by Adrian Hancock, Methodist Confessing Movement - Great Britain
What do we do with a mixed blessing?
If necessity is the mother of invention in the world, what is desperation the mother of in the church?
I believe we are seeing a strange phenomenon, a mixed blessing, in the church today. If we are wise, and realise what is going on, it could result in many people coming into the Kingdom and the Methodist denomination changing for the better.
If, however, we are unwise, we will be disappointed and frustrated - again!
Imagine the situation in which a church leader speaks at an evangelical bible college, sounding for all the world like an evangelical. People leave thinking the church must be changing if this is happening. What they don't hear is the same leader speaking shortly afterwards at a rally of the 'Lesbian and Gay Christian Methodist Caucus' and sounding for all the world like a liberal, morally lax, sexual reformer - and being loudly applauded.
Others are quoted as supporting the Alpha courses or approving of evangelical church planting projects yet giving talks and publishing material that many would see as undermining clear biblical teaching in other areas.
Are these the days of the spiritual chameleons - who change spiritual hue according to their audience? This, I believe, is the phenomenon we have in our church. The question I ask of such people is where do they really stand on these different issues, and why'?
Are these the days of the spiritual chameleons - who change spiritual hue according to their audience? Are evangelistic church plants to be commended to the whole church, together with the theological foundations of Jesus as the only name by which we may be saved and the necessity for people of other faiths to accept Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Saviour; not as one way amongst many but the only Way?
Is the Alpha course right and therefore to receive churchwide support and approval?
Support from leadership in various publications or videos may be helpful but is that really enough? The situation is muddied when we read comments such as 'You can do an Alpha course without taking on board it's theology'.
I would like to ask: "Can you?"
I hope I am proved wrong in my thinking, and I pray that our leadership will make some unambiguous statements in support of such projects. I also hope that this will be backed up by some U-Turns in other areas.
We have people viewing a situation of national, numerical Church decline and in desperation, prepared to give a measure of backing to anything which seems to stem the flow, this includes joining the Anglican Church!
Are they genuine or are they desperate?
I would suggest that we are in a situation where many people from many theological persuasions are prepared to give 'measured verbal support' to anything that is seen to be stopping the current rot.
What should we do?
It is surely time for evangelicals to take advantage of the situation while being mindful that in the longer term the answer to these questions will have a significant effect on the shape and life of the church.
I believe we should press in to what God is doing by his Holy Spirit.
We should be active in starting and supporting local initiatives that work. These may include Alpha, Refreshing Meetings, Radical church planting, Active, evangelical social involvement. We need to show what works and why it works. We need to get so many 'successful' evangelical projects up and running that the health of the whole church becomes inextricably linked with such projects. Then we will look for ,and get, leaders who are genuine, wholehearted and active in their support and involvement in a biblical, evangelical expression of the church in these days.
Is this a pipe dream or a realistic vision of what could happen in our denomination as God moves by His Spirit and we are radically obedient?
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