moriel ministries, I was challenged by the notion that dodgy teachers did not just include the usual suspects but also some I had firmly placed in the good guy camp, e.g. Tim Keller, John Piper, John MacArthur and J.John. Not only that but under scrutiny are organisations I have come to respect, like Spring Harvest and Premier Christian Radio, all have been recently found wanting. I am not going to use this space to go into the reasons or give and express a view, either on the people being called out or Prasch and Moriel, other than to concur valid points have been made and I believe Prasch is basically correct in the astute way he sees what is happening today. It would be easy for me to revert to my Plymouth Brethren indoctrination that put most Christian ministers in the questionable camp, and adopt the church in ruins opinion of one of its early leading lights, J.N.Darby, that the church was in ruins and what we see now is to be expected. The danger, as happened with some PBs, is by rejecting flawed church structures, they replaced these with their own.
But where does it leave the child of God, intent to do good in the world and see a fulfilment of Jesus John 17 prayer? Firstly, I would say hang in there – a falling away and apostacy is to be expected in these Last Days; Jesus predicted it after all (Matthew 24), and keep being faithful to the Lord who will uphold the faithful as He promised umpteen times in the Book of Psalms. Secondly, pray. There is a fierce battle waging out there, a lot of it in the heavenlies. The good news is many are praying, even people who see things differently (which does create some challenges in what to pray for and say Amen to when praying corporately). But join with those you can. I am conscious of many in my orbit who pray, who I can join with, as well as in my own personal praying. Thirdly, read the Bible – I mean SERIOUSLY read and study it. I often think of William Tyndale and his plough boy comment. It was comments like this, doing away with the middle man when it came to approaching the Almighty, that cost him his life and the reason why he did so was that he realised that people reading the Bible for themselves and not relying on unreliable teachers was the only way they could understand the mind and heart of God and know how to live in an ever crazy world. Fourthly, do good when you can (my next article is an example of what we can do, based on my own experience). What the present situation has shown, despite the many inconveniences, is there is opportunity to show kindness etc. Fifthly, don’t give up on church and, by that, I mean true church, even it is away from buildings (quite likely in this paradigm of Covid lockdown) or organisations. Jesus said he will build His church and one day he will come for His holy bride, the true church.
So there you have it. “The Bible, Prayer, Christian Unity and False Teachers” are very real at this and any other time. The first two we need to come to grips with. The third we must recognise the lack of as a fact of life, work around it and do our part to bring peace. The fourth is a regrettable yet inevitable reality in this present paradigm. We are not here to rubbish those we disagree with or have been persuaded to call out as false, but be like the Bereans, of who it is written: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” Acts 17:11. If there is a final word of counsel it is that we be “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” Hebrews 12:2.