In recent days, some self-reflection, and cultural reflection has caused me an increased awareness that the church in Scotland is in danger of sleep-walking towards its own destruction. The following thoughts are a quick overview of some of the issues that are crucial for us as Christians today. I don’t exclude myself from these areas either, these areas, I think, affect all of us. We all need personal revival.
- There is a lack of prophetic voice
We are living in the midst of one of the greatest cultural shifts in history. Christianity has shaped our nation for approximately 1600 years. That’s a long time. In place of Christianity we are now increasingly defined by secular-humanism. This has become the state religion de facto – despite claims to the contrary. The increasing dominance of secular humanism is a major issue for the church because secularism seeks to redefine all competing worldviews in order to make them fit harmoniously into the order of the day. Secularism may not ban Islam, but it wants a secularised Islam. It may not ban Christianity, but it demands a secularised Christianity – a neutered Christianity. A Christianity that embraces the humanistic narrative. Consequently, secularism shuts down the prophetic voice of the church.
My question is this, where are Scotland’s prophets? Where is the prophetic word to our churches, our communities and our nation? Why are so many of Scotland’s Christian leaders more concerned with being seen to be ‘the voice of reason’ rather than the prophet of God? Why has societal approval become more important than Heaven’s approval?
- Fragmentation to the point of destruction
Scottish folk are clannish by nature. It seems to be part of our DNA. Put a Scotsman in a room by himself for any length of time, and it won’t be long before he falls out with himself. Clannish and divisiveness is, generally speaking, characteristic of Scottish communities. You see it in the business world, you see it in the voluntary sector, you see it in sports, and you see it in the church.
This much is clear, the current isolationist approach of the various small networks, denominations and independent churches in Scotland is a cause for grief and repentance, and is an indication that we will never be able to respond collectively to the current cultural crisis. Focusing on our local mission, whilst ignoring the national context is the equivalent of doing gardening whilst your house is on fire.
It’s also clear that broad ecumenicalism is not the answer either, broad ecumenicalism is largely useless. One ecumenical group recently expressed its frustration because there seemed to be a lack of identity, vision and purpose for the group. The relevance of the group is now in question. Of course it is. As soon as you make the basis of your unity, the breadth of every self-confessedly ‘Christian’ group you are guaranteed to have an identity crisis. Unity flows from the Triune God revealed in his Word. Unity can only flow from the gospel of Christ.
Contemporary evangelicals are rushing about building their brand. They are pursuing the next album, the next gig, the next celebrity pastor, “Look world!” they shout, “come and see how exciting church can be – we are cutting edge!” Yet what do they have to say? What is their message to the world? Nothing. Simply repackaged humanism. Some verbal drivel about human potential and personal transformation. Further, how can this method of ministry help facilitate national unity? It can’t. It’s too competitive. Despite claims to be committed to the universal body of Christ, the model of church forces them to be competitors in the market, not partners in the Kingdom of God.
Is it too much for us as the people of God, in Scotland, to unite in the gospel? Is it impossible for secondary styles, approaches, doctrines, to be put aside in order to work together on the basis of the essential evangelical doctrines of the faith? Can we no longer reform and unite ourselves in the doctrines of scripture, God, the atonement, and salvation?
- There is no burden for the lost
Talk about evangelism to a group of evangelicals and you will quickly discover how much of a mess we are in. All of a sudden questions about inappropriateness, cultural sensitivity, selective use of biblical content and the old ‘preach the gospel always, use words if necessary’ rhetoric are the dominant themes. What does this tell us? We are more concerned with ourselves, and our reputations, and people’s feelings than we are about people’s eternal destinies. This is proof that secular humanism has already defined our thinking and our worldview. Until we deal with this, we will never reach the lost.
Where are the tears for the lost? Where is the grieving over sin – even our own sin. Where is the fear of the Lord? Where is the calling upon God for heart purity? Where is the crying out for ‘power from on high?’ Where is the confidence that the gospel is the power of God for salvation?
May the Lord draw us deeper into his word, fill us with his Spirit, and lead us into his purposes, for his sake.
4 Restore us again, God our Saviour, and put away your displeasure towards us. 5 Will you be angry with us for ever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? 6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation.