Last weeks Ten ‘Prophecies’ for Society/Culture in 2017 have already had a partial fulfilment. Israel, Trump and the SNP ruling out a second Indy Ref in 2017. But how will the Church of Jesus Christ fare in this coming year? Only the Lord knows. However I like to think ahead and watch trends. So here goes
1) The C of S and C of E in the UK will continue to decline – and evangelicals within them will continue to find it difficult to accept what is going on. Likewise for the mainstream Protestant denominations in the US. As they fall apart the number of new denominations and churches will continue to increase but whether they will make up for the decline is doubtful. The Scottish Church census will be out in the first part of the year and I have no doubt that the figures will be bad.
One of the reasons why is because of the turning away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ which has taken place in so many churches. It’s not often that the extent of apostasy in the church surprises me – I thought I had seen it all. But this week I came across this:
The fact that an Anglican cathedral in Glasgow has a recitation of the Qu’ran is astonishing enough in itself, but what is even more astounding is that the passage recited specifically states that Jesus is not the Son of God. The cathedral removed the link from their website but if you click the link about you can get it.
2) Post-modern evangelicals will continue to undermine the church and the gospel. Their undermining of Scripture and caving into the culture, especially on the re-making of humanity will continue. When someone says ‘God did not say’ it is at least clear and direct. What the post-modern evangelicals do is much more subtle….they ask ‘did God really say?’. They make open questions of issues which Scripture clearly speaks about, because they want to keep on board the hard-working evangelicals who are the life blood of any church, but they also want to have a foot in the progressive camp and so they play the ‘humble, inquiring’ card, when in reality they are undermining. I have seen this is in so many ways. I know of evangelical churches who have already caved into the culture and others who just keep quiet and declare ‘we don’t have a stated policy’. Such faint hearted compromise will blight and undermine the church.
3) An American charismatic church will become the next big thing/renewal/programme. The ‘globalisation’ and ‘McDonaldisation’ of the church, combined with the internet, poor theology, poor ecclesiology and the desperation to get some kind of quick fix make us very susceptible to the latest fad. Will we never learn?
4) Creflo Dollar won’t return to Scotland. His visit here last year was a failure. We may be a small country with a small percentage of Christians but I was glad that we did not give in to his showmanship. Why Creflo Dollar is not Welcome in Scotland Creflo Dollar and Scotland – The Reaction Creflo Dollar and the Corporate Charismatics
5) There will be greater unity amongst bible believing Christians. Yes, there will still be the personality clashes, the sinful empire building, the infighting and rivalry, but because of the needs of the hour, love for the Lord, faith in his Word and a genuine desire to reach our society, there will be greater unity. There has to be greater unity. He must increase, we must decrease.
6) The number of Christians being salt and light in the public square will increase. Christians have a strong motivation to be involved in the public square – not as those who want political power because we know that the Gospel does not advance with political power – but rather as those who obey the Lord’s injunction to be salt and light. I know of more Christians involved in politics, media, education and healthcare, than I have ever done before. Much of the work and witness is done under the radar but it is being done. The Church must encourage its people to continue and not give up. Humble service should be our aim.
7) The Church will commemorate the Reformation. It’s the 500th anniversary of the date commonly marked as the beginning of the Reformation. Some will regard it as a mistake which needs to be corrected. Others will see it as no longer necessary. But I hope that Reformation theology and practice will be rediscovered by the Church. I don’t doubt the Christianity of many of my Catholic brothers and sisters, and I stand with them on many issues, not least social ones, but I am not prepared to give up on sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratis , solus Christus, soli Deo gloria (Scripture alone, Faith alone, Grace alone, Christ alone, to the glory of God alone). Lets make sure that the Reformation remembrance is a party as we recover and rejoice in a renewed church, rather than a memorial service as we lament what has gone.
8) The Evangelical Church in the US will continue to be split over Donald Trump – The term evangelical in the US is very broad…but still covers a substantial percentage of the population and is of great importance to the rest of the global church. But as this post from Michael Horton in the Washington Post indicates, there is an enormous danger in evangelicals allying themselves with any political party or any one individual. Our hope is in Christ, not in Trump or anyone else.
The Church in the US needs to recover its theology, not seek political power. When you realise that books like Jesus Calling, the Shack, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer and adult colouring books were amongst the bestselling ‘Christian’ books in the US in 2016, you realise the trouble we are in. Bestselling Christian Books in the US
9) The Church will reach out amongst the poor. It seems to me that it is often the case that the richer and more middle class the church, the more they talk about helping the poor. However the real need is not the kind of patronising charity that this often precedes, but rather the planting of real gospel churches amongst the poor..because the Gospel frees, empowers and does not patronise. That is why the work of Twenty Schemes is so vital. My own convictions on this have grown stronger over the past few months and I am delighted that St Peters will be starting a new church plant in the Charleston housing estate in Dundee.
10) Africa and Asia will be seen more and more as the key areas of evangelicalism in the world. Sometimes we still think that Europe and the US are the centres of the church. My own view is that unless there is a real renewal and revival of the church in the West, the 21st Century will be the century of the Asian and African churches. I am so encouraged by my Asian and African brothers and sisters and very much look forward to working with and learning more from them. I hope that they will learn from our mistakes and not make the same ones.
Our God is a God of surprises….may we see his surprising grace at work in our midst. May his kingdom come….
Thanks for this comment from Church Growth Modelling