When is failure faithful


Dr. Mike Ovey asks if current evangelicals are in denial about some important matters

image: iStock

image: iStock

A week ago I was at a major Church of England jamboree as a friend was installed in a new and more senior post.

The cathedral was packed, hats and dog collars were on view and just for a moment it was easy to pretend. Easy to pretend that the Church of England was central rather than peripheral in the life of our country and its citizens. Easy to pretend that we are a success story rather than a tale of failure. So too, frankly, with evangelicals. We meet at our conferences, theatres are packed, cafés overflow and for a moment we forget.

Some encouragements but…

I quite appreciate that it is emotive and depressing to talk of ‘failure’, and that most of us prefer something more upbeat. On the other hand, isn’t there a risk of denial? Again, I am not saying there are no encouragements. It is great to hear of church plants, of sinners turning by God’s grace to the Lord Jesus through our outreach. And there certainly is a contrast between an evangelical movement that clings on and just holds its own numerically and the catastrophic downturn in churches that thought theological liberalism was some kind of answer. Obviously, by almost any measure, liberalism has failed in our country, failed numerically, failed in the popularity stakes and failed in faithfulness. If anything, I think those obvious points need to be made even more forcefully now.

Who are we not reaching?

But I wonder whether this doesn’t lead us to gloss over some of our own realities. We rightly admit that there are unreached people groups in the UK, thinking largely of race. We are far less comfortable admitting there are also increasingly unreached classes, and not just the various underclasses in our cities, but classes of entrenched interest and power in the creative and media sectors.

These classes have enormous influence, not wrong in itself, but that influence has been used to reframe what counts publicly as right and wrong. Notable examples have been the support for…(to read more click here)

Dr Mike Ovey

This article was first published in the November issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, articles or reviews, visit us online or subscribe to en for monthly updates.