Monday, April 4, 2011

How NOT to Revive the Churches

It is denied by no-one that the Churches in the United Kingdom are not what they once were. How are we to reach the masses? One common approach is to try to preach on practical subjects that will, it is thought, attract non-Christians. After all, doesn't everyone want to learn how to manage their time and money better, how to be a better parent or spouse, how to get ahead in life? Even granted that people do (and I'm not convinced by the argument), is this really what the Church is about? Don't we have a Divine commission? And if not, why bother in the first place? It seems to me that there are breat number of organisations that do life-coaching far better than I ever could, and life-coaching requires a one-on-one approach, it cannot be done to large numbers (I have actually received life coaching, so I know of what I speak). Motivational messages may help self-confidence, but again, aren't there conferences that do that sort of thing better than any Church can. No, the Church has a divine commission. God has spoken and given us a command to preach the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ as the saviour of the world. Abraham Taylor wrote in the 18th century that in too many pulpits, "The satisfaction of Christ was made nothing of, under pretence that He died to set us an example of patience, meekness and charity" (Quoted in Dale, English Congregationalism P. 555). Instead of preaching, "the great doctrines of the Gospel, and acquainting those who heard the word, on what foot, and by what aid, they must act in doing duty, a great deal of pains were taken to amuse them with mere moral babble, under the plausible name of practical preaching... as this way of preaching grew in use, Christ was very much left out, and some seemed to take pleasure, in being able to spin out an empty harangue, the length of an hour, without mentioning His name." It didn't work, and even if such an approach brings people in the doors, I have to ask a most unfashionable question - what's the point? What is the point in assembling a great crowd of people in a Church building on Sunday to hear a talk about how to manage your time and money? If Christ is not proclaimed, then frankly the talk or address had no business being given in a Church. The mission of the Church is to proclaim Christ. Not a 'Social Gospel' that is all social and no Gospel. We have a Saviour to proclaim. God pity us if we forget that and start talking about other things, until the poor people have to say, "They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him."

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