Which is the tail and which is the dog? Since when did the tail wag the dog!?
The Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem has just taken place. GAFCON has brought together 1,200 delegates from 29 countries, from all continents. They represent many millions of Anglican Christians.
It is not for me to get involved in the troubles of the Anglican Communion but I see in this division something of the story of the church in the West. The alternative synod, Jerusalem represents that vast part of the church in those nations where the church is experiencing the most growth. While in the west a small minority has bravely (though wrongly in my opinion) attempted to turn the ship of the historical and revealed faith into something novel and new. See BBC article on Conservative v Liberal.
Being in the minority globally, it is not even the democratisation of the faith they are attempting – and that would be bad enough, it is the aberration masquerading as the authentic, the minority acting as though it were the majority.
Yes but the story of the church in the west is still one of decline. Despite times of renewal, and the denominations and strands that have experienced growth in recent decades, such as my own, Elim Pentecostal, the majority in our society remains lost to the true gospel. The Church of England continues to lose more than it gains and the Methodist quietly close down church buildings regularly.
Many see the decline in the West and call out to God for “revival”, whatever the various interpretations of what that may mean. I call out to God too, and will continue to do so until I hear His command to cease. Each Wednesday morning I meet with other church leaders in York, and have done so now for nine years, where we pray to God for more. Yet even as I do so I know that the decline in the West may be the will of God. Yes, really!
I know some of my colleagues may be horrified by this suggestion, but I do have to ask myself how much death of the church is judgment upon the church in the West over, among other things, its failure to hold out the true gospel to the lost instead of playing at church, its selfism, love of consumerism and chasing after events of intimacy.
I ask the question, but I do not have the answer. I do believe I know what my response should be though. I and all believers in the west must pray for revival, the sort of national return to God seen in some of the cycles of decline and restoration in the books of the Bible – Kings and Chronicles. And I and all believers must work for it too.
In the church I serve in York we are seeing growth and enjoying the baptisms of new believers. Having become an international congregation in recent years we are enjoying the exciting phenomenon of seeing people from other nations meeting with Jesus while they are among us and getting the lives turned the right way up. I wonder though, how many will return to their own countries and make a difference and how many will add to the rescue work of the church in the west. We need them here!
I ask the questions but I do not have the answers. But I know someone who does and I trust Him.