Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The Second Great Age of Evangelism of the West?

Among the books I read during my vacation was Praying Hyde by Basil Miller,  a biography of  John Hyde (1865--1912), a missionary to India who became known as "Praying" Hyde due to amount of and power of his prayers.  He is associated with the Sialkot Revival (1905-1911).

Missionary biographies always stun and shame me:  stun me due to the commitment they bear for sharing the Word of God; shame me because I am so weak in my own commitment to the same.

And then I came across an article saying that 51% of Canadians believe religion to more harmful than good,  Which then got me thinking to the current status of Christianity in Europe (circa 2015) and the US.

Which then got me to thinking:  could not be the great Second Age of Evangelism of the West?

The Christian Church - at least in the West - is badly in need of a great revival (my opinion of course, but I would challenge you on it).  The Church - as a whole - has either sought to become culturally relevant to the point that it is not longer Christian or Orthodox to the point that we have created "cultural Christians", who know the Scriptures (possibly) but not the power therein.  It has become just another thing that we do in our lives, like working out or a club or practice.

Yes, I am aware that the culture is opposed to us, but this fact is largely of our own doing.  We have chosen to ignore God's Word and God's Power and God's Scripture and then find ourselves shocked when our churches are word-less and powerless and fading.  We accept the basic tenant of Viktor Frankl - that with a why, anything is bearable - but refuse to live out the Why of faith, believing that somehow lesser that the whys of the world.  We have failed to actually act as if Christ was who He claims to be - The Son of God, the Ruler of this world - and live in light of that.

In other words, we have a lot of work to do.

But that does not mean that we should stop doing the other work either - "Go and make disciples of all the Nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" was the command of the risen Christ to his disciples (Matthew 28:19).

When the Church thinks of missions, it is almost always to parts of the Third World - Latin America, or Africa, or parts of Asia.  And admittedly, the need is great.  But is it cultural arrogance that prevents us from seeing that the First World is also heavy and golden, ripe for harvest?

It is not enough to say this, or to even start to do this of course, without prayer - which was Praying Hyde's great secret weapon in his missionary efforts. "Give me souls or I die" he cried out to the Father.  And so, I have begun to pray every day for revival specifically in the West, of a great movement to replant vibrant churches throughout the West.  It is not that such a thing will happen without anyone doing the work, of course - but without the prayers, nothing will happen.

The harvest, said Christ, is plentiful but the harvesters are few.  He reminded us specifically to pray to the Father to send laborers into His harvest.


R.K. Brumbelow said...

Quick thought, I would argue that the church does not need revival, it needs persecution. The persecuted church becomes more focused and returns to her roots as she must in order to survive. Having shed the additional dross and movyed through the fire, then we are able to better reflect Christ as opposed to putting more effort into misplaced evangelism (not all evengrlism is misplaced, just that which is off of the core message).

Glen Filthie said...

It's not your own fault TB. Wherever you find money and power, you find corruption. The hucksters and fraudsters that used faith the shear their sheep are now infesting the charities, non-profits and NGO's today. Nobody trusts them either for the most part.

I was dragged kicking and screaming into a Canadian church and expected sanctimony, hypocrisy, perversion and degeneracy. Instead I found community, fellowship, respectability and good cheer. The church will sell itself as time goes by, I think - there are a lot of lonely, angry and bitter people that are beginning to realize that they made a mistake when they threw out their morals, ethics and faith. As far as I know, liberalism, atheism and other ideologies can't even compete because they don't offer any of those things.

I see a resurgence of faith in the near future too. We've lost our way and only a fool can deny it now.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

R.K.: There is no argument, I think, that "The blood of martyrs grows the church." That said, I shudder a little bit to suggest "bring on the persecution" - I have enough of a historical and modern viewpoint to understand very precisely what that looks like. It is one thing to theoretically agree that one could withstand such persecutions; I imagine that it is something else entirely to see one's entire family taken by it.

I suppose for my call for the Church to evangelize, I thinking of situations like 4th Century Britain, where the British Church had little or no interest in evangelizing the Irish and it took a prisoner - Patrick - to do it. One could, I suppose, make the argument that completely pagan culture is different from a post-Christian culture, but my issue would be more about the attitude of the Church: are we smug in our "we are saved and that is what it needs to be" or are we actually concerned with the fact that so many are dying lost?

Thanks for stopping by! - TB

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Glen, there is no doubt that what you are saying is true - I can name as many "churches" as you can which are more about finances and success than about the actual faith as handed down through the saints. Oddly enough, I also see many denominations as being the problem as well: commitment to a bad doctrinal statement will destroy the church as a whole.

I am glad you found a Church that actually looks like the Church (they are still out there). I can say that I know others that have returned as you have and found the Body to be different than they remembered (of course, there are those that came back and found it the same as they remembered too). Perhaps what would help it more if its membership took the idea of being "equipped for every good work" far more seriously in terms of their knowledge and application.

Your hope encourages me.

Thanks! - TB

Kelly Brumbelow said...

TB. yes my own background is is historic and systematic theology, so I am not casually suggesting that persecution is a fun thing to go through. I do, however, see a great need to get back to the core of her message and historically that has always begun with persecution.

Now admittedly the majority of my personal research has been into things such as the rise of American Fundamentalism from the Niagara Bible Conferences through the establishment of the 2nd generation of the Bible College system, a time that American Christianity held remarkable sway, I also see the long lasting damage that movements such as dispensationalism and fundamentalism have caused. Do not get me wrong, I can sign off on the fundamentals of the faith. I am a member of the OPC so that tells you where I am theologically and hermetically I am Bealean with regards to redemptive history.

Further, I believe we are always called to espouse both the Law and the Gospel, but at no time are we to actually expect that any efforts outside of that will be of any evangelistic benefit and that seems to be where the vast majority of work is being done... outside of the Law and Gospel. When I was in seminary, the common quip was "If it takes a petting zoo and clowns to get the people into the church, then it will take a petting zoo and clowns to keep them in the church. - Welcome to the Circus, where is the bread?"

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

A fair enough point Kelly: Persecution has a way of refining the message like nothing else does.

So a question in response to your comment (and forgive me if it seems simplistic - I am guy who is an amateur theologian and historian): To my mind and understanding, at least among "Western" nations, the US has held on to some form of biblical Christianity longer than any other. Assuming that fundamentalism and dispensationalism did not have the sway they do, would we be in the same position as the rest of the West? Surely the latter part of the 20th Century and early part of the 21st has demonstrated that denominations are more often than not enervating entities, not life transforming ones. Or with the growth of culture as it has occurred, would where we are today be inevitable regardless?

Kelly Brumbelow said...

There is an argument to be made that for most cultures, religion is a God in the Gaps phenomenon. So religion takes the place of knowledge and understanding that science later expands and fills. To that theory, I say ... Kind of...

If you assume that there is no demonstrable truth and you deny the orthodox christian position that God created the universe in such as way as to be known and knowable. Than I can see how such a position abides. The problems then is that there is a demonstrable truth and God is God over all creation, not just the parts we do not understand. I think that is one of the distinctives of orthodox Christianity (I am using orthodox in this usage with a little o to mean that form of Christianity which ascribes to the ecumenical creeds and rejects notions such as pelagianism, gnosticism, docetism etc etc. basically Christianity up through the first few centuries before we started consolidating power and politics.

What we do see is that theonomy is a common factor, or if not theonomy then the reverse (whatever that is called) where the state uses a religion to enforce its rules rather than a religion using the state to enforce her rules (Theonomy).

Fundamentalism is really a reaction to Modernity, it has now passed its course and we have the seeker model/ eclectic one that exists as a reaction to post modernism.

So to answer your question, yes without fundamantalism and dispensationalism we would likely be in the position of western europe. Or rather we would have. It seems as through with every thing there is a pendular, reciprocal movement. Fundamentalism delayed the pendulum and moved it a notch over. Or more simply it delayed the collapse of something that is going to collapse anyways. Kind of like the residuals of the Roman empire actually stretched out the dark ages because they provided a source of stability. SO I personally believe that if it were not there, we would be moving into the upswing of the next movement rather than still being stuck in the decay of the present.

Obviously, God had not stopped moving and working in our world. And so there is a reason for all of it, but I do believe that we will continue moving back and forth until Christ returns. I do not see civilization as getting better, nor do I see it as getting worse. Certainly technology and medicine have changed, but the really important things such as our relationship with God, the world and each other, well that is still the same as it has been since Christ ascended and will be until He comes again (come Lord Quickly)

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Thanks Kelly. That makes a certain amount of sense. I do know that I completely agree with the statement about civilization not getting a whole lot worse - technology and rapid travel and the media culture have enabled us to do things more evil and in farther places and co-opt public opinion far more than in previous ages, to my thinking.

And as you say, Maranatha.