Because I missed these last Sunday here are the sermons from a couple of Sundays ago.. Sinclair did a fascinating sermon on a week in the life of Jesus (the first of his ministry) In the evening I preached a communion sermon on the first part of Psalm 78. This is a quote from Augustine I used: For those who sought God for the sake … Continue reading A Week in the Life of Jesus – and Remember Communion – Two sermons from St Peters
(the whole service is now on Youtube – VIDEO – Gordon Wilson’s Memorial Service) Yesterday was quite an extraordinary day for me and I think others….in so many ways. It’s not every day you get to preach the gospel in front of the First Minister, the former First Minister and the government ministers responsible for Health and Education! Of course that was not what … Continue reading The Memorial Service of Gordon Wilson – A Witness to Different Truths
One of the key things for any growing church is that the Lord raises up new preachers/pastors of the Word. It takes more years to train a preacher/pastor than it does a doctor so its good to start them young. We are very thankful that the Lord seems to be raising up many young men in the Free Church to take on the mantle in … Continue reading Forgiveness, the Witness and Psalm 51 – Preaching and Praise from St Peters -Craig Anderson and Sinclair Ferguson
Imagine that God had given us a hymn book? – one with his words. One that revealed his character. One that expresses our emotions and hearts in words that the Holy Spirit inspires. One that speaks of and to Christ. One that is traditional, modern, post-modern and contemporary. One that is praise, lament, confession, rejoicing, individual and collective. The hymn book that Jesus used. What … Continue reading The Prayer of the Weak and the Joy of Singing Psalms
“For too long the western church has occupied a throne and has abandoned the cross. The church has reigned as king instead of bowing as a servant.”
John Caldwell’s statement is not new. In fact there is very little in this wee book that is new. You can find more detailed analysis of current cultural trends, contemporary church issues, historical developments and in-depth theology elsewhere. What you will not find, and what is new, is that all these things are brought together in this one book in a manner which addresses the needs of the churches today and which is accessible to the vast majority of people.
John’s basic thesis is one that I would totally agree with. One of the reasons that we set up Solas Centre for Public Christianity was precisely because we identified the same trends that John notices. With his social and varied ecclesiastical background he is well able to comment from both an insiders and outsiders perspective, on the confused state of the Church of Jesus Christ in the United Kingdom today.
Confused is perhaps the best word to describe what is going on. There is a great deal of confusion in the general society about God, the Bible, humanity, morality and ethics. It seems as though the foundations have been destroyed and people wonder what can they do? What is even more disturbing is that the church seems to reflect the trends within the culture and therefore ends up being even more confused. Perhaps we really are at a stage where God is judging the nation and letting us go our own way? We have become the blind leading the blind.
A View From the Battlefield
None of this is new. God’s church has often existed within confused and apparently declining situations. But God in his mercy does not leave us alone, which would indeed be the ultimate judgement. He sends his word, and he sends those who proclaim his word. John Caldwell is such a person. His analysis in this book of the contemporary church scene in the United Kingdom (and therefore applicable in the wider Western world) is insightful, depressing, and yet somehow stimulating and encouraging. This is not an academic thesis looking at the sociological aspects of religion from the safe vantage point of an armchair in an ivory tower. Nor is it the story of one particular work of God in a particular location at a particular time. This is a view from the battlefield, which takes a broad sweep over the whole contemporary situation.
The branding of the church is neither radical nor biblical.
What is especially helpful about this small book is that it takes a number of disciplines and applies them in a practical way to the current church situation. John notes that in reaction to a sinful, competitive denominationalism, evangelical Christians seem to have thrown out the baby with the bathwater. We have exchanged one mess for another. Reflecting the culture more than Scriptures, we have ended up with a sinful competitive networking based on dominant personalities and advertising branding. The branding of the church is neither radical nor biblical.
Of course there are those of us who are long enough in the tooth to find ourselves cringing whenever we hear the word radical. Every new program, every new work of God is deemed to be ‘radical’. I find myself yawning and switching off when I am told to read, watch or support the latest radical initiative from the latest in-vogue Christian organisation. If you have to say you are ‘edgy’ you are not! What I love about John’s book is that it is radical, precisely because it does not seek to provide us with something new. It points us instead to Scripture, the basics of the Christian faith and the lessons we can learn from our own history.
What is more radical than the cross? And yet how many contemporary evangelicals either do not understand or water down or even deny the atonement? And it’s not just the foundational issues of the cross, the person and work of Christ, or the inspiration and sufficiency of the Scriptures, which are under attack. It is also how we apply them, and how the church lives out the doctrines of the Scriptures in the contemporary world whose world view is so antithetical to them.
The Community of the Church
Whilst there are Christians who will argue that what we need to focus on is evangelism, others who argue that mercy ministry is the way ahead, and still others who want to emphasise prayer, Bible teaching and personal devotion; far too often the church in its various manifestations is either forgotten, sidelined or dismissed. John’s ‘radical’ notion is that all of these things matter and that all of them come together in the church’. In order to communicate the gospel we need therefore to work out, not only what the gospel is, but also how we live it out in the community of the church.
As you read this book there are things that you will say Amen to! There are other things that you will question or disagree with, and gaps that you will want to fill in. But one thing is absolutely sure – every single chapter of this book deals with issues which are vital to the well-being and health of the whole church in today’s society. It will benefit you enormously to prayerfully read through and think about these issues.
Just as ‘radical’ is an overused and often cringeworthy word, so ‘conversation’ often shares the same fate. But in this instance the word conversation is very appropriate. My hope and prayer is that this book will stimulate many conversations which cause us to turn to the Lord, the head of the church, and ask him what he wants. May it be that we will be encouraged to be faithful to his word, to be salt and light in a society which rejects that word, and to once again see the renewal, revival and re-formation of the church in our societies.
Christ is on the throne. We are not. We do not tell him what he should be doing with his church. We just simply say ‘speak Lord for your servants are listening’. And then pray that he would give us strength and grace to be doers as well as hearers of the word.
Continue reading “The Radical Church – Foreword and Review”
This is an adapted and expanded series based on my talk at the Solas Conference Edinburgh – 29th October 2016. It is a subject of massive importance for the Church and society. I have split my paper up into several sections and will be putting one out every Monday. Part One – Two Big Pictures As we talk about this subject we … Continue reading Re-imaging Humanity – Sex, Sexuality, Gender and the Inhumanity of 21st Century Humanism – Part 1
This was published on the Christian Today website – click Here for the original. North Carolina’s “bathroom law” positioned the state at the centre of a debate over equality, privacy and religious freedom. What are the primary virtues of our culture? Diversity, inclusivity, equality and tolerance. That’s what progressive society is all about. But is it? It is a demonstrable fact of modern life that in … Continue reading The Tolerant Church – Christian Today Revelation Series – 5
This article appears in the June edition of Premier Magazine The Equality of Death? Last month I buried a woman. I had only met her two hours before she died. She was 92 years old and passed away quietly in her care home. I took the funeral at the local crematorium, which was attended by a few relatives, friends and some staff from … Continue reading The Equality of Death – Article for Premier Christian Magazine
Why I Believe in the Gospel of Prosperity “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 2). We all want to enjoy good health and we all want to prosper, so what is wrong with the prosperity gospel? Surely the good news of Jesus Christ, … Continue reading Why I believe in the Gospel of Prosperity
Encouragement Sunday should have been a really encouraging day – and indeed it was. Entering St Peters in the morning I was greeted by a young lady who had become a Christian after the previous Sunday services. There is almost no joy like that. We also received news of a new baby in the congregation, born healthy as the first child of a lovely young … Continue reading The Hatred of Love and the Love that Persists