The challenge from within
This month’s comment is adapted from an article by Singapore missionary Mok Chee Cheong, who has been pastoring a Reformed church in London and has recently returned to missionary work in Kenya.
The history of the Christian church in nineteenth-century Britain, with its unflagging missionary endeavour, was a glorious one. But today the UK is beset with political and social woes, declining moral standards and spiritual confusion.
Evangelical Christians often ask themselves: ‘Will the former blessings ever return to Britain – especially days when the Christ of the Bible is proclaimed by most of our churches and believed on as the only Saviour by many of our fellow citizens?’
Britain is still blessed with the freedom to worship God and propagate the gospel, but there is widespread indifference and even hostility to the truth. However, we also face challenges and problems within our Evangelical churches. As we serve the Lord we must not lose sight of these internal challenges.
Some congregations have members and professing Christian adherents who lack consecration and zeal for the Lord (2 Timothy 3:5). This weakens the witness of a church. If the gospel means so little to those within, it won’t mean much to those outside.
Some Evangelical church leaders have become so intoxicated with church growth that they have stopped thinking biblically. They fall in with anything and everything that can be labelled ‘contemporary’, giving little serious thought to where it is all leading.
Although, thank God, there are still many faithful and spiritual Christians in evangelical congregations, there are not a few baptised church members with little idea, it seems, of what saving grace is all about.
They may have been born into Christian families; they may embrace Christian moral values; they may come regularly to the worship services and take the Lord’s Supper; but their daily conduct provides little evidence of a real personal knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Some of these are ‘intellectual Christians’, who know their Bible intellectually and can engage in theological discussion yet have no experiential knowledge of Christ. They do not grasp, in experiential terms, the centrality of Christ to salvation; the importance to the gospel of justification by faith alone; and the indispensability of regeneration to genuine church growth.
Where there is this spiritual decadence, pastors and preachers carry a great responsibility to preach sound doctrine without fear or favour (2 Timothy 4:1-5). What is needed, above all else, is the clarion call of the gospel of Christ. God is still alive; he still saves sinners; and Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the living and the dead.
Contrary to received wisdom, we do not need programmes that centre on the glory and ingenuity of man in building up the church. Our urgent need is to preach and teach ‘all the counsel of God’ (Acts 20:27) – calling sinners persuasively to repent and put their faith in Christ.
Some of our conservative, reformed churches are fast losing people – especially the young – to worldliness, to a social gospel and to ‘easy-believism’. Pastors, church leaders and Christian parents must help direct such vulnerable people into ‘the old paths’ of the gospel. Here alone they will find ‘rest for their souls’ (Jeremiah 6:16).
Perhaps the Lord will visit this nation again with his ‘quickening Spirit’ (1 Corinthians 15:45)? Yet even if he doesn’t do so in our generation, we must not forget that the Lord still has in Europe and the UK those ‘who have not bowed the knee to Baal’ (1 Kings 19:18).
We must tenderly nurture this remnant – the ‘household of faith’ (Galatians 6:10) – in the love and fear of the Lord.