The UK is no longer a Christian nation. According to the 2018 British Social Attitudes survey, the percentage of the population describing themselves as Christians fell from 66% to 38% between 1983 and 2018. Now 1 in 4 people even say, "I do not believe in God." In the ten years to 2013 the Methodist Church lost a third of its membership, and by 2013 80% of its remaining members were of retirement age or older. The number of people who describe themselves as belonging to the Church of Engand has more than halved in the last 16 years, and only 2% of young adults (18 to 24-year-olds) now claim to be C of E.
Some of this has to be due to the wishy-washy and unbelieving nature of the mainstream church leadership. St Paul told the Ephesian elders, "I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20.26f) However in the mainstream Christian church the whole counsel of God's word has largely been abandoned:
- preachers no long believe that God designed and created the world or that it was originally perfect, nor that death and our sinful natures are the result of our descent from the first man Adam following his original act of disobedience (Romans 5:12);
- they no longer preach the four principal New Testament Christian hopes - the resurrection of the body, the return of Jesus, the establishment of Christ's personal rule over the earth in the promised Kingdom of God, and the promised creation of a new heaven and earth that will last for ever. Yet Saint Paul wrote, "If for this life only we have hoped in Christ we are of all men most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15:19);
- they do not warn their congregations that continuing in extra-marital sex or homsexual relationships, or in greed, drunkenness and other sinful behaviour will exclude them from the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6.9,10);
- they do not teach that the way into God's kingdom is through baptism (immersion) in water and the Holy Spirit (e.g. Titus 3:5);
- they have no real belief in the unseen powers of good and evil, whereas the Bible tells us that we are engaged in warfare with evil spiritual powers, and that God's desire is to equip believers with supernatural gifts of the Spirit as well as with the truth of his word in order to combat them;
- they hesitate to declare that according to Jesus commitment to him as Saviour and Lord is the only way to be saved (John 14:6) and that all other efforts and religions are wrong (some high-ranking leaders in the Church of England are actively discouraging such statements);
- they do not publicly denounce and campaign against child sacrifice in the form of over 200,000 unborn children being put to death every year in the UK;
- in fact they don't like saying or doing anything which contradicts popular culture, beliefs and behaviour, or which is likely to upset someone.
A few days ago the Lord put it into my mind to read again the book of the prophet Ezekiel. I haven't got very far yet, but I think I have learned something important about this situation. When the Lord called Ezekiel to be a prophet he said at least five times in chapter 2 that Ezekiel's people were a rebellious lot. He said they would not listen to Ezekiel because they were 'of a hard forehead and of a stubborn heart'. So God had to tell Ezekiel to take an extraordinary measure to make the people listen to his words of warning and judgement on Jerusalem and its remaining population. Ezekiel had to make a model of a siege of Jerusalem and lie down on the ground beside it for a total of 430 days, tied down so that he couldn't turn over and to symbolize captivity. And he had to measure out each day one small quantity of food and water to symbolize the lack of food and water in the coming final siege of the city of God. And I found myself thinking that someone today will have to take some similarly extraordinary measures in order to make himself heard by a nation in which both priests and people are an extremely rebellious lot.
Not all of them are. There are still some Christians and Christian leaders in Britain who listen to God and believe what he has said. In July this year 15,000 young people worshipped the Lord in the O2 arena at Hillsong's European Conference. On August 31st I spent the day in prayer for our nation in the company of about 8,000 people over 40 years old at the Wembley Arena. Both groups of people believe what the Bible teaches and are not afraid to say so. Many Bible-believing black churches and Pentecostal churches are growing. So what can be done about the church and nation in general?
One speaker at Wembley said he believed that spiritual revival in our nation would come about through the ministry of an individual man. But how could any man make today's rebellious and unbelieving nation listen? I think Ezekiel's story might give us a clue.
Ezekiel acted out a most extraordinary parable which anyone passing by couldn't have failed to notice. In 1971 the US evangelist Arthur Blessit hit the headlines with a walk through Britain carrying a heavy wooden cross, preaching as he went. This again was certainly something visual, unusual, and newsworthy. Prior to Jesus's ministry, John the Baptist drew crowds from the whole of Judea because he too was unusual, dressed only in camel's hair and eating locusts and wild honey, and because he had an unusual and exciting message. He announced that the promised Kingdom of God and the threatened Day of Judgement were only just round the corner, and that if people wanted to be on the safe side they'd better repent of their sins and make a new beginning.
I believe that if this nation is to be called back to God then someone, somewhere, is going to be called and equipped by the Lord to do something as attention-grabbing as Ezekiel, Arthur Blessit and John the Baptist did. And if I'm right about the date of Christ's return, which I state in my book Z: The Final Generation, then it needs to be done very soon. Perhaps someone already well-known, preferably a passionate atheist, might be dramatically converted and become God's anointed prophet to the nation. Or perhaps like Arthur Blessit someone will begin a visually arresting walk around Britain, accompanying it with conversation, hand-outs, preaching, prophecies and even prophetic acts. Isn't that exactly what Jesus did? And didn't Jesus tell his disciples, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you"?
"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me," Jesus said. (Matthew 16.24)
Dare I ask... could the Lord be asking you or me to do just that?
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