The world has changed a lot in 20 years. No. It has changed a lot in five years. Courtesy of ‘the father of lies’, it will keep on changing too.
Social media will continue to be a big part of this. And besure that the law in the UK that brought ‘gay marriage’ on to our statute books has changed everything. Young people who have their hearts set on serving the Lord are bearing the brunt of it.
In our schools, there is some pretty straightforward math being done in what used to be the Religious Education lesson, now prosaically named PRS (Philosophical and Religious Studies). It is also being done in the locker room and over lunch. It is this: Evangelical Christianity equals Westboro Baptist Church!
Footage of ‘Christians’ holding placards at the funerals of ‘gay people’, informing mourners that ‘God hates faggots’, stand as short-hand for the kinds of people we are seen to be, dear gentle reader.
Lots of the teenagers have the images of these funerals on their I-phones. Another video that has gone viral is Take me to church, where a homosexual man is set upon by some thugs and killed. The gang represent the church.
Not surprisingly, young people bristle with indignation. Some teenage girls rant in website chatrooms about this and hold the view that many male heterosexuals are predators and rapists. For them, the only safe male friendship is with someone gay. That is just a small bite-sized slice of Britain 2015.
I fear that, in the face of this, many of us are wilting. Or perhaps rushing to appear cool to the teenagers round them. Cool music, cool clothes, cool talk! Some in our circles, incredibly, even try using bad language.
Shall we follow the herd? Come out in support of ‘gay marriage’? After all, that is where some from within the evangelical stable have finished up. Not for us though, brethren. Have courage! The old paths will not fail us. God is with his people and Christ is on the throne.
We are a small church. I expect many of you are in small churches too. What is more some of us are getting no younger. An atmosphere of resigned defeat can hang in the air. A settled state of depression can become the accepted norm; just going through the motions, as the enterprise moves on to its own funeral.
Please, no! We are part of something far too wonderful, to surrender the ground with barely a whimper.
Paul’s ministry in Corinth was nothing if not controversial among the Jews. The Lord spoke to him at night in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, but speak and do not keep silent; for I am with you and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city’ (Acts 18:9-10).
The Lord may still have many people in our cities and districts. Gallio, the proconsul, tacitly found in Paul’s favour when the incensed Jews sought to have Paul outlawed.
Gallio would have none of it, ‘but drove them from the judgment seat’ (Acts 18:16). There might be many more Gallios out there who might not share our Christian faith, but who know foul play when they see it and will be prepared to send those who cause the church mischief packing. What a stimulus to prayer ‘for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence’ (1 Timothy 2:2)!
The young people who contribute to our ‘Youth Feature’ are still there to represent the Lord’s cause among other young people. The December ET with its testimonies prove that some ‘out there’ do listen to our witness.
It is true that we may have to accommodate ourselves some more to the harsher spiritual climate in the West. It is also needs little imagination to see that things may get a lot worse. But we should not subside into a depressed heap with a mournful sigh.
I do not like to think that I changed theological direction, parted company with some good friends and got ‘blackballed’ by others in vain. Let us be a fighting unit and not merely a convocation of academics, centred on good books and good sermons!
Remember, there are letters we can write, interventions we can make, comments we can make, prayers we can address to God. Assure people, ‘We are not Westborough Baptist Church’. It may even give us an opening to tell them the truth about God’s law, however unpalatable it may be to them.
The stray copy of Evangelical Times that reached me in the Charismatic ‘wilderness’, over 20 years ago, spoke to me of an illustrious past I needed to pay attention to. Let us still pay attention to it and not lose hope.
The author is pastor of Crich Baptist Church, Derbyshire