Thoughts on the Way Home

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Excerpt From An Interview with Sinclair Ferguson

What are some of your concerns related to the health of Protestant Christianity we see here in present-day America and in your beloved Scotland?

I try not to focus my gaze too much or too long on the discouraging things I see simply because I think I need to be careful not to become jaundiced, and cynical. As a Scottish person I already have enough native tendency to be melancholic! Yet it is true that there are many things to cause concern.

The passage which was expounded at my ordination to the gospel ministry was 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, and it has served as a kind of guiding light to me ever since. Paul says there that he has put aside not only disgraceful, underhanded ways, but that he does not "do" things just because "they work." Instead he expounds the truth and does so in such a way that both the truth of the gospel and his own integrity are clear. By contrast we have become a very pragmatic church; we have a thirst for size (bigger is seen as better).

We have also spawned a cult of the personality and the guru. I have seen pulpit search committee material stating in black and white that they need an "outstanding communicator" to be their minister. Much of our thinking has actually become very worldly.

One indication of this recently is in the ease with which Christians now speak about "the quality of our worship" but unlike their forefathers do it only once on Sunday (and many ministers know that an evening service would not be well attended .... for all kinds of reasons that I suspect will not hold up before the God of the universe who is worthy to be worshiped and adore world without end! I wonder what he thinks of the quality of our worship!). It is also a concern to me that we are living in the age of the worship leader and the counselor rather than the preacher (what we do and what we talk about--sadly usually ourselves--takes precedence over God talking to us.

Again there is the lack of prayer, and of the church praying. This is to me the most alarming, for this reason: we have built apparently strong, large, successful, active churches. But many of our churches never meet as a congregation for prayer. I mean never! What does that indicate we are saying about the life of the church as a fellowship? By contrast the mark of a truly apostolic spirit in the church is that that we give ourselves to prayer and the word together (Acts 6:4; no wonder "the word of God continued to increase and the number of the disciples multiplied" Acts 6:7!). If this is so, it should not surprise us that while many churches see growth it is often simply reconfiguration of numbers, not of conversion. I greatly wish that our churches would learn to keep the main things central, that we would learn to be true churches, vibrant fellowships of prayer, gospel ministry and teaching, genuine mutual love. At the end of the day such a church simply needs to "be" for visitors who come to sense that this is a new order of reality altogether, and be drawn to Christ.