You are currently viewing An agenda for the church in England

An agenda for the church in England

The reason I left you on Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless… faithful to his wife.. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

What is the answer to the great drought of the knowledge of God across our nation, and the false teaching which is accompanying it?  Paul’s letter to his colleague Titus is a good place to start, for the situation on Crete was similar.  

In the face of this, Paul’s instruction to Titus is one we must heed: “appoint elders in every town.” Whilst there is great need for faithful gospel workers – paid and lay – in other roles within our churches too, Paul is talking particularly here about those who will lead churches; they are to be men of Christian integrity, who know and own God’s truth, and able to teach it, with the twin aims of encouragement and refutation of error.

Translate this to today’s England, and this is a key area we need to work and pray for: faithful men to be vicars / ministers / pastors, to lead local churches and preach God’s truth.

What a different situation we’d face if that were so!  Sometimes when a student here in Cambridge comes to Christ, our staff want to put them in touch with a home church they can join in the vacation – and for many towns, we find ourselves scratching our heads.  

Imagine an England where in every town people are in easy reach of a truth-telling Christian church.  Not necessarily Anglican, or a monochrome of style, but each with a minister who will hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught.

How will this come about? Two priorities:

First of all, we must be praying for suitable men to be called by their local churches to use their lives for this work. This needs to be a great priority for us at StAG. It will require courage on the part of those who offer, and a fleeing from the grip of materialism. We must, as I’ve written before, develop a culture which will really value this role. We need to keep on saying: the answer to the spread of false teaching is true teachers!

Second, theological education needs developing and improving.  At the heart of our problem in the UK is that many theological colleges have themselves drifted away from confidence in the Scriptures (despite the Apostle’s confidence!  2 Timothy 3:16), and their students head out to “ministry” without owning God’s truth.  Indeed, many are simply ill-trained.  Doctors need to know their anatomy, lawyers their law, but not ministers the Scriptures!  You may be amazed, but candidates for ministry in the Church of England are not currently tested in any way on their knowledge of the Bible. We do need to do better!

Much follows from this. If we have the men, we can do the church renewal, grafting and planting which is so greatly needed. But only if.

If we do have them, history and experience give hints of what can happen. God did His great work of Christian revival in eighteenth century England through preaching, and in large measure by raising up many local ministers across the land.  In our own day, it is the churches with Bible preachers which are bucking the trend of decline.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  But none of it will happen without shifts in mindset.  A repentant recognition by colleges and church authorities that God’s answer is Bible teachers; a prayerful sense of urgency among churches to supply them; and a cheerful willingness among some of our suitably gifted men to say “here am I: send me!”

This Sunday, Matthew Sleeman and Chris Howles from Oak Hill College are coming to speak about a way in, for anyone who’d like to think more if theological education might be for them – whether as a future church leader, or to be further equipped for other gospel ministry roles. All are welcome in the Woodard Room at StAG, 2.30-4pm.