May 2, 2015

The Big Story - Part 11


Big Story - Act 5 Scene 3:

The Church Today

with Roger Kirby

Yes, I know! The church today is not really part of the Biblical story in any direct way, but there is another chapter to come on the Church at the End of the Ages and it would leave rather a long gap to say nothing about the in-between times. All of church history could be here but that would be far too much so I will only say anything about one previous event: the Age of Reason, the Enlightenment, of some 300 years ago that has affected so much of our present Western culture. More of that later.

We live in an amazing and very exciting period of church history. There are more Christians of every sort alive today than ever before; in fact, more alive now than all that have ever lived and died; one third of all the people on the earth. This is mainly because of the recent huge growth of the church in Africa, South America and, to a lesser but increasing extent, in Asia. At the same time the old core areas of the Faith in Europe and North America have declined somewhat, so the centre of gravity of the World-Wide Church has moved south and east. At last the glorious vision of Isaiah 43: 6, 7 “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up! ’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back. ’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth — everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” is being fulfilled as the followers of Jesus now make “disciples of all nations”.

One other remarkable factor is worthy of note. For the first time since the days of the Roman Empire there is one language understood through nearly all the known world. Then it was Greek; now it is English. It is not the language spoken by the most people as their mother tongue but, thanks to the Internet, it is the most widely understood language. And hey! – you guys and girls out there and listening to this are at the very forefront of this great development. Congratulations!

Of course, being a partly human institution not everything in the World is perfect. Obviously, resurgent, militant Islam is a concern. How is an essentially peaceful faith (in spite of some bad mistakes such as the Crusades) to react to an aggressively warlike one? That dilemma has never been satisfactorily resolved in these nearly 2000 years of the church.

How deep in spirituality and knowledge are all those billions of Christians? In one country I was in I was reliably told that there were so called ‘Christian villages’ where not one single person in the village knew who Jesus was! Where were all the people from the better developed Christian world who should have been out there teaching them?

Then there are all the deep problems in Europe and North America that stem from the Enlightenment. 300 years ago in Europe, men, fed up with the interminable religious wars of the previous century, turned to human reason as the best judge of what is right or wrong. From that move has come the modern Western idea that each person is autonomous, that is - able to make up his or her own mind about how to live, whether to believe or not, and what to believe. The result has been apathy to faith in Europe and consumer oriented churches in North America. Both have led to a sad decline in true faith and personal commitment.

So what?

That is a hard question to answer when these words may be read or heard in so many different places by people in so many different cultures and circumstances. Let me repeat what I said before to try and hammer it home (!): we, Dave Roberts and all his band of helpers, are trying to use the new opportunities that world wide interconnections and the use of the English language open up so effectively in the service of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Make sure this is made as effective as possible. Tell other people how to connect to Dave’s sites. Share what we say and write with other people. Translate as much of it as you can into your local language, if that is not English, and then spread it as wide as possible. By all means and in every possible way join in this great enterprise of the World-Wide Church and our little corner of it. May the Lord bless you as you do so.

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