Last night I had a discussion/question time with a lovely group of ‘more mature’ people, mostly from a C of S background. They were a fascinating group of people with lots of questions, thoughts, doubts and fears. It was just a real joy to be able to share with them on the Old Testament, Jesus, etc. We had a great evening as we opened the Scriptures. It was stimulating, provocative, inspiring and heart warming.
But the frustrating thing for me was that all of them had been brought up in the church, were regular churchgoers and yet most seem to have never heard the most basic apologetics and bible questions. Of course I don’t blame them. I blame the shepherds who are not feeding the sheep.
It is little wonder that the church in Scotland is in such a mess if the ministers and preachers are not feeding people the milk and the meat of the Word of God. When the people are fed inane sentimental pietistic drivel it should be no surprise that at the first blast of sceptical cynicism, militant secularism or well meaning liberalism, their faith falls apart!
There is a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord in Scotland today….and I fear that it is largely the church that is responsible for this – whether it is the liberals who take away from the Word, or the legalists who add to it, or indeed the ‘nice’ but spineless evangelicals who don’t think their people can take the pure teaching of the Word of God, and so water it down with their own ‘churchy’ pietism, whilst they sit and wait for the coming renewal/revival/reformation. It seems to me that that they are happy to read, hear and talk about God working in other countries and other centuries, but they don’t really expect God to work here – through His Word. Sorry for the rant but when you see how the poor starving sheep lap up the Word, you cannot help but be infuriated at those shepherds who refuse to give it to them!
McCheyne felt the same way 160 years ago – ““It is confessed that many of our ministers to not preach the gospel – alas! Because they know it not. Yet they have complete control over their pulpits, and may never suffer the truth to be heard there during their whole incumbency. And yet our church consigns these parishes to their tender mercies for perhaps fifty years, without a sigh! Should not certain men be ordained as evangelists, with full power to preach in every pulpit of their district – faithful, judicious, lively preachers, who may go from parish to parish, and thus carry life into many a dead corner?”.
I also heard this week of an ‘evangelical’ Church of Scotland where apparently my name is mud because of my debate with Scott McKenna Apparently ‘good Christian people’ were upset because they thought it was an attack upon the Church of Scotland. No – it was defence of the traditional doctrine of the C of S and an attack upon the poison of theological liberalism which leads to the destruction of the Church. What stuns me is that people seem more upset about this heresy at the heart of the Kirk being exposed, than they are about the heresy itself! Again I don’t really blame the people – its the ministers (even or sometimes especially evangelicals) who seem far more concerned about the denomination and their position within it, than they are about what the sheep are being fed.
The Lord has something to say about this – and it makes me, as a preacher of the Word of God, tremble. We have a solemn (and joyful) responsibility to proclaim the Lords Word, to apply its teachings in the context of a culture which is largely hostile, and to do so in the power of the Holy Spirit. We need to be preaching Gods Word, living it out and giving our people basic apologetics which helps them deal with the constant drip drip drip of our unbelieving culture. How many of us have really given up all hope of seeing that culture renewed? How many of us are just in survival mode, seeking to maintain our own sanity, jobs and institutions? How many of us teach, live and proclaim what we profess to believe? Where is our confidence in the Word of God? Those of us who are shepherds need to take seriously the Word of the Lord to Ezekiel.
The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. 6 My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no-one searched or looked for them.
7 “ ‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 8 As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, 9 therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: 10 This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
11 “ ‘For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. 12 As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. 13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. 14 I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down, declares the Sovereign LORD. 16 I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
The Holy Bible: New International Version—Anglicised. (1984).