Some Thoughts on the World Reformed Scene
Some Thoughts on the World Reformed Scene
The “Reformed” churches abroad are in a very similar condition as those of their counterparts in the UK.
While churches and denominations, in general, are not expanding or developing, Christianity itself is alive and well. There are more and more congregations consisting of only a dozen or so members. This is particularly so the further one goes into reformed fellowships. Not only are congregations very small, but there seems to be little concern about the smallness of their numbers.
Sadly, the “Great Commission” is not seen as a priority among many reformed people, and it appears that they have been distracted away from this greatest of all tasks by lesser concerns. It seems the church has concentrated on “defending” the faith instead of “advancing” the faith.
Two issues which seem to be occupying the minds of the reformed churches abroad are firstly, paedo-communion (children receiving the Lord's Supper) and secondly, Christian or Home-Schooling.
With regard to paedocommunion, the argument is used that if the Lord's Supper is the New Testament corollary of the Passover, and as children partook of the Passover, why should covenant children not partake of the Lord's Supper? Two short answers may be given.
First, it is by no means clear that children did partake of the Passover, and secondly, the New Testament makes it clear that the preparation necessary before partaking of the Supper requires that a person “examine” themselves – something beyond the ability of young children.
The second issue of Christian or Home-Schooling is not so easily answered. Throughout the Western world today, humanistic thought and anti-Christian propaganda dominates the State School curriculum. At the moment, especially in the Highlands and Islands where most of our congregations are, there is not the same onslaught of humanist pressure.
However, the situation is rapidly changing and we could well face the same dilemma as our colleagues abroad, and Christians in the Highlands of Scotland will need to be prepared to face the challenges if they are to be faithful to their baptismal vows and truly care for the spiritual welfare of their children.
Despite all this, however, souls are being wonderfully saved in many different countries and one article I read in a secular national magazine amazingly predicted a world-wide “revival” in conservative Christianity and was appealing to authorities to prepare for it!
Disillusionment with the postmodern mind-set of the West is backfiring on its proponents and its rejection is sending many to look for meaning and hope in life. While the church is not attracting such enquirers, many are examining Christian history and principles in a new light.
The question arises: “Can there be a true resurgence in Christianity without a corresponding increase in the Church?” The answer must surely be: “Only temporarily.” Christ has said that He would: “Build His Church – and the gates of Hell would not prevail against it.” If Christ has sovereignly chosen to use His church as the organ in the development of His Kingdom, then that should be the greatest news the church has ever heard.
The following five principles are simply thoughts which grew in my mind having discussed the condition of the “Reformed” church worldwide with Dr Andrew Young, the director of Grace Theological College in Auckland, New Zealand.
Five Principles the Reformed Church Needs to Remember⤒🔗
If the reformed church is to impact the contemporary world it desperately needs to note five things.
1. It is simply not enough to be faithful to the truth←↰⤒🔗
Although faithfulness to the truth is essential for the church, it is not enough to fulfil all the church’s obligations.
Many preachers can testify that they have preached the Word faithfully for decades, and have to complain there has been very little evident fruit. In fact there has been a huge drop in the numbers of people hearing the message. In many congregations the gospel is preached over and over again to those who have heard it a thousand times, while thousands in the surrounding houses have never heard it once! Faithfulness to the truth is essential but faithfulness to the Great Commission by reaching the unsaved is also essential.
2. More than Church Services are required←↰⤒🔗
The Lord Jesus Christ “went about doing good.” He was interested in the whole man – both body and soul. Our communities are in desperate need, despite the millions of pounds that governments pour into Social Work schemes.
But even when we concentrate on spiritual matters alone, more than “sermons” are necessary in an age unfamiliar and unaccustomed to the format of a public meeting. The “Great Commission” is not: “Welcome them into your church” but “Go, tell.”
In others words, the message is to be brought to the people rather than the people come to the church. One difference in the administration of the gospel in New Testament times is that the commission has changed from “Come see” in the Old Testament to: “Go, tell” in the New Testament.
The church has to think of ways in which it can bring the good news to the lost on their patch, rather than expect the unsaved to somehow arrive in church.
3. The Church needs strong leadership←↰⤒🔗
Looking over history, it seems God has used great leaders in both church and state. It seems to be God's way of working since the days of Moses. Almost every Revival has had a figurehead. Just about every religious movement can be traced to have some personality influencing its development.
One feature of today's religious setting is that there are very few influential preachers who have made any significant impact outside their own denomination or sphere of activity. Of course, God is not tied to work in one way, but it would seem that the means He often chooses to bring revival is by raising up strong influential leaders.
How do we get such people? The Saviour has the answer. When He saw multitudes of people, He had compassion on them and said: “Pray ye the Lord of the harvest that HE will send labourers into HIS harvest” (Mat 9:38).
4. There must be intentional evangelism←↰⤒🔗
Evangelism comes to very few of us naturally. Most of us have to struggle hard to give out a tract or even speak to a stranger about spiritual things.
It is true that proper testimony and witness is natural rather than forced, yet the church, (as the organ Christ has chosen to use in the building of His Kingdom), must devise organised systems of evangelism. Systems that communicate the gospel in relevant ways to an age that simply does not think it needs God. We no longer live in a God-conscious nation.
There are no easy, simple solutions to this work, but it must be done. We need to remember the unique nature of the Church “It is the only organisation in the world that exists for the sake of its nonmembers.”
5. The Church needs to concentrate on its own children←↰⤒🔗
It is surprising to discover in some Presbyterian congregations how much effort is put into reaching the lost to the neglect of their own children. Covenant promises do not seem to be pled and prayed for as much as they should. There seems little confidence in God’s promises for those brought up covenantally.
Ironically, in some places, reformed Baptists are better at training children in God’s ways than some Presbyterians.
There seems to be an idea that true conversions are of the sudden, unexpected, spectacular type, rather than the slow gradual instruction of the young in the fear of the Lord. Being truly “born again” by the Holy Spirit does not necessarily mean that one has to have a dramatic sudden change in their life.
A survey of God’s great men in the Bible, such as Moses, David, Simon Peter, Barnabas, Timothy reveal that they “grew” over a period of time, in the ways of God. Children brought up properly in Christian homes have a tremendous advantage.
There is a stability and maturity that develops in those who are taught consistently from their early years how to live and serve God, which the church needs to concentrate on as it seeks to produce leaders to think Biblically.
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