A number of books have been written in recent years that suggest that the direction the Christian Church has been going is profoundly warped and dysfunctional. Just take for example:
- Radical by David Platt, which explores how we have shaped the gospel to suit ourselves and suggests, as the title implies, some uncomfortable remedies – uncomfortable for the materialistic, middle class, self-centred Western Christian.
- Exiles by Michael Frost looks at how the church has been marginalised in Western cultures and offers new alternatives at being church.
- There have been a host of books by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis looking at more effective ways of being the body of Christ.
- Vishal Mangalwadi in The Book That made Your World shows how Western cultures influenced by the Bible have made huge strides but also reveals how we in the West have dropped the ball as we allow this heritage to dissipate.
You could probably add to the list. But my point is this: the sheer scale of people writing and thinking about the church at present indicates that all is not well in Western churches. If we add to this a host of other issues such as young people leaving the church, Christians leaving the church but maintaining the faith outside its influence and the ongoing influence of theologies that marginalise Scripture, we can get a sense of the enormity of the problem. And we haven’t time to discuss all the areas of abuse the church has been involved in from paedophilia to scandals surrounding celebrity pastors, which have deeply wounded the voice of the church.
One of the stumbling blocks I see is that although some church leaders clearly recognise this problem their ability to act is limited. There are leaders in most churches who are alarmed by the figures both financial and human but in most cases they are seeking solutions from within the structure of their denomination. The structure is the environment their thinking takes place in. It is the structure, that for a whole host of reasons, from personal vested interests to tradition, that blinkers any genuinely radical Biblical vision. Property, jobs, “empires” and status are all involved in this unholy mix. This is not dissimilar to the conditions in the Roman Church before the C16th Reformation.
And then there is us, we who in the West have succumbed to the attractions of materialism. Our very view of life is shaped from the comfort of our easy chair. We too are part of the problem. Our thinking is shaped and anchored in our immediate self-interest. We too have vested self interests.
So, is it time for a new Reformation? I would genuinely love to hear the views of readers. And if it is, how will we hear God’s voice in the noise of our world? How can our hearts be open to the leading of the Spirit? What steps can we take in faith?