Prayer for Britain
The Battle for Christianity in Great Britain
The United Kingdom (58 million) is part of the European Union which in 2005 consisted of 25 nations. The larger of these are Germany (82 million), France (59 million), Italy (57 million), Spain (39 million) and Poland (38 million). Some of these countries involved are the most poverty-stricken, spiritually speaking, in the world today. Even the rather optimistic statistics cited from Operation World show a pitiful proportion of evangelicals: Italy 0.9%, Spain 0.4%, and France 0.8%. Nothing but a heaven-sent spiritual awakening will remove the gross darkness that covers these nations, and only a God-given awakening will prevent Britain from sliding down into similar spiritual poverty.
A megashift in the way people in Western Europe think has taken place since the 1970s from modernism to postmodernism. An integral part of postmodern culture is a-morality, or to be more plain, selective morality. It is still deemed a crime to steal or to commit murder. However the commandment ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’, is a part of God’s law which is deleted. It is as though that commandment has been scraped out of the tablets of stone on which the ten commandments were written.
Whereas in the previous generation premarital sex was regarded at adultery now it is the norm. Whereas marriage was regarded as the norm now it is not. This disregard for the biblical foundation of marriage and God’s law which protects it has resulted in desperate damage to society.
A leading article in The Daily Telegraph (Sept 30,2005) begins as follows,‘Marriage is in terminal decline, government figures showed yesterday. Within 25 years nearly half of all men in their mid-forties and more than a third of women will not have walked up the aisle.’
Reaping the whirlwind of Postmodernism
The breakdown of family life has had catastrophic results on society. Politicians realise that this subject must be addressed. In the Conservative leadership contest which took place in November 2005 both David Davies and David Cameron place this subject at the top of their political agendas. Davies declares, Families are the foundation stone of society. Tax and benefit systems must help, not hinder, the aim of stable families. Cameron likewise puts the family at the top of his priorities. He declares that we must respond to the challenge of social breakdown by actively supporting marriage through the tax and benefits system.
Bad doctrine and bad principles will result in bad life. So much has changed since the West moved away from a Christian base which though nominal still served to give a sense of stability and direction. ‘It was only one generation ago that the Bible and the Ten Commandments were taught in our schools. There was discipline in the home and in the classroom. The parent supported the teacher. Common decency prevailed in the community. There was respect for authority in the home and in society. The extended family was a protection against crime. Divorce was rare and having a child out of wedlock was looked on as a scandal. Homosexuality was not so much as named among us. The press and the broadcasting authorities conformed to standards of morality and decency.
The most devastating effects of a Postmodern society and the permissive society of the 1960s that preceded it are the downgrading of marriage and the break up of family life. Now as we see from the Royal Family downwards the custom is for couples to live together and perhaps consider marriage at a future time. Allied with that is a massive divorce rate now running at a terrifying fifty percent. The effects of this on children is appalling not to mention the destructive effects on the parents. Infidelity is the main reason leading to divorce. The media have contributed to decline. The proportion of programs that promote promiscuity and which border on pornography is destructive.
Criticism is scorned by most program managers. Peter Hitchins traces out the changing attitude that has taken place. ‘Shame and stigma, which once both defended espectable marriage and heaped misery on the poor bastard and his wretched mother, have disappeared.
Instead, there is the slower, vaguer more indirect misery of a society where fewer and fewer children have two parents, and where more and more women are married to the State’.ii ‘In the post-war years the number of births outside marriage actually dropped for thirteen years between 1945 and 1959. In 1959, the Legitimacy Act allowed post facto legitimacy to children whose parents had “not been free” to marry to marry at the time of their birth. These were humane changes ensuring that the sins of the parents could not be visited on the children. But they also made it easier for the parents to commit those sins without so much fear of the consequences, and they assumed that the old forces of shame and disgrace were purely negative, nasty cobwebs in the corner of an unreformed society which could have no possible purpose in the modern world.’iii Major changes began in 1987 when a new abridged birth certificate allowed children to conceal their parents’ unmarried status.
The demotion of the sacred institution of marriage and the family is seen in the increasing demand for the acceptance of different sexual lifestyles. The Civil Partnership Act took effect from December 2005 in which same sex couples have the same exemptions from Inheritance Tax as husbands and wives. Everyone has equal rights in this area. The recent decision of Parliament to allow homosexual and cohabiting couples to adopt children is an indication of how far some are pushing the equal rights agenda.
A-morality in society brings about a whole raft of painful results. There is the increase of teenage pregnancies, the increase of a variety of sexually transmitted diseases, permanent injury in the realm of trust and relationships. A further hurtful and damaging outcome is what is termed ‘Dad’s empty chair’. James Wilson of the USA media comments on Dad’s empty chair like this: ‘After holding income constant, boys in father-absent families were twice as likely as those in two-parent ones to go to jail and girls in father-absent families were twice as likely as those in married families to have an out-of-wedlock birth. What all of this means for the rest of society is evident on the evening news programs. Boys without married fathers populate our street gangs, and these gangs are responsible for an inordinately high level of violence. We rely on the police to control gangs, but the important, and often absent, control is that exercised by fathers. A boy growing up without a father has no personal conception of what it means to acquire skills, find a job, support a family, and be loyal to one’s wife and children. Research on the link between unemployment rates and crime has shown that the connection is very weak. The connection between crime and father absence is much higher. Boys in single-parent families are also more likely to be idle rather than in school or unemployed and to drop out of high school. These differences are as great for white families as for black and Hispanic ones and as large for advantaged children as for disadvantaged ones.’
Trouble has also spilled out into schools. An area of enormous stress is the breakdown of respect in the classroom as John J Murray describes it, ‘As happened with Rome before its fall, society is taking on coarseness. There is violence in the classroom. Teachers are leaving the profession due to stress. One teacher spoke about advice given to him: “We are being urged to give the kids Mars bars when they are walking around with iron bars.” Teenagers engage in loutish behaviour. City streets are less safe, especially at nights. Some of our inner cities have been turned into no-go areas for the police. A chief constable said: “If a couple of parents cannot control their children, how can two of my men control 200?”
The apostle Paul said that godliness is the basis of righteousness, and unrighteousness flows out of ungodliness (Rom 1:18). What will be the outcome of the increase in alcoholism, drug addiction, violence and crime which evidences the spiritual bankruptcy of Postmodern Western society? Will the generation who have come from broken homes turn to the gospel, or will they continue to seek solace in the very sins which brought their parents and themselves into bondage and distress? Will they find new life in Christ, or be lured into the increasing array of cults or the occult?’
Retired clergyman Dennis Peterson writes, ‘The effect of disrupted families is disruptive child behaviour. One of the main reasons for teachers leaving the profession is despair at pupil behaviour. I met a young lad who had about a hundred scars on his back where he had been stabbed by things like compass points. A teacher recently burst into tears as she told me of the fear she has from violence in her school.’ v During October 2005 newspapers published photos of a girl whose face had been slashed by knives by fellow girl pupils.
That could be an isolated exceptional event but it is not. The increase of violence in schools is a national problem. If the decline in morals and behaviour has taken place as described then surely this will reflect in the levels of crime recorded in England and Wales. This is a controversial field because of the possibility of manipulating statistics to prove a point. However there are basic trends which are inescapable. The level of crime increased fifty-fold from 1921 when 103,258 crimes were recorded to 5.2 million recorded cases of crime in 2001. Another statistic concerns the prison population. The prison population for England and Wales increased dramatically to 77,000 in 2005, a rise of 70 percent since 1993 when it was 44,500. In March 2005 82 of the 139 prisons in England and Wales were overcrowded.
Decline of the churches
From the moral decline in Great Britain we now turn to the state of the churches. The steep decline in church membership which is well illustrated in the graphs can be traced back to the rise of liberalism during the nineteenth century and the rejection of the Bible as a reliable book. Gradually moralistic teaching replaced the gospel of salvation from eternal damnation and wherever this has taken place certain demise has followed. Great Britain is increasingly a land of church buildings where once the gospel was preached but now those buildings have been turned into flats, offices or warehouses. An apt commentary on Great Britain is found in Judges 2:10, ‘After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.’
An examination of the graphs will show that the once thriving Methodist denomination is spiralling down to extinction. The same is true of the United Reformed Church. The situation in the Church of England illustrates the point made above that the crucial issue is gospel preaching. There are thriving evangelical Anglican churches but there are not enough to withstand the overall decline. Up and down England there are more and more Anglican churches which are closing.
Soon we are told fifty percent of the Anglican clergy will be women. That sends out a two-fold message. First the Scripture teaching about male leadership is unheeded and that usually means that a liberal view of Scripture prevails. Secondly it sends out a message that the Church is now so weak that there are insufficient men to lead. That confirms a state of serious decline and time and time again that decline proves to be terminal. Similar to the Anglican Church is the Baptist Union denomination. The Baptist Union consists of a mixture of liberal and evangelical pastors and women pastors. Unless held together by strong social ties the liberal churches will decline since there is no gospel to draw sinners to be saved. The evangelical churches vary in quality but the Baptist Union as a whole is in decline as the graph shows.
Where evangelicalism in a nation is thriving it is hard for the cults to grow because the light of the gospel shines brightly so that denial of the deity of Jesus is hard to promote. The graphs show the rapid growth of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. The Pentecostal denominations show a gradual growth. The Grace Baptists and their next of kin the Reformed Baptists form a small part of evangelicalism. The Reformed Baptists are less traditional in style and many of their churches show healthy growth. Many small Grace churches are ageing and are unlikely to survive. There are exceptions. Where a new pastor takes over in a church and evangelises energetically the recovery is often remarkable.
Commentary on the graphs
The graphs show membership of churches and other religious groups for the 20th century and a prediction for the next 50 years. These graphs are not meant to be exhaustive as regards religious groups but provide a snap shot of the main trends occurring in Great Britain. Figures for Northern Ireland are generally excluded as it is relatively small and not typical of the rest of the UK.
The Church of England. In an article in The Churchman (Summer 2005) retired clergyman Dennis Peterson laments the fact that we have lost sight of the 1859-60 revival in England in which the membership of the Church of England grew henomenally from 18 percent of the population to 27 percent. This fact in itself reminds us that an outpouring of the Holy Spirit can bring about a radical change. It is the preaching of the gospel alone that makes the difference. There is no hope for denominations which have been taken over by liberals who deny the principal doctrines of the Bible. It is the presence of vibrant evangelical churches within the Anglican body that moderates the decline. The nominal part of the Church of England is fading away at such a pace that eventually only the evangelical constituency will be left to function in any realistic way. There is a major crisis in the Anglican communion because funding is running out to maintain the fabric of empty churches all over the land.
Church of Scotland. About thirty years ago a story was spread that all the evangelical ministers in the Church of Scotland combined would be able to fit into a telephone box. Yet through the ministry of several leaders such as William Still the proportion of evangelical ministers increased to about forty percent. That might be over optimistic. Today it may be much less. The decline certainly is very evident from the graph.
The Methodists. The decline of Methodism is dramatic. Since the saving gospel of Christ has been abandoned it is visibly evident that the Holy Spirit has abandoned this enomination. Methodist church buildings all over the land have been sold to be turned into other purposes.
The Baptist Union. Since the Downgrade Controversy of 1887 –1892 in which C H Spurgeon was the leader of the evangelical Baptists there has been no change in the BU. The BU leaders have not come to grips with the need of reformation. That is impossible because liberals occupy the seats of influence and power. For instance when Michael Taylor used the platform of the annual BU assembly in 1971 to deny the deity of Christ no discipline was exercised. At least twenty churches seceded from the union. What security is there for future generations when there is no guarantee of doctrinal fidelity? Baptist unions vary from country to country. In South Africa the battle with the unbelieving liberals was won in the 1920s. Fidelity to the Word of God has followed ever since.
The United Reformed Church. This body too has been invaded by modernist theology. It is only a matter of time before this denomination becomes extinct.
The Pentecostal denominations. The graphs of the two largest Pentecostal Churches show growth. We are reminded by this that when the gospel is preached with zeal and where there is concerted evangelism there will be growth. There are many other, smaller, charismatic groupings not shown which also show growth.
FIEC (Free Independent Evangelical Churches), Grace Baptist and Reformed Baptist churches. The graphs for the FIEC show an encouraging upward trend. The manner in which unity among evangelical churches has spread is heartening. According to Psalm 133 where there is unity in the truth there the Lord bestows his blessing. Closely allied to the FIEC are Grace Baptists and Reformed Baptists. Contemporaneity is a major issue in these churches. Where leaders cling to Scripture and at the same time encourage young people there is growth whereas where strict tradition for tradition’s sake is maintained there sterility prevails. The saying is true that a reformed church always needs to reform testing everything in the light of Scripture.
Roman Catholicism The decline of Roman Catholicism is widespread in Western Europe especially in France and Great Britain. The RC Church has served to keep families cemented. Spain is an example. But Catholic influence is waning in Spain too. Spain, once a bastion of Catholic culture and commitment, has now embraced same-sex marriage. Spain became the third country to legalize gay marriage.
Mormons and JWs. When the light of the gospel shines brightly it is difficult for cults to grow. When there is biblical illiteracy such as prevails in the UK today there the cults have a free hand.
Islam. The increase of Muslims is mostly by large families and by immigration. What possibility is there of revival in such an age of decadence as our own? We must not forget the situation that preceded the eighteenth-century awakening. We have liberalism; they had deism. We have the drug menace; they had rum. We have abortion; they had the degradation of the slave trade.
We have contempt for the gospel, especially in places of influence; so did they. We have bishops who tolerate practising homosexuals in the ministry and the blatant public denial of the deity of Christ by one of their number; eighteenth century Britain also suffered a lethargic clergy. Yet in spite of all the obstacles the Holy Spirit intervened in a marvellous way, using humble prayers and a handful of godly leaders.
If ever we should seek to unite in prayer for revival it is now! The social decadence of our Western world demands it.
Footnotes to graphs
A. Graphs drawn using data obtained from “UK Christian Handbook Religious Trends No.2 2000/01” Ed Dr Peter Brierley Published 1999 by Christian Research, London ISBN 1853211346, and “UK Christian Handbook Religious Trends No.4 2003/2004” Ed Dr Peter Brierley Published 2003 by Christian Research, London ISBN 1853211494.
Prayer points for the church, for an awakening to prayer and revival
Prayer points for the church, for an awakening to prayer and revival
Before we can engage with God in prayer we must bring ourselves under the searchlight of God’s word and examine ourselves. God is faithful and just to forgive all our sins and to save us from unrighteousness. But the ultimate responsibility lies with each individual to examine his heart, only those who have clean hands and a pure heart can enter into his presence.
2 Chronicles 7
14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
PRAY FOR REPENTANCE:
- Mark 2
17 When Jesus heard, He said to them, They who are strong have no need of a physician, but the ones who have illness. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
2 Peter 3
9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
8 Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham