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Imagine the Church of England with One Million Disciples of Christ

Imagine the Church of England with One Million Disciples of Christ

By Julian Mann
Special to Virtueonline
November 15, 2014

Following the latest Church of England statistics for 2013 showing an average of one million people attending services each week, it might be worth doing a bit of imagining.

Imagine all those people became fruitful, courageous and counter-cultural disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. Imagine them not only being faithfully taught from God's infallible written Word, the Bible, week by week but also reading their Bibles and praying Christ-centredly day by day.

Imagine them speaking up and standing up for the supremacy and uniqueness of Christ as the only Name under heaven by which all people must be saved. Imagine them standing up for heterosexual marriage as the only right God-given context for the expression of sexual love and the moral foundation of a stable society.

Imagine all these one million committed to generous, planned, sacrificial giving to the work of their local churches and to God's wider work in the world. Imagine them committed to practical love and good deeds in their local communities, work places, social networks, and schools and colleges.

What an impact for Christ that would make in the secular Britain of John Lennon's godlessly utopian 1972 hymn Imagine: "Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try, no hell below us, above us only sky, imagine all the people living for today."

But unfortunately one million committed, faithful, growing disciples of the real biblical Lord Jesus Christ is not the spiritual and moral reality across the Church of England. So it is cold spiritual comfort to be told that our national Church has more members than the four major UK political parties put together, as Canon Giles Fraser declared in The Guardian:

"About a million people go to a Church of England church each week. It's not the glory days of the church, admittedly. But just compare: the membership of the Conservative party is just 134,000 and has been very nearly halved since David Cameron took over. Membership of the Labour party is higher, at about 190,000. And the Lib Dems have just 44,000. But add them all together, and even throwing in Ukip for good measure, and you still don't have half the number of people who go to church."

The reason this statistical comparison masks the spiritual and practical reality is because the Church of England is radically different from a political party. With around 16,000 buildings and 7,600 paid clergy, many of whom it houses in local communities, the national Church carries a much heavier weight of perennial responsibility than any political party.

Political parties as voluntary organisations get busy around election times - the rest of the time they tend to tick over with an active voluntary core and a few paid officials, leaving the elected local and national politicians, who receive expenses and/or salaries from the tax payer, to get on with the job.

One million people in Church of England services shows the still considerable legacy our generation has inherited from Christian England and reflects well on those churches that have been getting on with biblically faithful and fruitful evangelism and intentional discipling.

But the reality masked by the headline statistic is that Church of England membership is becoming increasingly concentrated in centres of excellence leaving many local churches dwindling numerically and struggling to pay their way.

Small does not of course necessarily mean unfaithful. There are small churches that are biblically faithful and are seeking to reach out with the true gospel. They could do with Christian people from larger Bible-teaching churches nearby joining them.

But if our local churches of whatever size are like that in 1st century Laodicea whom the Lord Jesus was about to spew out of his mouth because of their spiritual lukewarmness (Revelation 3v14-21), then those churches will disappear sooner or later.

What we need to be praying for and working towards is that ever more local Church of England churches will like be that in Philadelphia (Revelation 3v7-13) - under pressure from the prevailing anti-Christian culture but faithful to the Lord Jesus. Those churches by God's grace will have an open door for gospel growth which no one will be able to shut.

And that means the one million committed disciples of Christ in churches like that would soon multiply.

Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire, UK - www.oughtibridgechurch.org.uk He blogs as Cranmer's Curate - www.cranmercurate.blogspot.co.uk

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