ONE: The Pressures on the Church
are going to examine, very briefly for these are only introductory
notes, some of the key pressures upon believers that come from
the world's teaching & behaviour being at odds with that in
the Bible. We are going to very briefly examine:
Some Preliminary General Considerations
Factors Affecting Belief
Primary Areas of Confusion for
Believers in this Changing World
Affluence & Materialism
Science & Technology
Attacks on the Bible
of these has contributed to the present state of the Church in
the West. We will consider the nature and effects of each.
Some Preliminary General Considerations
first, some generalization caveats:
some pressures are uniform on all
some pressures are especially strong
on younger generations,
all pressures are to do with beliefs
which lead to actions,
all the pressures are not necessarily
bad, some are good; it is the way we respond to them, in a godly
way or ungodly, that is important.
Factors affecting Belief
The world has changed dramatically
and church is often unaware of the changes, therefore there is often
a failure to teach on those changes.
Christians can thus become schizophrenic
or suffering multiple personality disorder, in the sense that they
are led to interpret
and almost feel they have to have two personalities.
for this is that the world tells us one thing and the Bible says
another thing (apparently) and therefore believers so often have
to live in two different worlds – the ‘real' world out there, and
the ‘church' or ‘spiritual' world in here.
recognize these two ‘worlds' and perhaps not harmonize and understand
them, is what causes many (especially younger people) to abandon
the ‘church' and live entirely in the ‘real' world outside.
teach on these things has only helped to allow it to happen.
what I have just said, we do need to realize that ‘real world'
and ‘spiritual world' are simply perceptions, the way people mistakenly
assess these two apparently different worlds. There are two things
to be added to this. First, we can say with a certainty that the
so-called ‘real world', that we live in every day of our lives,
is not only what some of us think it is. There are spiritual
dynamics at play even though the people of ‘the world' (and sadly
many Christians) are mostly not aware of it. Second, following
this, and this is sad, the ‘spiritual world' perception of many
inside the Church so often is inadequate and falls short of the
wonder of the world that God has given us to enjoy – which we'll
consider later – but we think like that out of a defensiveness
that arises because our church has not taught and equipped us
to see more fully. More of this later.
Primary Areas of Confusion for Believers in this Changing World
Affluence & Materialism
God's intent for mankind – abundance in all things. The world that
God created was ‘good', very good! (Gen 1:25,31)
We live here
in the West in the most affluent period of history. People living
in the West are likely to be in the top 10% of the world's affluent
people. Even those who consider themselves not well off are, in
fact, better off with more resources available to them, than the
majority of the rest of the world.
of affluence is that we become self-satisfied and drift from God
(see the warning in Deut 6:10-12). THIS is the very real danger
of living in the affluent society.
disregarding the spiritual, can easily become an offshoot of affluence.
It is the outlook of the majority in the West today. The truth,
the Bible tells us, is that we live in a material AND spiritual
breeds busyness and in many lives in our secular society, ‘activity'
conflicts with church presence (esp. young families with the amazing
provision that there is for our children).
This last point
particularly impacts us because the majority of our society (95%
in the UK, 70% in the USA it is said) are not ‘in church' on a Sunday,
indicating their values and allegiances, but for the children and
young people in particular, much outside provision for them happens
on a Sunday morning now.
needs to be given to take the pressure off Sunday morning services
and see there are other ways and other times Christians can gather
for fellowship, teaching, worship etc., the things vital to a flourishing
spiritual life. More later.
Science & Technology
The world has
been transformed by science & technology. From the outset we
need to understand that all science can be used for good or evil,
blessing or harm. A few minority cultures around the world have
withdrawn from the world, failing to see that all good gifts come
from heaven above. God is not surprised by any knowledge that comes
to light in science, or the technology that has been developed over
the past half century or more.
of this impinges on every area of life (and the world) – social
media, communications / entertainment, travel, home technologies,
surgery, health, space tourism, 5g networking enhancing communications
and general technology, quantum computers opening up robotic applications
in life transforming (or threatening) ways, etc. etc.
is also creating ‘nightmare' or ‘doomsday' scenarios e.g. robotics
& human destruction, Star Wars weaponry and warfare, environmental
crises, cyborg lives (technology within the body), superhumans (intellect/memory
enhancement), biological pandemics (purpose & accidental) -
all are no longer merely ‘on the drawing board' but are being widely
discussed as very real possibilities, if not probabilities!
All of these
things create an entirely different mindset from the person who
lived a hundred years ago. This involves the way we think about
the world (and God) and ourselves.
We often feel
knowledge/affluence means we are ‘masters of our destiny'. Enhancing
personal pride is a temptation that comes with every new development.
Atheistic voices declare that the removal of old, quaint, superstitious
beliefs (of religion) will open the door for a brave new future
where possibilities are endless.
In the absence
of adequate, relevant teaching from within the church – see below
– believers succumb to this mental outlook which further erodes
intentions to hold to traditional biblical values (see below).
We should add,
and perhaps this is something to be clearly identified and taught,
that science and technology often do little to ameliorate the social
problems modern society finds itself with and, in fact, sometimes
they exacerbate those problems. All things to be recognized and
Since the 1950's there has been a constant change in attitudes
towards human relationships, a change towards behavioral autonomy
(permissiveness) and away from biblical standards of behaviour.
With a moving away from God towards a godless, secular society,
absolutes were abolished and an ‘anything goes' attitude prevails.
The biblical standard that limits sexual activity to ‘one man
plus one woman, committed to each other for life' has been abandoned.
The results have been:
is viewed by many in younger generations especially (but not solely)
as a normal part of an everyday relationship with (any) others,
given the opportunity, (boyfriend often means sexual partner),
is the norm for many, despite the frequent surveys that show that
it is far less stable than a committed marriage, and more prone
common, with inadequate counselling provision to avoid it happening,
despite the frequent surveys that show the harm done to children
through divorce, and the ensuing dysfunctional behaviour of the
young being observed in society,
have been removed and identity confusion reigns with inadequate
consideration and understanding being given to a) the reality in
each case and b) the effects upon society and individuals.
overall result is a society that is confused, wandering and lost
in a sea of uncertainty and fear (often, of not being loved).
Attacks on the Bible
For the believer
(or possible future believers) this is potentially the most damaging.
For a number
of years the attitude of the world has been that the Bible is outdated,
inaccurate and therefore irrelevant and many, in ignorance, have
with the attitudinal changes seen in the above three sections, has
been used by the enemy to pressurize believers to get them to conform
to this belief of biblical ‘irrelevancy' and ‘misinterpretation'.
Church teaching to counter these untruths has frequently been inadequate
and irrelevant – quite probably from lack of awareness of what is
happening ‘out there'.
The enemy strategy has been to remove the Bible as a foundation
of Christian belief and this has been seen in:
attacks by leading crusading atheists in the early part of the
21st century which, although well refuted by a number of excellent
Christian apologists, still had devastating effect on the beliefs
of many, especially when church leaders failed to make themselves
aware of these things and teach accordingly.
attacks upon the Bible from within the church, by what were once
described as liberal thinkers, a trend where books are appearing
that demean or demote the Bible as our foundation. Again the absence
of awareness by church leaders and therefore applied teaching,
has allowed this trend to continue, a trend one has to say that
is built upon ignorance, poor biblical knowledge and poor understanding.
Although there will be many who are unaware of this trend, there
are an increasing number who subscribe to the dogma, that ‘the
Bible is not inspired as has been traditionally taught and therefore
it cannot be relied upon as the foundation of our faith'.
The level of
biblical knowledge by the average believer appears to have diminished
over recent decades. Older believers can often quite easily think
of a dozen Bible teachers who impacted them. Rarely is that so for
the vast majority of younger believers. (Check out Part 5 to see
if the names are familiar to you or you have equivalent more modern
The lack of
biblical knowledge and understanding, means that often the average
believer is ill-equipped to sustain a strong spiritual life, and
act as a positive witness in the world of discussion.
record, and the teaching it contains, speaks of normality being
God's design for mankind, and the battle has been to undermine the
veracity of the Bible and His design.
is not to take out passages of the Bible but look afresh at how
we understand them. We need to wrestle with the areas of conflict
with world data (see below).
Activity (to be
seeks to slow or even destroy the work of God in both the individual
and the church by seeking to get individual believers to either
settle in complacent ‘don't change anything' mode, or
let doubt and fear (cousins!) reign to create unbelief, or
settle for ‘I can work to improve us without the Spirit' outlooks,
focus on lesser doctrines and concerns and ignore the call of
the word and the
Spirit to bring life to the body and glory to God,
resist calls to change, and
create divisiveness and cliques.
The options here are:
to ignore what the world says, but in the meantime that would
mean our younger generations are being taught the world outlook
and thus find themselves in conflict with what they hear in church,
and so opt out of church, or
to seek to see the heart of the conflicts and ponder on how the
Bible can or cannot be used to understand what the world says
but in a biblical context.
of Intellectual Conflicts to be resolved
of the areas, where world (scientific) opinion and traditional
Bible interpretation are often seen to be in conflict and thus
need resolving, include (as a start):
Evolution versus Creation
Long or short history
Piltdown man or Adam and Eve?
Judgements by a God of love?
Problem of evil - why it exists
is not the place to expound on each of these but there are good
and acceptable answers to all of these. Failures to address these,
contributes to what I referred to earlier as almost a feeling
of schizophrenia, or perhaps it should be ‘multiple personality
disorder', that deals with ‘spiritual language & behaviour'
on one hand while at the same time believing the materialistic
and sometimes atheistic world view (backed apparently by science)
on the other. These are the intellectual challenges.
spiritual challenges are always there, that we resist the demeaning
of God, the Bible and His design, and we learn more fully to live
lives in the Spirit, inspired by Him, taught by Him, led by Him,
and used by Him, to bring wisdom, revelation and power, both inside
the Church and outside it.