I have been out of the pulpit and into the pews for eight years now. I have been through the purpose-driven-life phase in the church, following as it happened close behind the church-growth phase. I've been in churches where a neo-legalism has taken over. I have visited in churches where there is much enthusiasm but little spiritual depth. And I have met and become friends with good people, serious about their faith, and pastors who desire for their people to grow and for the mission of evangelism to proceed. But I have not been in one church where the full gospel has been consistently preached, or understood, or lived.
I pick up the old books from my shelves and wonder what happened to the Tozers, the Nees, the Taylors, the Murrays, and the Simpsons of a generation or two ago. When I browse the bookshelves of our Christian bookstore, I find a lot of self-help - couched in spiritual terms - and directions for spiritual formation (the current term for spiritual discipline) but little proclaiming of Christ.
Oh, there are plenty of words on the cross and salvation, and what I am saying here is not to belittle that. Life begins with Christ, with faith in his substitutionary death on the cross for us. But the gospel does not end there. It goes on to speak of our being joined with him in his death and being raised with him into new life. And it speaks, as the foundation of any spiritual good and progress toward true maturity, of Christ in us. It speaks of faith in these truths as the means, the only means, of achieving spiritual maturity or accomplishing any spiritual good in our ministries and churches. But where do we hear that any more.
Rather we see a dependence upon programs, both corporate and private. We see the use of worldly means to draw a crowd. We see the church run like a corporation and pastors as hard working CEOs. And we see, even in ourselves, a willingness to accept these external things as marks of success or spiritual progress. And sadly, even in ourselves, we see an unwillingness to turn loose of these things and to trust God to honor his word as it is fully proclaimed and lived. The poor results of this human efforts we deem to be superior to the "uncertainty" of God's power.
I stand convicted.
I listened last night to a message by one of the last of those old saints. His name is T. Austin-Sparks. You can catch him online at T. Austin-Sparks . Or listen to the message that pricked me anew at "A Livinbg Hope - Part 1". Maybe together we can begin to pray for what we Christians desperately need, a new reformation.