Monday, 29 December 2014

The Church in the West

Since World War II the voice of prophecy moved away from the church to the theatre. Today it is so often in the theatre that the big canvas themes are being taken up - life and death, the search for a meaning to life, even determinism (think of the musical, Blood Brothers ).

And what has the church been doing, all this time? If it hasn't capitulated to the level of endless cycles of inward-looking 'eucharists' with five-minute homilies, we can find it - at the other extreme - trying to ape the entertainment industry, when Christian communication deteriorates into a great laugh session. Both extremes, equally, exhibit a loss of confidence in the Scriptures and in Bible teaching . Thus, right across the West, it is the entertainment industry that has taken on the role vacated by the church, while the church (certainly among some of us evangelicals) is moving heaven and earth to entertain! The two roles have become reversed.

When prayer and the Bible are neglected, the power goes out of church life. We can still do something to keep the show going of course.. for a while. We can keep the liturgy going, or tell funny stories from the pulpit; we can put on mime, dance, drama, terrific rock bands - and interviews with personalities. Some advertise services of miracles. But as strategies , these amount to short-term approaches that can only have one end.

Prayer and the Bible - how dull! But of course we must differ. In UK churches where meetings for prayer and serious engagement with the Bible are at the centre of the agenda, there has been a 68% increase in membership in recent years. Where the Scriptures are consistently taught (and the actual pages of the Bible are opened within the congregation), growth takes place! Despite the cynics (who will never acknowledge these facts), here - in these two areas - is the supremely powerful God-given two-way communication between heaven and earth.

Ever since the tide of German modernist theology began to invade the West those many decades ago, confidence in the Scriptures has been eroded, and we are seeing the results of that with a vengeance. It is encouraging that some churches are addressing this issue.