It is evident that in recent years institutional Christianity is rapidly decaying, at least in the West. I have just finished reading a book, "The Death of Christian Britain" in which the author, Callum Brown, writes of "The demise of Christian religion" in U.K. and in which he shows that this is taking place very quickly. What he writes is certainly true for the mainline churches, but he seems to ignore something which is happening outside the main stream, not only in Britain, but in many places throughout the world. Outside of the old denominational structures there are the first signs of God doing a new thing. He is restoring a true living organic Body of Christ, free of crippling institutionalism
"Surely the Lord God does nothing without revealing His secret to His servants the prophets" so wrote the prophet Amos. God has revealed something of this "new Thing" He is doing now to servants of His
some forty or more years ago. I share here four examples of such prophetic revelation for your encouragement.
I have just been reading a commentary on Matthew's Gospel, published in 1956, written by a great Bible teacher of the early and mid twentieth century, G. Campbell Morgan. In it I came across this amazingly prophetic passage:
"The world is only able to know the meaning of the Kingdom of God as it sees it realised in the Church of Jesus Christ. But the Church has failed to reveal the Kingdom of God in all its earthly meaning and glory as the Hebrew people did. That is why we are being broken up and scattered abroad; that is why our work has become largely individualistic.
Outside the borders of the Church, there are men today who are seeing at least the Divine intention though they have not discovered the Divine dynamic; and perhaps, presently we shall be surprised to see God moving towards a realisation through people we thought could not be used for it, and all because His Church has not been true to Him in this matter."
Reading that reminded me of a passage in one of Billy Graham's early books, "World Aflame" published 39 years ago in 1965, and which I had copied out and kept. Here it is:
"Thousands of laymen and clergymen alike are asking penetrating questions about the purpose and mission of the church. Thousands of loyal church members, particularly in America are beginning to meet in prayer groups and Bible study classes. Multitudes of Christians within the church are moving towards the point where they may reject the institution that we call the church. They are beginning to turn towards more simplified forms of worship. They are hungry for a personal and vital experience with Jesus Christ. They want a heart-warming personal faith.
Unless the church quickly recovers its authoritative Biblical message, we may witness the spectacle of millions of Christians going outside the institutional church to find spiritual food."
Another man, a true saint of God was Thomas Kelly who died in 1941. Here is something he wrote:
"I believe we live in a waiting age when multitudes are convinced that something vastly deeper than they know in the present church is fundamentally needed. The land is full of seekers; the church is full of seekers.... Over the horizon men dimly see something glorious, they know not what. But what they see is Christ walking again in lowly simple love, recapturing the church for Himself, rebuking the Scribes and Pharisees, who sit in Moses' seat, tenderly leading men to share in His immediacy and enthralment in God."
Very early in my search for what Father desires for His Church I found what follows, written by T. Austin Sparks, and I share it here, not only as prophetic, but also as a salutary warning of the dangers of man wresting the "New Thing" from God's hands, and institutionalizing it again with disastrous consequences. His article written in 1966, is entitled "The Positive Ground of the Church" and the italics are mine.
"There is one thing that is giving me a good deal of anxiety and apprehension. In this time when a twofold movement is taking place on a wide scale: that is, on the one hand the great movement towards union (not unity), as in the World Council of Churches, on the policy of the combine and monopoly, with all the necessary compromises and sacrifice of distinctiveness of message; and on the other hand the unrest, dissatisfaction, and loosening of ties with the established system of churches and institutions, resulting in many leaving their old associations and either meeting in groups or drifting without anchorage in their disappointment - my disturbing fear is that there will be a movement, or some movements, towards the formation of another undenominational or interdenominational denomination, this coming about also by policy, expediency or seeming necessity. Such a movement would only be another tragedy and incipient sectarian calamity, which history would show had not been of God but of man, although with the best of motives. May the Lord save us from this so serious mistake! It would be a starting at the wrong end; a trying to form something instead of an organic growth from a living illumination, a revolutionary encounter with an unveiling of the true nature of the Church. For this latter God would have to lay an apprehending hand on a man or body of men, and by a devastating showing of the true, universal, and spiritual significance of Christ, as effectively emancipating them from all the historic accretions of Christianity as the Apostle Paul was emancipated from historic Judaism. The growth of this organism would be as other emancipated men sprang from the essential root, and not just adhered or sponsored. The power of such an organism would be the all-conquering life of resurrection: "the power that worketh in us." There is nothing artificial, imitation or manufactured about this, and it requires no propaganda. The Holy Spirit is the great Propagandist of what is of heaven.
The above is written out of a very deep concern; a longing and a fear. It should be remembered that when God made His "new thing", His "new cruse" as the foundation of this dispensation of the Spirit and the Church, He did so with a nucleus of men who had been broken by the Cross and reunited by the Resurrection. These two things were wrought deeply into their very constitution and were the ground upon which the Holy Spirit built in every place. This is the only positive ground for the Church and churches. Anything other will be negative. They were men who had seen! It may be that if the Lord is to have such a spiritual impact as was then made on the world, it will be necessary to sift down to that basis the conglomeration of the man made and start, or go on, with the small but intrinsic seed plot.
This may be like a "voice crying in the wilderness", but perhaps some wind of God would carry it as a guide or warning where it is needed. ..... as things are, it is becoming more and more evident that God must "do a new thing" if His full end is to be reached. May He raise up His Prophets to " show the House to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed", and may some Josiah, personal or corporate, arise to lead to such a taste of the `real thing as to result in the leaving of all that is false. We can only resort to prayer!"
I well remember the day I first read that about eighteen years ago, and thanked God that His wind had carried that message into my heart, and urged me on in my search. May that same Divine wind of His Spirit carry its message to other hungry hearts.