One of the hard things to come to terms with in this present day is that to some extent things in Church life have been just “ticking over”.
I recently had occasion to visit a church that I had attended over 30 years ago. Not only was the attendance much less than in those early days, but the building seemed peculiarly smaller.
I have noticed over time that as we have given ourselves to seeker-friendly approaches to the gospel, including the logic-appealing, but successful, Alpha Course initiative that we appear to have lost the heavy conviction of the Spirit that seemed to be at work in our midst in early days. In the early 80’s many of the prayers of salvation were accompanied with tears, great repentance and radically changed lives. Baptism in water was something that was undertaken soon after conversion in obedience to Scripture and not something left to another day when the person felt prepared for it. Scripture was clear, “repent and be baptised…” and so new believers did so willingly and quickly.
It is a time of change and challenge.
I have no answers to the conundrum we face. Maybe it is something that we should feel uncomfortable about, as if we had “left our first love” and now needed to quickly resolve our precarious predicament. Churches are growing about as slowly as the economic recovery with practically nobody leading anybody to Christ over the period of a year. Whatever our response though, it must come from a position of faith and not condemnation.
We have expectations. Most of our eggs are in one basket that the Bible doesn’t actually promise us: revival. We have lost focus on the absolute conviction that the Gospel itself, is the power of God unto salvation. Rather than pray that the Gospel will be like the light that pierces the darkness of people’s heart we offer God another solution that seems good and wise to us, that Jesus would appear in the dreams of the unbeliever. This is something the early Church with its astonishing growth would never have considered.
Maybe if there was a ‘reset’ button for the Church then this would be a good day to press the button.
Of course, there are many intellectual-based responses that can come to these issues, but the fact remains, we could do with seeing more of God’s work in our midst than we are doing at present.
The real answer to all that has been said is that we do need to address these issues, but also we need to focus on what God actually is doing amongst us, rather than what He is not doing.
One thing has definitely not changed is that God’s words are as authentic, transforming, redemptive and trustworthy as they have ever been. His promises still stand. God’s determined immutability is something our lives can depend on. He never changes, worsens or improves. He Is.
So when He says, “Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things that you did not know”, He still means it. When He says that whatever we ask for in prayer, we can have – He still means it.
The answer then is that if we want to see deep, radical change we should pray about it, and because we are convinced that God hears and answers prayer, we should pray about it some more.
Don’t give up. God can change things in a heartbeat. Maybe He just wants to hear us more… Follow the leading of the Spirit.