Broken2
Mission

The Church needs to rediscover its heart

 

Established religion satisfies the minds of some, but the hearts of the multitudes frequently go hungry. We are often told of the imminent death of the Church of England (now apparently just six years away, according to Tim Thornton, Bishop of Truro), and it appears that the Roman Catholic Church is in an open and declared state of civil war, as the Benedictines range themselves against the Franciscans and each side excommunicates the other as they vie to expose the Antipope. Some say these disputes are about orthodoxy and truth, but more perceive them to be concerned with the strength of numbers and naked assertions of political power. In these human conflagrations and institutional decay, you don’t often hear (or read) much about the corruption of the heart or the convulsions of personal sin.

In contending against formalism and external religion, revival meets a human need for intimacy. The hymn writer William Williams observed: “To discover why it goes against the grain of professors to speak well of God, it is because their religion is only in their minds, and has never yet ascended to their hearts.” Jonathan Edwards corroborates this: ‘True virtue or holiness has its seat chiefly in the heart, rather than in the head,” he wrote. And John Wesley recorded in his journal:

About quarter to nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt that I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine…

He began to testify openly of what he “now felt in his heart”, preaching an “assurance that God’s forgiveness is available to all: the power of a new life could be had for the asking”. Such an intensely personal revival leads to the communication of the necessity for an emotionally fulfilling experience. As Wesley preached, emotion swept the crowd, with spontaneous singing, confessions of sin, convulsions, and “dropping down as dead”.

Although such charismatic events are often a consequence of revival, they may also become a cause as they induce a spiritual longing in others for the same experience. In Cambuslang, Scotland, William M’Culloch’s biographer sources his longing for revival in the stories emanating from England and Wales, and his noting of the style of George Whitefield, which consequently produced similar ‘hysterical’ manifestations to those experienced by Wesley. Wesley himself was massively influenced by the pietist Moravians, whose spirituality was founded principally on discipline, close fellowship, missionary zeal, compassion and simplicity. While Whitefield clearly influenced M’Culloch, he was himself a successor to Theodorus Freylinghuysen and a product of the Great Awakening in America. This is an illustration of the influence of one generation on the next, and of success breeding success (notwithstanding the central role of the Holy Spirit in breathing new life onto the Church).

The theological emphasis needs to fall once again on the guilt of humanity, and thence salvation through the redeeming work of Christ. The focus needs to become the cross and the experience of conversion. In the words of Whitefield: “…tell them they must be regenerate, they must be born again, they must be renewed in the spirit…in the inmost faculties of their minds, ere they can truly call Jesus Lord, Lord, or have any share in the merits of his precious blood.”

Ryle also recalled the realisation of  “my own sinfulness, Christ’s preciousness, the value of the Bible, the need of being born again…”. As a consequence of these teachers and pastors repenting of their own sin, contemporary accounts refer to “unexpected and instantaneous conversions, accompanied by the physical and spiritual operations of some overwhelming power upon the minds and bodies of the parties so converted”.

There was an absolute need to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, after which the believer is encouraged to be disciplined and to submit to sanctification by the Holy Spirit. There was enthusiasm and separateness, with increased interest in and production of books of sermons, devotional works, instructional guidance, tracts and biographies. And the hymns of the likes of Watts, Newton and the Wesleys were marked by simple, accessible tunes for the congregation, which were to be sung “with heart and soul”. Wesley’s intentions from the start went beyond the evangelisation and discipleship efforts with which his name is chiefly associated: his and Whitefield’s early sermons show they regarded the moral reformation of the country as a high priority. The Wesley method was to effect reformation not of opinions, but of tempers, emotions, passions and lives. John Wesley told the assembled Oxford dons in 1738 that only the doctrine of salvation by faith could “give a check to that immorality which hath overspread the land as a flood”. The discipline process insists on integrity of character – honesty, temperance, industry and thrift.

While revival is most evident in the individual heart, and thence the corporate life of the church, the most memorable profoundly affect the society. Jonathan Edwards asserts that the deepest heartfelt revival produces “high affections”, consisting in “high acts of love; strong and vigorous exercises of benevolence”. An awareness that revival growth leads to further growth necessitated planning and systematic organisation. This period of revival was marked by a need to construct chapels in profusion in town and country, and they were thronged with worshippers. Since ordained priests and bishops were both finite in number and (largely) indifferent or negative to revival (pretty much as now), there evolved a strong lay element, emanating from the realisation of the equality of all men before God – an individualism which was fused in the context of Romanticism, which brought to masses of men a new individual liberty to decide their own fate and destiny.

Organised meetings moved beyond the walls of church buildings, as itinerant evangelism challenged the paternalistic parishes of Anglicanism. And so they must again. If the people will not come to church, the Church – the family of God – must go out to the people. Leave the lethargic bishops to pore over decline, and let the overbearing cardinals fight like ferrets over which pope is more infallible. We must hold our prayer meetings in our homes or in pubs, and go out into our streets, villages, towns and districts – not to pontificate and preach, but to listen to the binge-drinkers, hug the depressed, feed the hungry and help the homeless. They will ask the questions. They might even sense the heart of love which motivates.

We are accountable to God for the way we use our gifts, time and opportunities. We can wait for holy leadership and make excuses for our indolence and inaction, or we can just get on with it.

  • Yep.

  • Graham Wood

    “The theological emphasis needs to fall once again on the guilt of humanity, and thence salvation through the redeeming work of Christ”
    Indeed, and yes the church irrespective of any particular tradition needs revival.
    But prayers for revival need imo to be preceded by real reformation without which such prayers are presumptuous.
    The message of salvation through the redeeming work of Christ , as stated is of course central. But together with that there is another and greatly needed theological emphasis – one which was recognised and invoked by the early church.
    It is that of their response to secularism and authoritarianism which emerged and as recorded in the book of Acts. (chap 4). What is the “heart of the church”? It is God Himself. Thus their prayer was firstly to the historic God of their fathers quoting the 2nd Psalm – i.e. (“despotes”, or Sovereign Lord – a ruler of unchallengeable power)
    Secondly they invoked the God of creation “who made the heaven and the earth”
    Generally with few exceptions, that is not believed in the church and has given way to evolutionism, or practical atheism. One cannot hold to a doctrine of salvation through Christ and evolutionism at the same time.

    Next, they believed in the God or revelation – “who spoke by the Holy Spirit”
    Then they invoked the God of history, so that notwithstanding the united opposition of the secular and religious authorities of the day, these were but fulfilling God’s eternal purposes which God’s sovereign will allowed.
    So when the church is once again preoccupied with such a God – of creation, revelation, and history, then perhaps we will begin to see such a revival

  • sarky

    The problem you have in the uk is that people dont even have a basic understanding of christianity, therefore, you have no foundation to build on. The message of sin and redemption is meaningless to the majority, people just don’t care.
    At the click of a button you can read all the (very convincing) arguments against christianity, something the church has never had to deal with before and is seemingly unable to cope with.
    I can’t see a way back for the church, they have nothing left in the tank. The world has moved on and left the church way behind.

    • DrCrackles

      If sin and redemption are meaningless then so must be justice?

    • Broadwood

      You’ve missed the point.
      Peter:
      When we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, we did not follow any clever myths. Rather, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
      Paul:
      Jews ask for signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach the Messiah crucified. He is a stumbling block to Jews and nonsense to gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, the Messiah is God’s power and God’s wisdom.
      And, brothers, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received, and in which you stand; by which you also are being kept safe, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures; and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the Twelve. Afterward He was seen by over five hundred brothers at once, of whom the greater part remain until this present day, but also some fell asleep. Afterward He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. And last of all He was seen by me also, as one born out of time. For I am the least of the apostles and am not sufficient to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1Co 15:1-9)

      And part of John Wesley’s testimony is included in the article.
      What happened? They met Jesus. And these encounters turned their lives around. This kind of thing is still happening today, regardless of peoples’ backgrounds or cultural filters, and the offer is open to everyone.
      That’s what we’ve got ‘in the tank’, Sarky!

      • sarky

        Yes, buts its an offer barely anyone is taking up. Like I said, to the majority its meaningless.

        • Broadwood

          Oh, you couldn’t be more wrong. The church internationally is growing fast. Even in this country, where people are pretty complacent and cynical about spiritual things, many churches are seeing much growth, with many young people coming in. The media won’t tell you so, numbers of worshippers usually exclude independent churches, but there’s revival happening in South Wales and Scotland as we speak.
          But yes, the established churches have problems, and no wonder, because they have departed from the Gospel.

          • sarky

            Sorry dont agree. Its like your trying to tell the captain of the titanic that there is no iceberg. Heads in sand never changed anything.

          • Broadwood

            Don’t agree based on what? According to you, the church is dying. Yes, dead bits are currently getting lopped off, great. Pruning is good and keeps the vine healthy. We were warned to expect that. So your problem is?

          • Nick

            Hold on, where are the revivals in South Wales and Scotland, Broadwood? Are you talking about Victory Church in Wales? I’m asking out of professional interest not to win an argument.

          • Broadwood

            Partly, but also places like Ffald-y-Brenin, which is more of a para-church thing. What I see is more a deepening of commitment to discipleship across denominations and a willingness to get together on new ways of reaching out.

          • Nick

            Thanks for answering. I’m a qualified Christian journalist and I’m writing an article on this subject. I have heard of Ffald-y-Brenin and some of the stories about this place. You would not believe how difficult this whole story is to research. It is like chasing a tornado.

          • Broadwood

            That’s interesting. I should check out Bath City Church then, too. They seem to be becoming something of a nexus in the South West on this.

          • Nick

            Thank you, I will do that.

        • carl jacobs

          sarky

          You do understand that you don’t judge truth by numbers but rather numbers by truth, correct? The truth is still true even if everyone rejects it.

          carl

          • sarky

            But that rejection must give you reason to question whether or not that truth is true.

          • Dominic Stockford

            I know the truth, someone else rejects it, why should I then wonder whether it is the truth?

          • carl jacobs

            sarky

            Upon what basis would you decide that truth was untrue? You would need a superior truth. So what is your superior truth? And by what authority do you declare it?

            The answer is not “Reason.” Reason is a process. It is not an authority. Every man uses it. Every man informs it with presuppositions. (Said presuppositions constitute his faith system BTW.) When man says “I am rational” he is making an implicit statement about his presuppositions (and by extension his faith system.) He is not making an objective claim.

            So what is your superior truth?

          • sarky

            Carl, all this back and forth is deflecting from the point. The bottom line is people in the uk dont believe in god and dont go to church. Truth is a perspective and is irrelevant if their truth is not yours.

          • carl jacobs

            sarky

            Found the water a little deep, I see.

            Yes, you are right about this. It’s the easiest thing in the world to tell rich people that they can do what they want because they will never be held to account. Money dulls the cost of meaninglessness that comes with moral freedom. That is what is happening in the West. But you need to worry about what they will do when they aren’t rich anymore.

            Because that day is coming, and a lot faster than you think.

          • sarky

            Ha ha think I need a snorkel. We have a saying here ‘bulls##t baffles brains’, you seem to be a great exponent of this!!!! 😉

          • carl jacobs

            sarky

            I have a saying as well. “When someone gets in over his head, he changes the subject.” OK, so that isn’t really a saying. It’s more of an observation.

          • sarky

            But it wasn’t me that changed the subject. Not one person had ackowledged that the church is failing to connect. If you read these threads, people are blaming everything but the church itself. If you have a brand that doesn’t sell, you don’t just leave it as it is because you believe the product is great and the consumer must be wrong. You have to change the product to generate consumer interest. This is the uncomfortable truth you have to face, to survive you must change and people don’t like change. You are trying to sell a 2000 year old book in a world where every kid has a laptop. Christianity does not resonate with people anymore. I suggest you all look inwards beforeyou you turn outwards.

          • CliveM

            Mary Slessor use to say God plus one is a majority.

    • Nick

      Sarky, I’m sorry (and really I am) but you don’t speak for all people. You speak for yourself and a few of the people who believe this. There is hope for the Church, but you do not even give constructive criticism here.

      • sarky

        Think the church is now beyond constructive criticism dont you??? Its had thousands of years of it, yet its still not connecting.

        • Nick

          Of course not. I’m not a spin-doctor for the Church. I was merely remarking that your comment held no constructive suggestions on making any pragmatic changes. The subtext of your argument is that Christians are aloof and uncaring and condescending even when this is a huge generalization. The Church needs to be more loving, but to say that it is simply out of touch and archaic is not constructive. Was that your agenda?

          • sarky

            Even if christians are more loving (and the majority are) its the message and christian life that unappealing and out of odds with the majority.

          • Broadwood

            Jesus said ‘take up your cross and follow me’ – that didn’t sound appealing to many of his contempories either. We’re not selling a ‘lifestyle package’ here!

          • sarky

            Yes you are,by default.

          • Nick

            It’s not the majority though is it Sarky? It’s just the vocal.

          • sarky

            It is the majority, otherwise why are your churches not full???

    • carl jacobs

      sarky

      You are mistaking the dessicated degenerate syphillitic West with the world. The West is not going to lead the world much longer.

      carl

    • Dominic Stockford

      You don’t believe what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit doing whatever he wants, wherever he wants, then? I do.

    • Phil R

      moved on to what?

  • Busy Mum

    ‘The theological emphasis needs to fall once again on the guilt of humanity, and thence salvation through the redeeming work of Christ.’

    This is the crux of the issue. Try telling this fundamental truth to schools – even church schools – and you are met by horrified looks from teachers who are constantly, desperately, insanely determined to believe the lie that there is something essentially good in all these children who wriggle, fidget, fight, name-call, shout, lie, steal, cheat, swear and fornicate their way into such a deplorable state that by the time they are 16 they are capable of stabbing to death those same teachers.

    • DrCrackles

      Hitchens makes the link between drugs (prescription and recreational) and the Maguire case.

      • Busy Mum

        I forgot to list drug-taking in the list of 21st century childish virtues – thankyou.

    • sarky

      I know, let’s terrify kids into behaving with tales of demons and hellfire, that should do the trick.

      • Busy Mum

        If the notion of hellfire terrifies the children into behaving themselves, why is it such a bad thing?

        • sarky

          I hope thats a joke!!!

          • Busy Mum

            Why – are you worried hellfire might be a reality rather than just a notion?

          • sarky

            Not at all, just don’t agree with causing unnecessary fear in kids.

          • Shadrach Fire

            It is vital to warn Children of certain dangers, such as fire, busy roads, taking sweets from strangers etc; You think warning of these cause unnecessary fear?

          • sarky

            But these are real tangible dangers. Telling kids they will burn in hell for eternity for even the mildest indiscretion is tantamount to abuse.

          • Busy Mum

            Guess you are a stalwart at opposing Hallowe’en activities in your area then – and may I rely on you to speak out about the fearful supernatural themes in 99% of children’s literature being published nowadays?

          • sarky

            Big difference!!! Childrens literature is not taught as truth. Kids are intelligent enough to differentiate between fiction and fact. My kids know a story is just that and that halloween is a bit of fun. The scares are for fun not to cause fear, unlike your scares which are about indoctrination and control.

          • Busy Mum

            Make sure they go to church (orthodox one)next Sunday so that they get all the information they need to make an informed opinion and make sure their reading material includes the Bible as well as all the Twilight-type vampire stories.
            If they decide it’s fiction, they will have had a scare for a bit of fun and if they decide it’s fact, well, they are intelligent people so there must be something in it after all.

          • sarky

            My kids have been to church and various church holiday clubs and also have a childrens bible in their room. I dont push my views on them, but do answer questions from my point of view. They have decided it’s fiction, a decision they made themselves. If they hadnt I would still have supported them as its their life.

          • Busy Mum

            I find children’s Bibles actually promote scripture as fiction, presenting the historical records as ‘stories’.

          • sarky

            Arhh, thats why the don’t believe, they have the wrong sort of bible. Thats another thing to add to list of why people don’t go to church..childrens bibles.

          • Busy Mum

            You have made the point more clearly than I did; dumbing down of the Bible is one reason – THE reason?! – why people have left off going to church. The Bible is the Heart that the C of E needs to rediscover (ref. heading of this post)

          • sarky

            Its not dumbing down of the bible, but lack of belief in the bible.

          • Busy Mum

            I agree – the church lost belief in the Bible so it’s not surprising if the flock did. The church’s lack of belief prompted dumbed-down editions like the children’s Bibles.

          • sarky

            So if even the churches dont believe the bible…whats the point???

          • Busy Mum

            An individual can believe the Bible whatever any organised church might say. That is the essence of protestantism.

      • Phil R

        Proper Christian schools do very well

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuel_College,_Gateshead

  • Nick

    I would like to tell you a story if you will all indulge me. I have written and studied the subject of revival extensively. But I have to understand that it is God’s Church and people like myself do not necessarily get to ‘change hearts and minds’. However, here is a story for your pleasure as sophisticated readers – it is called: ‘The Parable of the Over-Competitive Fisherman’. Make of it what you will…

    A king once owned a vast lake in which all kinds of fish lived.

    The king went away on a long journey with his army, telling his servants to fish the lake for him. He was a very kind king even though he was immensely powerful.

    But as soon as he left, the servants began to argue with each other. They started to call themselves ‘the king’s fisherfolk’ (men, women and children) and they formed two groups, one on the West side, then one on the East. But even these groups split so that there were eventually fisherfolk on three sides of the lake. One side of the lake protested against another side and the third side just shrugged and said that they were the true fisherfolk anyway. The only other side of the lake was covered in woodland and no-one could fish from it.

    There were intense arguments between the fisherfolk about the best way to catch fish. The fisherfolk on the Western side tended to have the better equipment and conditions. The sun seemed to shine on them although the fishing conditions were challenging in some ways. Mostly they had problems because they tripped over their equipment. Some of them had rods and equipment which was so expensive and sophisticated that it was easier for them to catch the fish. The equipment sometimes got in the way or distracted them.

    The Western fisherfolk argued among themselves about the best way to catch fish and please their master. Many of them had fist fights or wouldn’t speak to each other. Others didn’t see the point in fishing and went off to do something they were more interested in. Perhaps they were the wisest.

    There were all kinds of disputes. The fisherfolk on the West always looked down on the fisherfolk on the other sides of the lake. They were only united in this. They would often accuse each other of cheating or of scaring the fish away. One of the fisherfolk on the East was just a boy who only had a line which he baited with a worm and dangled into the water from the branch of a tree. He couldn’t even afford a rod.

    There was also one particular fisherman on the Western side who was rich and had better equipment than many of the others. There were a lot of fisherfolk in the team which he led. But he would condescend towards the poorer fisherfolk and remain aloof and over-competitive. He would even toss grenades from his survival belt into the lake. Whenever he did this he would kill a lot of the fish and set his team to scoop them up in huge nets. He caught countless fish this way. But others noticed that he scared away most of the life within the lake.

    Not content with lobbing grenades, this fisherman would also go out onto the lake in a trawler and dredge to the bottom with huge nets. All of the other fisherfolk were so scared of him because he said that he was pleasing the king more than them as he had caught so many more fish than they had.

    The boy was very sad when he saw and heard all this. He went out every day to fish the lake but could never catch any fish, the fisherfolk on his side had so little equipment and, truth be told, some of the fisherfolk had made the fish very wary. A lot of the time the boy would just talk to the other fisherfolk and the rich fisherman would watch him in the distance and think he was lazy.

    The rich fisherman announced from a loudspeaker: “When the king gets back from his journey he will let me relax with him in the best room of his palace because I’ve caught the most fish. I win.”

    He even sometimes said that the king had sent him secret messages which told him he was his best fisherman and that he was very pleased with him. “The king is with me, me, me…” he sang. Many of the others became discouraged because of all this and gave up fishing.

    For many years this was simply the way things were. But one day, as suddenly as a thief might break into a house, the king came back from his journey. He appeared, with his army at his lakeside and called all his servants together from every side. The woodland watched on silently, breathing in the wild wind. He asked each of his servants in turn one simple question:

    “Did you catch any fish in my lake?”

    Many of the fisherfolk had somehow caught fish and the king sent them off to relax in his palace. When he came to the boy he asked him the same question.

    The boy replied: “No, I’m sorry, not one.”

    The king was surprised at this, but when he saw that the boy only had a line with a hook and that the fishing conditions were so challenging he understood what had happened.

    So the king told the boy that he could stop fishing and go and play in the best part of his palace.

    The rich fisherman also went before the king. He had freezers stocked full of fish. He had caught so many and stocked them with salt in vast refrigerated warehouses which he had built. He had also secretly eaten and sold on a number of the fish himself. I suppose that is what happens when you are over-competitive.

    “How many fish did you catch?” asked the king.

    “153,000,000” replied the fisherman, his chest swelling in pride.

    “Pretty impressive,” said the king, “you have worked very hard haven’t you? Are you tired?”

    “That wasn’t on the agenda,” replied the fisherman. “But I would like to point out once again that I have caught the most fish. You like fish don’t you?”

    “Love them,” replied the king. But he was very depressed by the over-competitive fisherman as he had never wanted fish to be captured quite in the way that they were. The strange, kind king didn’t want to send the fisherman out of his kingdom into the burning heat of exile where he wouldn’t survive.

    “I thought I could have a sabbatical?” said the fisherman, “Where do you want me to rest in the palace?”

    “You really are very efficient and shrewd,” said the king, “so you can go and carry on working for my fisherfolk there. They will need someone to cook for them.”

    And it all would have ended there if the over-competitive fisherman hadn’t been quite so shrewd (as the king had so accurately perceived).

    The rich fisherman could see that he was facing a menial role as a lowly servant in the palace. Although he was relieved not to be sent into the burning heat of exile he did keenly realize that he had very little to lose at this point.

    “I’ve just spent my adult career working for you despite the fact that you have been entirely absent and despite your inane request for fish,” blurted the fisherman.

    The king seemed momentarily taken aback.

    “I am not going to carry on being your lacky in your palace, serving fools who have been unable to fish effectively. So I utterly refuse to play your game.”

    The king nodded, smiled to himself. As if unsurprised. As if nothing could surprise him. As if he knew the future. And then he said, “I’m afraid you have no choice. You put the ‘tit’ into ‘competitive’. Even now my army is coming to take you to your place. No value judgement intended, you understand.”

    It was too much for the fisherman. Reaching towards his survival belt he unclipped a spare grenade and rolled it towards the king. The grenade landed at the king’s feet. He paused to look down and then smiled,

    “But that’s not a fish,” he said (momentarily confused).

    “You’re damned right,” replied the fisherman, turning and running away as fast as a ridiculous thought.

    The inevitable explosion blasted the kind king into a thousand and one bloody pieces.

    A few of the pieces landed in the lake where hungry, confused fish devoured them and then returned to the freedom of the water.

    It was, some may say, ironic that the fish should win out in the end. Others may say it was meaningless, without rhyme or reason.

    But I’m simply trying to tell you what happened. The over-competitive fisherman won, along with the fish and the trees of the hungry, watching woods which swayed and clapped their hands in a mad westerly wind.

  • Cranmer, This is a hugely perceptive article and I thank you for it. It so righty turns to the 18th century Awakening to learn many vital lessons for today. It was the preaching of the Wesleys and Whitefield which saved this nation from a violent French-style revolution, as even secular historians such Elie Halevy testify.

    However, very courteously, I was disappointed in the final comment that we must “go out into out streets, villages, towns and districts – not to … preach, but to feed the hungry and help the homeless”. Whitefield and the Wesley brothers were primarily preachers, as were our Lord and the apostles. When John Wesley first went to Newcastle, where there was a poverty which would vastly overshadow much of today’s poverty, Wesley preached Christ crucified for sinners.

    Yes, where there was genuine unavoidable social deprivation, the Methodist societies also sought to meet that need, but this was never the primary thrust of their ministry, which was always sinners being reconciled to God.

    Take the contemporary problem of homelessness, for example. Of course, practical help must be given, but the homeless man also has a soul and needs to be reconciled to God. It is an act of love to preach to all men – the affluent, the poor and all in between. We must not confine the duty of love to giving material aid, because man does not live by bread alone.

    It will also often be the case that homelessness will be the result of family or relationship breakdown – why are the man’s relatives not putting him up? It is sin which may ultimately be the heart of the problem, and only preaching the gospel can solve that.

    Preach the gospel of repentance from sin and faith in Christ for eternal salvation and society will inevitably improve and social deprivation will inevitably decline. If the churches, however, focus upon social needs rather than salvation, the offence of the gospel is removed and sinners are not challenged. Respectfully, binge-drinkers need to be told to repent, not to be listened to.

    Social well being is a function of God’s providence. It is righteousness before God which exalts a nation and brings prosperity and security, and this requires individual sinners hearing “the foolishness of preaching” that they might be brought to repentance and faith in the Saviour.

    Yours with thanks and in Christian love, Rev. Peter Simpson.

    • Busy Mum

      ….and having had Revival rather than Revolution makes our current situation all the more urgent and perilous. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” Luke 12 v 48

      • Indeed. We are now sinning against much light and repudiating so much blessing. In the post war period, despite miraculous deliverance at the times of Dunkirk and the Battle of Britain, we have turned our backs upon our glorious gospel inheritance. Many churches have sadly resorted to the old liberal social gospel. Pursuing equality and ’embracing diversity’ have replaced repentance from sin. This of course makes the message more ‘user-friendly’, for non-believers hate to hear any talk of sin and judgement, but the sinful heart of man must first be changed, before society can ever improve.

        • Philip___

          Again, well said.

    • Daniel1979

      I would respectfully disagree Rev. Peter.

      Should any of us set about to instruct or tell the next 10 binge drinkers out on the town to “repent” i should imagine the results would be entirely predicable; for it is indeed the current approach and how’s that working out?

      Set about and listen to 10 binge drinkers, establish a dialogue and understand their concerns, their hopes and fears and then invite them to Church. Then teach, or perhaps remind them of the central messages of Christ and salvation. I have a feeling which approach will bring more souls to the Eucharist.

      My last but one time in Church, there were about 70/80 people present in a big church capable of holding 400+. At 35 i was probably the youngest person there, excluding about a dozen kids with parents all of who were at least as old as me. When there is talk of the Church being on it’s last legs, one wonders at what point the established leaders and leader will realise they have lost nearly a whole generation.

      I only found my faith in Christ a little over a year ago, and it wasn’t a priest or a bishop who led me there.

      I would love to see a revival, and more and more people turning to Christ, I don’t have the answer to how we do that, but a new approach must be found.

      • Dominic Stockford

        We are called to tell them to repent, we are not called to help them give up the alcohol – The Holy Spirit will bring about either if it is His will. Whitefield used to go round telling them to repent, and he is a great example to us all.

        • Daniel1979

          I am not saying to not call on people to repent.
          What I am saying is, let that not be all you/we/Christians do.
          As much faith as I have in the Holy Spirit, perhaps i can proffer the consideration that the Holy Spirit is, in this same scenario perhaps seeking to work through us to help the person in question. A poor but quick to hand analogy might be a doctor informing a patient he is sick, without offering diagnosis, medicine or even a compassionate/civil consultation.

          More to the point of the post, if direction for all to repent was sufficient, surely we could put up sign posts saying ‘repent’ and all should be well? To me, it’s does not seem sufficient.

          I am someone who’s attendance at church is restricted to recent times. The reception i received was warm, welcoming and encouraging. When i state this to non-Church going friends, I can tell they don’t believe me, nor is this sufficient to prompt them to want to attend.

          • Dominic Stockford

            To quote from Rev Thorsby, who spoke as my congregation began:

            “The people are asking for bread:God forbid that we should give them a stone.

            The people are asking for light: God forbid that we should lead them into darkness.

            They are asking for life: God forbid that we should wrap them up in the shroud and winding sheet of a dead formality.

            The dispensation of grace has been given to us, and woe to us if we preach not the Gospel, and know anything among men save Christ crucified, the wisdom of God and the power of God unto salvation.”

      • Dear Daniel, Thank you for your reply. You wrote, “I would love to see a revival, and more and more people turning to Christ, I don’t have the answer to how we do that, but a new approach must be found”.

        In courteous response, we do not need a new approach, because God’s word is all sufficient for all time. Preaching which spoke of sin and judgement worked in the 18th century and can work again. The sinners whom Whitefield and Wesley encountered are no different to those today.

        When Paul was in Athens, he declared, “God … now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:30–31). Can we devise a better method than the apostolic one?

        When our Lord began His public ministry in Galilee, He declared, “The kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). In Luke 13:3 He states, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”.

        We must never think of evangelism as an exercise in marketing – what will the people like to hear? What will they positively respond to?

        It is the Holy Spirit who takes preaching and who convicts the hearers of their sin. We have to declare God’s law (e.g. the sinfulness of drunkenness amidst countless others), or else the hearers will have no apprehension of why they need a Saviour.

        You wrote, “Establish a dialogue and understand their concerns, their hopes and fears”. Very respectfully, we cannot make the unbeliever’s understanding of his situation our starting point, because God’s word tells us that his “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

        If we try to bring someone to Christ on his terms as an unbeliever, without referring to sin and judgement (which will offend him), we shall never see true conversions.

        In brotherly love and with warmest Christian greetings, Rev. Peter Simpson.

      • Phil R

        Many Churches are successful, even Anglican one this one has grown remarkably

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesmond_Parish_Church

        “Jesmond Parish Church is a conservative evangelical Anglican church of approximately 1,100 people”

        From what I understand their Bishop will not speak with them and will not even sponsor ordinands from them.

        The approach seems to be working well. Try a “Reform” Church

        • Could you please contact His Grace (via Contact tab) with further details of your understanding? Bless you.

          • Inspector General

            I say old chap, if you could enlighten us all on your soon to be updated thoughts…

          • David Waters

            Your Grace, while you are checking out Jesmond Parish Church, you could have a look at a similar Anglican-based church a few miles away, Christchurch Durham. It has been running for about ten years, under the leadership of an ordained Anglican (ex St Ebbes, Oxford) and has grown to being one of the largest churches in the city, with a substantial student work. I believe it applied to join the Diocese of Durham and was turned down. Tells you all you need to know about the Anglican hierarchy.

    • Philip___

      A most excellent comment, I should think absolutely correct in every word. What you said so needs to be said again and again to a church that seems so often to have lost its way as to what its mission is, and seems to so often seek the approval of men (e.g. through good social works) before the preaching the true Gospel which addresses mankind’s most urgent need, and which only the (true) church can preach (anyone can do social action)…but which may seem foolish and may offend..

  • magnolia

    That 18th century revival is a very interesting time. I was recently interested to discover, as you mention Newton and hymn writing just how many Olney hymns were written, of which we now sing roughly 12 typically, though they are clearly close to the pick of the crop. e.g. “Amazing Grace”, “Glorious things of thee are spoken”, “Hark, my soul, it is the Lord”, and “Oh for a closer walk with God”.

    Some have fallen by the eventual wayside because of changing fashions. Who now speaks much of the “mercy-seat”? Others because they are a little dull or weird. Some maybe could usefully be resurrected. But they were very busy writers and covered each book of the bible.

    Here for any interested folk is the link:

    www,ccel.org/ccel/newton/olneyhymns.toc.html

  • SidneyDeane

    “We are accountable to God for the way we use our gifts, time and opportunities.”
    Accountable in what way, Cranmer?
    The only prerequisite to getting into heaven is belief itself. (Which interestingly makes heaven full of murderers and rapists but luckily not a single person who just simply desires a teensy bit of, you know, evidence.) So in what way are we accountable?
    Silence ensues.

    • carl jacobs

      Sidney

      That you think your question is in some sense a powerful apologetic or that we would quiver in silence be abuse of it is mildly humorous. You should really learn something about Christianity before you comment on it. I am dead serious about that. You constantly display significant gaps of knowledge. Apologetics 101 begins with “Know what your opponent believes.”

      The question you ask is at the center of the Gospel and the Gospel is the center of Christianity. This is the Gospel: “Christ died for sinners.” What does that mean? It means that the divine punishment for my sin was visited upon the Son on my behalf. Why? Because it would have destroyed me. The accountability for my sin was settled at the Cross. The bill of indictment against me was nailed to the Cross. All the guilt, all the shame that was by right mine to carry was carried by another in my place. He died for me. He died in my place. He suffered the full weight of God’s wrath so that I didn’t have to. Otherwise I would be in hell where deserve to be.

      And then He adopted me as a son. His purpose is now to conform me to the image of Christ. Note. His purpose is not to make me happy. His purpose is to conform me to the image of Christ. He isn’t a giant ATM machine. As an adopted child, I am no longer under eternal condemnation. But I am now in a different kind of relationship with God. For now I may understand how the created role of father reveals God to men. As it is written “Whom He loves, He disciplines.” God does not overlook sin. He deals with it. If you are a Believer and you play games with God, you will find out. It’s all about being conformed to the image of Christ. Just as I raised my children, so He raises me. And for the same purpose.

      He loves me. He does not see me as I am but as I will be. And He works tirelessly to bring about that end. Discipline is not pleasant. But it fulfills the purpose of God.

      • SidneyDeane

        I am looking to learn so thank you in that regard. Whilst that’s all very nice though, I don’t think you’ve answered my question. Which is not a loaded one by the way – I’m curious to know the answer. In what way are we accountable? How does he ‘deal’ with sin, as u say?

        [I will leave aside my skepticism and, frankly, honest bafflement, at the idea that an omnipotent God would not use his power to simply forgive mankind but instead implements a solution that requires that he impregnate a teen girl in order to give birth to himself so he can have himself slaughtered to save human beings from the hell that he created. He then decides to communicate his plan through conflicting accounts penned decades later by anonymous authors and subjectively handed down by flawed translators who can’t even agree on the translation of the word virgin]

        • The doctrine of ‘Penal Substitution’ is not the only explanation for the crucifixion. It was developed in the 16th century and, in historical terms, is a fairly late arrival to Christian theology. There is an alternative one – ‘Vicarious Substitution’. It’s less brutal in its conception of the incarnation and the love of God is given more emphasis than the wrath of God.

          • magnolia

            I clicked on your link, and behold, a vision of a straw man floated in the ether before me…..!

            What you point towards is fine for Catholics who wish to mull over their superiority to Protestant dimwits and hardhearted mean Protestant folk, but not good for much else!! Clue: there are far more than two approaches.

          • Now, now, magnolia, Jack wasn’t trying to score denomination points. Of course there are more than two ways of understanding the crucifixion. This is currently a bone of contention within Protestantism. The point Jack was making is that the Calvinist one is too narrow in that it emphasises God’s wrath and overlooks His Love.

        • Phil R

          The price is paid for my sin Sidney.

          Past and present.

          I could murder you in a fit of rage tomorrow and still got to heaven.

          What I do or not is not the issue.

          Before you say it, murder is still very much a sin Sidney

          • SidneyDeane

            We’re still not any nearer to the answer to my question.

            Heaven: where even murderers and pedophiles can get in.

            Only people who can’t are people who won’t propagate the religion. Clever.

          • Phil R

            Sidney

            The only ones who will not get in will not want to get in anyway.

            Take you for example

            Do you desire an eternity with God above everything else?

          • Sidney,
            There are only two sorts of people; forgiven sinners and unforgiven sinners. Forgiven sinners are those who repent of their sin and trust in Christ Jesus for salvation.
            There. It’s not that hard, is it?

          • Hi Phil

            You write:

            ‘I could murder you in a fit of rage tomorrow and still got to heaven.’

            That’s reason 8 why I won’t be a Christian…..although presumably being a Christian means you shouldn’t want to commit murder (if so why suggest the above)?

            PS- If being gay is a sin like murder & if “what I do or not do is not the issue”, WHY do you in particular bang the anti gay drum here especially, if it, that is sin, makes zero odds as to actions in this life in respect of where one goes in the next??

          • Phil R

            Being a Christian means that you love God with your very essence, more than anything else in the world.

            Of course a God that you love like that can ask anything of you and that deep down, is the scariest thing about accepting and then returning God’s love.

          • Hi Phil

            I get all of that, but that doesn’t explain why you could murder someone and think you’re going to heaven.

            PS- there’s no price, not even the entire amount of gold that’s ever been mined or the whole GDP of the USA, you could pay for me to love you.

          • Phil R

            “there’s no price, not even the entire amount of gold that’s ever been
            mined or the whole GDP of the USA, you could pay for me to love you.”

            Exactly, so why do we constantly think that we can DO anything that will influence / make God love us any more/less than he does already?

            Lets assume that you love someone….

            Why do you love them…?

            or better. how do you respond to the question why do you love me?

            Are you going to tell them that it is because they have a great body?

            Are you going to tell them that it is because they make a lot of money?

            Are you going to tell them that it is because……

            The only answer that is true is because I love you because I love you. Because I love you I do things that I know will please you not hurt you.

            On the murder thing.. Jesus talked about this to his disciples. He made no distinction between looking at a beautiful woman with lust and having sex with her.

            The disciples called it impossible teaching… it was

            Jesus then told them that they had missed the point… they had

          • Hannah
            Now that’s just hurtful and bad. We are called to love everybody – even Phil.
            Agape, Happy Jack.

          • Unless you’re gay or course…..

          • God loves you Hannah and that’s good enough for Happy Jack and for you too.

          • Hi happy Jack

            Of course God loves me , I know that.

          • Happy Jack feels a song coming on:

            “Jesus loves me, this I know,
            For the Bible tells me so;
            Little ones to Him belong;
            They are weak, but He is strong.
            Yes, Jesus loves me,

            Yes, Jesus loves me,
            Yes, Jesus loves me,
            The Bible tells me so.
            Jesus, take this heart of mine;
            Make it pure and wholly Thine.
            Thou hast bled and died for me;
            I will live henceforth for Thee.
            Yes, I love Jesus.

            Yes, I love Jesus.
            Yes, I love Jesus.
            In prayer I tell Him so.”

            Jack so loves hearing young children singing this hymn of praise.

          • Hi Phil

            Forgot to add you are wrong because of …. oh well you are a Christian, I’m a Jew, so we’ll never agree on this stuff (:

            So we shall have to just celebrate our differences over malt scotch with shmaltz herring and onions on Jacobs crackers and a pickled egg or two … with some falafel (:

          • Phil R

            Falafel…. Yes please!

          • William Lewis

            Hannah

            Do you think it possible that a murderer could accept that Christ loves him so much that He was prepared to die for his sins without that murderer also whole-heartedly repenting of the murder that he has committed? True Christian faith cannot be unaccompanied by true repentance. Just believing that Jesus is the Son of God and died for us is not enough – even the devil believes that. There is also acceptance and repentance.

          • Hi William

            That’s not what Phil said, so quite irrelevant to my joust with him.

          • IanCad

            Phil,
            In no way am I supporting Sidney but you are surely not saying that you cannot lose your salvation?
            Or are you?
            Looks rather like indulgences to me.

          • Phil R

            “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed”

            Acts 13:48

            Note it does not say.

            Those that chose to believe were ordained to eternal life

          • IanCad

            We’re getting into deep Calvinism here Phil.

            “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” Hebrews 10:26 – which addresses your prior comment.

            “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” Rev. 3:11 – So we can lose our salvation.
            Ian

          • Because God foreknew the response and, having given all who heard sufficient grace to respond, He gave the gift of efficacious grace to those who actually responded to His grace and who were known to Him.

          • This is where the theology of ‘Penal Substitution’ inevitably leads. Christ died for the Elect only; all God’s wrath was poured onto Jesus; He imputes His righteousness to the predestined Elect and covers their sin.

        • carl jacobs

          Sidney

          He dealt with sin by punishing it. God is Holy. His nature demands that sin be punished. Who could he have punished? Me. And the angels would have declared Him just and righteous for doing so. But God showed His loved for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (specifically me). His purpose was to die that death. The sins of men (specifically me) were laid upon Christ. He felt the guilt and shame of my sin and was punished for them with the full weight of God’s anger against them as if Christ Himself had committed them. He suffered an eternity’s worth of punishment because He could withstand it. He who was sinless.

          Does this make sense to men? No, who would die for the wicked? Who stand in the place of the wicked? We would say “He deserves what he gets.” But God is not man. Neither does He act like a man. And that is the point of the Gospel.

          I am by nature evil. I know it. I can look inside myself and see it everywhere. I know that God exists, and that He is Holy. Those are self evident truths. He will demand an account. So what am I to do about this? I cannot claim that I am innocent because I know I am guilty. Do I work hard to atone? But can the murderer atone for his crime by doing good deeds? Is he any less a killer for giving food to the poor? How then do I stand before God and give account for the evil I have done? I cannot. But the Lord Jesus Christ can make intercession for me, and for the sake of that Cross, He will be heard.

          Naked I was born. Naked I will die. Naked I will stand before God to be judged except that I am covered by the Righteousness of Christ.

          carl

          • SidneyDeane

            Gosh this is how a religious person is taught to think.

            It’s awful.

          • carl jacobs

            Sidney

            If you persist in that attitude, then you will die in your sins. You will discover what it means to be judged by God, and in that moment you will say “Mountain, fall on me! Earth, cover me up!” But the mountain will not listen and the Earth will not heed.

            Your hope is to die and stay hidden. Your expectation of life is to live as you please. The later dictates the former. Eat, drink, and be merry, if you like. Tomorrow you die. And it is in death that this argument will be adjudicated. With terrible and awful finality.

          • Nevertheless, this is true, Sidney:
            “If you persist in that attitude, then you will die in your sins.”

          • No …. it’s one particular view of Christianity, Sarky.

          • DanJ0

            A comment on this to the wider world here: How is it that a religion which claims one has a personal relationship with god … a Pentecostal type thing … can have such different approaches to what the religion is all about, produce such different experiences of it, and have such core differences in dogma? Of all the things that one might use to question whether there’s some core truth in this religion, that is it.

          • Jack guesses its because a Triune God really is above human comprehension, as is the Incarnation. Add to this all sorts of human and political intrigues behind the Church, and you get to where we are.

            There is more that unites Christianity than divides it – although the divisions are major.

          • DanJ0

            Yes, it is.

          • “His nature demands that sin be punished.”

            His nature – Love – also demands that sin be forgiven. Your view of the crucifixion is very bleak. Christ’s sacrifice was God giving Himself voluntarily in love to redeem mankind.

  • Philip___

    “We must hold our prayer meetings in our homes or in pubs, and go out into our streets, villages, towns and districts – not to pontificate and preach, but to listen to the binge-drinkers, hug the depressed, feed the hungry and help the homeless”. May I suggest this might reflect the confusion which seems to be in the Church (even in some so-called ‘evangelical’ churches) as to what is the mission the Lord has given the church? That is to preach the Gospel and make disciples (Matt 28, Luke 24…). Eternal salvation is the blessing of Abraham. That is, God calling a people to Himself for eternity.

    Good social works may impress the world, but only the Gospel of God’s love shown in the Cross where Jesus paid the price for our sin, answers mankind’s most urgent need to be rescued from eternal judgement of a holy God. Yes, it is good for churches to do practical things in the community, but that surely must always be with the aim of bringing people the Gospel – lunch clubs, toddlers’ groups, soup runs,…. should have the purpose of sharing the Gospel. I know of one large church that has long had soup runs for the homeless, but the pastor has tasked those teams to make it their aim for the homeless they contact to hear the Gospel.
    I totally agree with the Revd Peter Simpson’s comment below…

    • Coniston

      How does this fit in with Street Pastors, who appear to be doing a really excellent job, but who specifically do not preach the Gospel to those they help (unless asked) on the streets late at night? Or indeed with much of the work the Salvation Army does over Christmas and other times? There is certainly a time – there has to be a time – for preaching the Gospel to an unbelieving world, but it is not all the time, every time. At the wrong time it can be counter-productive.

      • Philip___

        Yes they do do a good job,.
        There is I suppose the question of what one’s view is as to what Christ’s commission to the church is, and in light of that, priority in use of resources (such human and financial) especially if they’re limited. Obviously, whatever the outreach, there’re times it’s not appropriate to preach the gospel.
        But if we have to do other things because people aren’t ‘ready’ for the Gospel, well, when will they be ‘ready’? – we might end up never sharing it, and we may be forgetting the power of God’s word to change people?

        • Coniston

          I agree that the Gospel has to be communicated to an unbelieving world. The question is, how? In the past most people had some understanding of Christianity and the Gospel, and they were usually open to discussion (and preaching) about the Gospel. Today the situation is quite different. The street preachers of the past would today generate distain and anger in a secular society with no sense of sin. Other, more gradual, methods need to be used. I don’t claim to know the answer, but caring for the poor and homeless (which we are commanded to do) is an obvious start. Do not ‘preach’ at secular people (that is disastrous), but share our faith with them as and when possible. Some will respond, some will not – it was ever so.

          • Philip___

            When I’m talking about “preaching the Gospel”, I wasn’t thinking about street preaching (although I wouldn’t deny that has a place), more about the focus of church activity being on what the mission of the church as given in the Great Commission, which is preaching and sharing the Gospel. That might include practical outreach as I said in my original comment, and yes I agree that most work in lives is “gradual” in this country. The word of God has the same power however ‘secular’ society is.

          • Coniston

            There is a further point. St Paul, I think, had an easier task than we do. Apart from the synagogues, he was preaching to pagans – there were few atheists then. Today we have to address a largely atheist (in practice) society. Pagans at least have some sense of the divine. As C. S. Lewis wrote somewhere, it is easier to convert pagans than atheist materialists.

            See also Lewis’ inaugural lecture at Cambridge:

            http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/counterpoints-november-14-man-without-god-joseph-loconte-c-s-lewis
            /counterpoints-november-14-man-without-god-joseph-loconte-c-s-lewis

        • But its not “either/or” is it?
          Jesus fed the multitude before the Sermon on the Mount.

    • Shadrach Fire

      As far as the binge-drinkers are concerned, the ‘Street Pastors’ do a great job of reaching out. Unfortunately, most can’t remember where they were the night before.

  • Coniston

    The following appeared recently in a Christian (Catholic) periodical:

    Towards the conclusion of his landmark book After Virtue, the Scottish philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre observes that the death rattle of the Roman Empire began when men and women of good will “turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium” which had become socially decadent and culturally diseased.
    “What they set themselves to achieve instead – often not
    recognising what they were doing – was the construction of new forms of
    community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality
    and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness.”

    For MacIntyre – a lapsed Marxist turned Catholic – the
    parallel with our contemporary Western society was both obvious and
    sobering. “This time, however, the
    barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have already been governing
    us for quite some time. And it is our
    lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot*, but for
    another – doubtless very different – St Benedict.”

    • dannybhoy

      I like that.

  • Dominic Stockford

    Any article which quotes Whitefield, Wesley, Ryle and Newton positively has got to have something going for it! And the summation from Whitefield of the Christian faith is fantastic. Well done sir.

  • Shadrach Fire

    Your Grace,
    Brilliant. You have shown me another side to your ministry (ABC deceased). This post is in perfect alignment with my thinking and beliefs.

    John Wesley told the assembled Oxford dons in 1738 that only the doctrine of salvation by faith could “give a check to that immorality which hath overspread the land as a flood”. The discipline process insists on integrity of character – honesty, temperance, industry and thrift.
    Something has to be done to stem the slide to iniquity that this nation is taking. It won’t be through the majority of Parliamentarians that we now have and it won’t be through the majority of Anglican ministers.

  • dannybhoy

    In contending against formalism and external religion, revival meets a
    human need for intimacy.
    The hymn writer William Williams observed: “To
    discover why it goes against the grain of professors to speak well of
    God, it is because their religion is only in their minds, and has never
    yet ascended to their hearts.”

    I love that first line, and it illustrate the reality that God’s gifts of grace and ministry are most appreciated and effective when the Body of Christ reaches a level of genuine intimacy in the holy and purifying presence of the Holy Spirit. I do not believe in hierachies of authority. Rather holy men and women consumed with zeal for God’s glory and passion for souls..

    (Sorry HJ…)

    • Why are you sorry, Danny?

      • dannybhoy

        Because I know how much importance you attach to Church authority and doctrine, and although I understand and respect that I am more comfortable with the idea of new wine, new wineskins.
        The Body of Christ on earth is continually being shaken and tested and pruned by Our Lord.
        Yes there are mistakes made, yes people go off the rails or get obsessed with a particular teaching; but in the end we rejoice in seeing men and women and children coming to salvation and being indwelt by God’s Holy Spirit -Halleluia!
        That they will grow and mature and perhaps move into other churches does not constitute a problem for me, as long as they remain rooted in Christ Jesus.

  • Rasher Bacon

    Your Grace

    This is one of the best posts I’ve read here since your Salvation post on the old site.

    While I agree with Peter Simpson’s comment below on preaching, your post was really encouraging in its clarity about sin – the need for conviction and the real experience of going from Romans 7 into Romans 8 and the relief and joy that results from the recognition of moral realities about myself and Christ.

    I’ve wondered for years why the the work of the Holy Spirit in the world gets disconnected with the clarity Jesus gave us in John 16:8, so reconnections like this stick out.

    And having come, he will bring demonstration to the world, of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

    of sin, because they do not believe on me;

    of righteousness, because I go away to [my] Father, and ye behold me no longer;

    of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

    Those things bring us to the cross – whether we come from left or right or liberal histories. Which is where life really starts, and the burdens of our hearts roll away.

  • Now some regard Happy Jack as dogmatic and pedantic. This is true – guilty as charged. This is a member of Christ’s Body where we come together to sustain one another in our faith and worship and follow Our Lord as we understand Him.

    In terms of evangelising, Jack believes in a gentler approach. The concept of ‘repentance’ in the bible is not about guilt tripping people into “turning from sin” and avoiding righteous damnation etc. As Jack understands the term, it means “to change one’s mind”. To see the world differently. It is about turning to God and to Jesus Christ and, as a result, changing one’s behaviour. The Bible clearly understands human psychology. Acts 26:20 declares, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” The Gospel is Good News.

    The evangelist should preach a positive message and not ram people’s noses in their faults and their failures and go on and on about damnation. All that can come later. It’s just all too negative a approach. And let’s leave in the locker room all the familiar clichés that we trot out and are evident in some of the comments below. We might understand and agree with them but they just leave people out because they do not understand them.

    The other thing to remember is that no one can come to God unless God pulls that person to Himself. We can witness to Jesus every day of our lives – in the way we live and in the way we treat those we meet. However, this change of mind and turning to God is something God gives. It is only possible because of God’s grace. All of salvation is a result of God drawing us, opening our eyes, and changing our hearts. We can be His instruments in the lives of others, but ultimately only if He wills this.

    • Shadrach Fire

      Happy Jack is more and more happy as time goes by. I never would have thought that I would read such glad tidings from the old Avatar. Repentance. A change of mind that results in a change of action. That’s exactly what it is. Other attributes such as contrition etc. may come into play but the turning around and going the other way is the key. Good old Jack I say.

  • This was so encouraging until the penultimate paragraph.
    The Good News must be preached to the poor (Mark 11:6 etc.). Whether this is done by street preaching, tract distribution, Gideon Testaments, Christianity Explored courses or, as the old Salvation Army used to do, by sobering up drunks and then preaching hell-fire to them, it must be done. Read 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
    Or are we ashamed of the Gospel? Or if not ashamed, just a wee bit embarrassed?

    • Did you overlook this, “They might even sense the heart of love which motivates”?

      • John Wesley once preached to a congregation in London (I think) that included many luminaries of the Church of England- Bishops, Deans, Arch-deacons etc. He took for his text, Matt. 23:33. ‘You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?’ His biographer writes that the congregation was furious and ‘gnashed their teeth at him.’
        At the end of the service, a bishop’s wife took Wesley to task; ” Mr. Wesley, how dare you preach like that to us? If you speak of us in that way, what would you say to the fish-porters of Billingsgate?” Wesley replied, “Ah madam, to them I would preach, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.'”
        It is not always necessary to preach hell-fire and damnation, but it is always necessary to preach repentance and Christ crucified. There is certainly a large place for Christian good works, but this cannot be at the expense of the Gospel. Men like Whitefield, William Carey and Charles Spurgeon were deeply involved with charitable work, but never at the expense of preaching the Good News.

        • If you’ve read all that Jack has written on this thread then you’ll see he’s not in disagreement with you. The focus must remain on the meaning and purpose of Christ’s life, His death and His resurrection. What was effective at Pentecost and in the 19th century in bringing the Gospel to men and women however, may not be appropriate in the 21st century..

  • Merchantman

    Thank you Your Grace.

  • William Lewis

    An excellent post Your Grace. Particularly the penultimate paragraph. Sorry Martin.

  • CliveM

    If Christianity does not engage at the coal face, if it doesn’t meet people where they are, it simply ends up speaking to itself. The world won’t be listening. Time and again Christians who have an effective mission, engage with the world in the way outlined in the penultimate paragraph.

    See link for a life that exemplifies this:

    http://www.historymakers.info/inspirational-christians/mary-slessor.html

  • Coniston wrote, “The street preachers of the past would today generate distain and anger in a secular society with no sense of sin. Other, more gradual, methods need to be used”.

    In courteous and friendly response, public proclamation through preaching is a part of the gradual work. A seed is sown, which in some cases may take a long time to germinate, but we must never shun direct declaration of God’s words about the seriousness of sin. The preacher delivers these out of love for his lost neighbour. If someone’s house is on fire, direct speech is the best form of communication.

    Human nature is the same in every generation. Wesley and Whitefield generated great contempt. Wesley was once dragged through the street by his hair. The mob attacked Methodist homes and businesses. The preachers, however, did not conclude that they must try different methods.

    Yes, we must always quietly be doing the good works as opportunity arrives, but there is a great danger of hiding being social activity, because our contemporary society does not get upset at that, whereas most people find preaching offensive.

    Whilst not denying that there is some genuine poverty out there, modern Britain is a highly developed welfare State and the definition of poverty is not easy. Is today’s poverty, for example, comparable to that of the unemployed in the 1930s?

    For the churches to focus on poverty and people’s material needs as an evangelistic strategy, when their primary need is to have removed the corruption of their hearts, is, I suggest, not giving them the best help that we can.

    Furthermore, what about the vast numbers who are working hard and just about managing to get by? They do not come into the poverty category and so cannot be the direct beneficiaries of the Church’s social activity. They need the gospel as well. What about those comfortably off and the affluent. They too have souls and are in desperate need. Public preaching reaches them all.

    We must never take as our starting point in evangelism what the the secular mind will will find acceptable. When 3000 were converted on the Day of Pentecost, it was through open air preaching accompanied by deep conviction of sin – “they were pricked in their hearts’ (Acts 2:37). We can only apply the gentle balm of the gospel, when the terror of God’s law has first humbled the hearers’ hearts.

    Yours in brotherly love, Rev. Peter Simpson.

    • “We can only apply the gentle balm of the gospel, when the terror of God’s law has first humbled the hearers’ hearts.”

      In truth, Jack wasn’t converted to Jesus Christ by terror. He was overcome by an overwhelming sense and understanding of the love of God. It’s all about emphasis and our starting point.

      On Pentecost Peter first proclaimed the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection. Speaking of David he said: “So there is gladness in my heart, and rejoicing on my lips; my body, too, shall rest in confidence that thou wilt not leave my soul in the place of death, or allow thy faithful servant to see corruption.” As Jack reads the Gospel, the crowd’s consciences were stung not by fear and terror of God’s wrath but by the knowledge they had killed an innocent man who had died to send the Holy Spirit to them that they too might inherit the promise made to David. It was a positive message of love.

      Peter called them to “repent” – i.e. to turn their lives around – and see the world differently to the “false-minded generation” amongst whom they lived and be baptised as followers of Christ.

      Where was the “terror” in the hearts of the listeners?

      • Dear Happy Jack. Thank you for your reply. You wrote, “The crowd’s consciences were stung not by fear and terror of God’s wrath but by the knowledge they had killed an innocent man who had died to send the Holy Spirit to them”.

        In courteous response, the knowledge of having killed an innocent man, of being a party to a malicious Satan-inspired murder, is surely one of the most terrifying and conscious-racking human experiences imaginable.

        Peter has bluntly accused the people of having “wicked hands” (Acts 2:23). Through the Spirit’s power they were then “pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37), which refers to their deep conviction of sin. This is why they cried out, “What must we do?”. Peter then tells them to “save themselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40), which implies that their whole society was under judgement and in great danger. We are subsequently told that “fear came upon every soul” (Acts 2:43).

        The joy and peace in believing comes after repentance and faith in the Saviour, but there must first be the law’s work of conviction. This is why Paul calls the law a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ’ (Galatians 3:24).

        Not once in Acts do we find the apostles initiating their evangelism with “God loves you”. Men need to be told why they need a Saviour before they can see the value of having one. We dare not tell unbelievers that they are already the recipients of God’s love, for our Lord said, “He that believeth not is condemned already” (John 3:18).

        Paul states in 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 : “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ … Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men”.

        I pass on these comments in a humble and friendly spirit. Every blessing to you. Rev. Peter Simpson.

        • Thank you for your courteous response Rev. Peter. Jack has read Act 2 and has attempted to understand it from your point of view. Indeed, he can see where you are coming from. This verse struck him in particular: “And then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” The crowd had just been told they were in the Last Days and that Jesus of Nazareth was Christ.

          Nevertheless, Jack still doesn’t believe this is the only model of evangelism. The crowd were Jewish and would have understood the religious references to Joel, what the end times signified, and who God’s Messiah was. People today will not have this Jewish religious insight.

          “We dare not tell unbelievers that they are already the recipients of God’s love …” Jack never suggested this. What he was suggesting is that we remove the undertone of menace based on religious terms people do not comprehend today and explain this passage:

          • Rasher Bacon

            Amen brother! let’s start from there!

            “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, so that whoever believes on him may not perish, but have eternal life

            But don’t interrupt the Christ of God…
            For God has not sent his Son into the world that he may judge the world, but that the world may be saved through him.

            He that believes on him is not judged: but he that believes not has been already judged, because he has not believed on the name of the only-begotten Son of God.

            And this is the judgment, that light is come into the world, and men have loved darkness rather than light; for their works were evil.

            For every one that does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light that his works may not be shown as they are; but he that practises the truth comes to the light, that his works may be manifested that they have been wrought in God.

            That last bit has just a tinge of locker-room, does it not? But there we have it recorded all the same. The whole conversation in context was based on the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness – when the people grumbled against God and were dying in large numbers. Then Jesus goes on to outline the default destination of the human race.

          • It does – but its at the end of a theologically beautiful and profound set of verses. It builds to a crescendo.

            In evangelical terms, it also suggests that if the word of God is preached and men hear,(and we could discuss what this means), then God will move those men, in ways we do not fully comprehend, (again, we could discuss this), to faith in Him. There’s no message of fear in it. Its an invitation to those God knows will respond positively to His grace, with an accompanying warning to those He knows will not. We are judged by our response to this Gospel message of God’s self-sacrificing love.

          • Rasher Bacon

            Bottom line is that you’re right – it is a message of love and outreach coming to people who didn’t deserve it.

            The thing I was originally objecting to below is that the true gospel gets cast as a message of hate and condemnation coming to people who deserve to be in heaven.

          • Jack hopes he was not suggesting this. No one “deserves” to be in Heaven and the life of Jesus is everything but a message of hate and condemnation.

        • Rasher Bacon

          Spot on. Given that dear HJ is such a Petrophile, the study of the Spirit-inspired address at Pentecost seems to jar on his prescriptive one-size-fits-all aversion to being saved in a way he has not approved.

          I had a very similar response lined up this morning, complete with quotes from the Douay Bible, but lost the lot on the approach to Victoria.

          • Lol … serves you right Rasher for having such Petrophobic thoughts about Happy Jack.

  • preacher

    Excellent. “Just get on with it!”.
    Know WHO you believe in as well as what you believe in. Be obedient & Available. Dare much, Love much & expect Blessings & results, They WILL Follow.
    Leave the dead to bury the dead (Matt 8; 22) Follow Him!.

    Totally agree with all you say Peter Simpson.
    Blessings. Preacher.

  • Linus

    Heart? What heart?

    The Church is nothing more than a vehicle for bigots to impose their beliefs on everyone else while they assuage their consciences via good works and empty protestations of love and solidarity.

    The Church has no heart. It’s a cold, calculating machine designed to break anyone who disputes its divine right to tell us all how to live our lives. Fortunately the machine is no longer fit for purpose, as witnessed by the spectacular decline in Church fortunes over the past decades. But still it plows on, grimly determined to bring as much misery into as many lives as possible.

    If you want the Church to show you some heart, be straight and preferably married with children. It will love you then and praise you to the heavens. But if you’re none of these things, expect hatred, condemnation, scorn and pity. That’s the reality of the Church that I see. It’s the ugliest, most evil thing I’ve ever come into contact with. I hope it fades away quickly. The world will be a better place without it.

    • Not a believer then, Linus?

      • sarky

        The thing is Jack, this is how the church is viewed from outside. If you dont understand this, you cant change it.

        • Jack understands this. He has visited ‘Pink News’ and witnessed the poisonous hatred towards the Church there for himself. Most noticeably the Roman Catholic Church.
          How does the Church need to change? Its evangelising methods and hierarchical structures are one thing. So is the protection and safety of vulnerable children and others from those who abuse them. Its doctrines, based on Scripture, tradition and reason, cannot change.

          • Linus

            And I’ve visited the Catholic Herald website and seen the poisonous hatred towards the LGBT community there for myself.

            The key difference is that we’ve never done anything to them to provoke such hate. Maybe it’s starting now as our legal rights are taking precedence over their right to enforce their religious beliefs on everyone around them. But for centuries all we could do was burn at their stakes, languish in their prisons and slowly turn into emotionally dead basket cases on the fringes of their smug and self-satisfied communities.

            But I suppose it’s the newly identified threat that generates the strongest reactions. The vicious poison that flows around websites such as the Catholic Herald, Anglican Mainstream and others of that ilk will only get worse as we get stronger.

          • The Catholic Herald? Hardly hatred on that site, Linus. Not true. Sure, you’ll find Catholic moral teaching that people living in “irregular lifestyles” , who are Catholic, cannot receive Holy Communion unless they make a genuine and firm commitment to change their behaviour. That’s because the Church has always taught that homosexuality is a grave sin that places the person at risk of eternal damnation. If that’s “hatred”, trying to help people who want Christ in their lives avoid Hell, then its a strange notion of hate.
            Yes, the orthodox churches of all denominations will continue to resist the normalisation and acceptance of active homosexuality, for the very same reasons. It offends God and will lead to damnation if not repented. It’s a message of ‘tough love’. Of course, its your choice whether to accept this or reject it.

          • Linus

            Catholic Herald readers remind me of a seven year old child obsessed with Harry Potter crying “expelliarmus!” at anyone who poses a threat, and then throwing a tantrum fueled by anger, fear and a sense of helplessness when it doesn’t work.

            Of course the seven year old child isn’t sophisticated enough to dress his anger, fear and helplessness up as “love”. He can’t pretend that he only wants the best for his adversaries, when really what he wants is to beat them into submission, spit on them and preferably eliminate them altogether. But if he grows up into a Catholic Herald reader, he’ll learn that he can be as vicious as he likes as long as he calls it “love”. Wanting gay people to live miserable lives of enforced celibacy is “love”. Wanting a woman to bear her rapist’s child is “love”. Wanting service providers to be allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or marital status is “love”.

            Well, the rest of the world understands that kind of “love” for what it really is: pure undiluted hatred, contempt and fear. Call it what you will, but you won’t fool anyone. Except maybe yourself, although I doubt it. You know exactly what you feel, even if you try to make yourself feel better about it by calling it something else. That’s what so scary about your kind of Christianity: the sheer dishonesty of it.

      • Linus

        Believing in God is not contingent on believing in the Church.

        You can accept the idea of primum movens without knowing exactly what form it takes and whether it resembles anything like the God promoted by the Church.

        I know nothing about the Prime Mover except that the concept of such a thing seems logically possible. Given the total lack of evidence for a Creator, the probability of his/her/its existence seems quite low, but when you look at the scope of the universe and the tiny piece of it that we’re familiar with, only a fool would say that we know enough to be able to make a definitive judgment on the matter. There may be a God, but if there is, we have no idea what he/she/it is like.

        We know a great deal more about the Church, however. We know that the sum total of evil it has perpetrated over the centuries in its relentless persecution of anybody who falls outside the Christian heterosexual paradigm places it among the most corrupt and immoral institutions the world has ever known. We know that its ongoing attempts to pathologize, marginalize and oppress the LGBT community are integral to its purpose and will only cease with its destruction. And while we don’t know for sure whether that destruction is imminent (although we can always hope), what does seem clear is that that Church cannot survive much longer in its current form.

        As for rediscovering its heart, how can the Church rediscover something it never possessed in the first place?

        • Ah, so your greatest criticism of the Church is its moral teachings – and one in particular. How familiar are you with these?

          Some other quick thoughts. If there is a Creator why would He bother? What reason would He have for creating the material universe and man from nothing? Given He is the First Cause, He would have to be self-sufficient. What other attributes might He have? Second, if He made us for some reason, don’t you suppose He might want to communicate that purpose to us?

          As for the Church and for organised religion, agreed in its human journey it has made many errors. Its human and God, as Jack knows Him, doesn’t remotely control it. He gives man lee-way but ultimately will preserve His Church from destruction. For all its failures, ask yourself if the Christian faith and its Church has brought greater good to the world than the evil it has caused?

          • Linus

            If you’re in possession of some kind of ledger that records every action the Church has ever undertaken and whether it was good or evil, then perhaps you can tell me what its moral bottom line is.

            Not having access to such facts myself, I can only go on what I perceive around me.

            Having personally known several gay men who have committed or attempted suicide in despair over the life sentence of celibacy inflicted on them by a Church that cares nothing about them and their suffering, I can vouch for the evil the Church does on a daily basis. Is this outweighed by a few good works? I don’t think it works that way. One evil deed weighs more heavily on a conscience than any number of good works. You can’t erase the memory of driving someone to kill himself by giving some money to the poor or mopping a fevered brow in a hospital bed.

            And yes, if there is a Creator, why would he bother? Why would he bother worrying about what I do with my body? Why would he bother with me at all? Only a massive narcissism complex could imagine that a God responsible for creating the entire universe would have more than a passing thought to spare for a few chattering apes stuck on a small rock at the edge of an insignificant galaxy. We’re only central to his creation (if his creation it is) in our own minds.

            Nothing about the universe suggests that we’re its ultimate product. Any passing space rock could fall on us and wipe us out completely without making any appreciable difference to the make-up of the cosmos. So why would God bother with us?

            Why indeed?

          • Lot of stuff to work out there, Linus.

            Leave the anger behind and you might just start to get somewhere. After all, followers of the faith God Himself established to reveal answers to those very questions were responsible for murdering Him. Now why would any God permit that?

          • Linus

            I don’t think it’s wise to leave justifiable anger behind. It leads to the kind of mindset that finds excuses for evil and thereby normalizes it.

            The Church nearly drove, and in two cases did drive, people I loved to their deaths. Only a fool wouldn’t be angry about that. You don’t excuse that kind of evil unless you see signs of real repentance, which of course is exactly what the Church is incapable of. It is irredeemably evil in its dedication to the destruction of the LGBT community, whether it be through our deaths or our lifelong enslavement and punishment under its cruel and heartless regime of self-inflicted torture.

            This is the reality of the Christian God for gay people. A reality so untenable that some gay Christians prefer to reimagine him and rewrite Christian scripture in order to make their faith into something they can live with. Considering they’re starting from a purely fictional account, you can argue that any modifications they make are just as valid as the original story. One legend isn’t better than another just because it’s older. The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies were just as enjoyable as the books even though several of the characters were altered, sometimes quite drastically, and new characters who didn’t appear in Tolkien’s mythos were created to make the stories more relevant to modern audiences. So revised Christianity is just as valid as the traditional kind. It’s just that when you consider both to be fiction, neither are valid.

          • These themes are all explored on the thread posted a few days ago: “Steve Chalke, sexuality and the redemption of the Church. Nearly 400 comments so far.

          • steroflex

            It is never difficult to tell the difference between an atheist and a ray of sunshine.

        • DanJ0

          Paragraph 2 is spot on to me.

    • Rasher Bacon

      Linus. Have a look over at http://www.livingout.org Some of those guys are right in the heart of the church, are greatly loved, and have been for years, by die-hard, rat-on-a-meat-van conservative evangelicals. They set up that site because they observed a lot of anguish, confusion and aggression like yours below, and wanted to broaden the minds of those who couldn’t understand their choices.

      • Linus

        I’ve seen the Living Out site. It’s one of the saddest things on the Internet. Grown men making eunuchs out of themselves to appease the arbitrary dictates of their imaginary god. What better demonstration could there be of why religion is such a blight on humankind?

        What’s even sadder is the impression one’s left with that it isn’t even their god that some of the Living Out people are trying to appease, but rather their fellow Christians. Throwing themselves on the pyre of obligatory lifelong celibacy shows the lengths that some are willing to go to in order to “fit in”.

        If the Living Out website is the only tool you have at hand in order to promote enforced and undesired celibacy among the LGBT community, your campaign is going to be a spectacular failure. A motley crew of overweight bespectacled virgins and slightly raddled repentant Mary Magdalens leave a lot to be desired as convincing role models. The subliminal message is “you too can gain 100 pounds and become a dork for the Lord!”

        No thanks!

  • steroflex

    “guilt of humanity,”
    Watch Jeremy Kyle for just one episode please.
    There is no guilt and the participants, including the host, are working to a completely different code to the crumbling group of OAPs who still bother to attend.
    Back to Methodism? Have you not heard? Methodism is dead!

    • It ain’t at Penn Free Methodist Church! -:)

      • Mike Stallard

        I find that very refreshing.

        • Thank you Sir. One thing about those 18th century men is that they were not men-pleasers, but proclaimed the truths Scripture regardless of expected negative reactions.

          • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

            I am not a man-pleaser either…the very idea!

  • len

    What is the body without the spirit ?………dead.
    Only the Holy Spirit can breathe Life into the dead bones of the church .
    Can these bone revive?.

    Only if the church goes back and finds its vision and its proper function.

  • len

    The’ Established Church’ is too closely united with ‘ the world ‘ and we are definitely living in a broken society in a broken world.

    The Church should be offering the solution to the problems of a broken world which is God`s new creation to replace the old.
    The problem is the Church in many cases has compromised and sold out to the old creation.
    The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the ‘good news’ to a dying world and is the only source of hope that we have.