The 2022 Vision is driven by two things – the first is a Biblical fact; the second is an opinion. But, together, both fact and opinion should motivate us to go forward this year…
“THE TIME IS SHORT” (1 CORINTHIANS 7: 29)
Here is the incontrovertible fact:
- The time is short. One thing that COVID has shown all of us over the past 2 years is that none of us know what tomorrow holds…except that we do, don’t we…we know where we are going…we have the peace and the joy and the hope of eternal life. However, it is true to say that each day we are one day closer to Glory – and none of us wants to stand before the Throne of God wishing that we had taken more of a stand for Him while we were here on this earth.
- The time is short. One day – maybe soon – Jesus Christ will return – what we call, His Second Coming. Many around the world believe that so much of what is happening at this time – with the pandemic, with terrorism, with the rise of extremist Islam, with increasing government controls and COVID-passes – is the “beginning of birth pains”. And none of us wants to welcome the Second Coming wishing that we had taken more a stand for Him while we had the chance.
THE CHURCH IS WEAK AND COMPROMISED
And here is my opinion – but I fear that it is true:
And I am not pointing my fingers at you. I am pointing my fingers at myself!
Not since the birth of Christianity in the UK has the church been as weak as it is today. Numbers of committed Christians are declining; churches are closing at an alarming rate. The Christian voice in the state, in society and in the media is not being heard any more (thank God for “Songs of Praise” – and I really mean that!).
A secularised society looks on the church as out-dated, out-of-touch, corrupt and compromised. Bishops and priests are accused (and found guilty) of child sexual abuse. A church that refuses to marry same-sex couples is riddled with same-sex couples amongst its clergy.
Rather than leading society in Christian Values the church is increasingly allowing society to lead the church in a new morality which is anti-Biblical in so many ways.
Areas in which the church is weak, ineffective and compromised include:
- Relationships – sex before marriage, sex outside marriage, sex with multiple partners – are all an accepted part of modern society. Same-sex love, same-sex marriage, sex-change – are all protected by law. And the church is not saying what it believes; or at the very least, the church is not being heard.
- Respect of the unborn – Abortion figures, as presented to us by Christian Concern, show a huge rise in abortions each year – in fact more unborn babies were aborted in the UK in 2020 than died of COVID-19. We are told that a mother has her rights to rid herself of an unborn child. The rights of the unborn child are not considered by society. And the church is not saying what it believes; or at the very least, the church is not being heard.
- Religion – Till well into the 20th C Christianity was considered in this country to be the only true faith. Other religions were tolerated but were considered false. Today, we are in peril if we say that Jesus is the only Way to eternal life. Those who declare this are considered intolerant. So, we keep silent while more and more people accept the lies that all religions lead to God and that you can get to Heaven by just being good. And the church is not saying what it believes; or at the very least, the church is not being heard.
- Respect of the young – Where are the young people? Where are the teenagers? Where are the young adults? We thank God for those who we have amongst us but the percentages of young people professing a true faith in Jesus is possibly at an all-time low. Post Modernism has led to a collapse of respect of the church by the young. The church is out-of-date and intolerant. They say that they cannot believe in a God who does not believe what society believes…what THEY believe and feel is right. And the church is not saying what it believes; or at the very least, the church is not being heard.
- Rearing – till well into the 20th C the education of the young in this country was a Christian education – with RE/RS and a “daily act of worship” (still the law actually) the norm. Now our children are being taught society’s norms of same sex relationship and equality of all faiths. Christian teachers and educators are told to be silent or to risk losing their jobs. A new generation is growing up with values that are no longer Christian. There is a parallel outside of education – with nurses having been banned for wearing crosses or praying for the sick, prison chaplains dismissed for preaching the Gospel, magistrates removed from office for saying parenthood is best with a mum and a dad. And the church is not saying what it believes; or at the very least, the church is not being heard.
- Rejection – and so society is rejecting Orthodox Christian teaching. And the church is not saying what it believes; or at the very least, the church is not being heard.
- Restrained – Society is holding the church back from expressing its beliefs and views. And the church is not saying what it believes; or at the very least, the church is not being heard.
Oh my goodness! This is all sounding so very negative, so very depressing!
Yes, it is! But this should only be part of the story and the introduction to the 2022 Vision.
For the church should NOT be weak. Because:
4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. (1 John 4: 4-6)
But even though the world does not want to listen to us, yet:
and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it (Matthew 16: 18)
So, our 2022 Vision is based on what we are going to do about what has gone wrong.
Walking up Christchurch Road I was struck by a van that is often parked there. It is owned by a company called “MagicMan” whose promise is to take anything that is damaged and “repair, renew and restore it”. A BOLD claim me-thinks!
But it struck me that (if you forgive the analogy) we serve the one and only true “MagicMan” – Almighty God – who is the only One who can truly take what is damaged in our society, in our lives, and in our church and make it good again – better than it was before. It is to Him that we turn to repair, renew and restore our nation, our lives and our church.
THE 2022 VISION
So, what are we going to do? How are we going to face up to the challenges of 2022?
Here is the Vision that we are hoping you are going to get-behind this year. Here is the Vision that we believe God has asked us to fix our eyes on this year. Here is the Vision that we are going to be exploring over the first three months of 2022.
Our ACC Vision for 2022 is a call for us to:
It is time to make a stand.
It is time to “Be bold, be strong, for the LORD our God is with us” (as the old song declares).
It is time for us to step out in faith and be the people God has called us to be.
It is time for us to step out in the safety of our church family and begin our boldness here, in the church family.
It is time for us to learn the lesson of the story of the prophet Ezekiel who was called to step out boldly and risk everything – whatever the consequences – because risk-taking is what we are called to do in Christ.
It is time to make a stand.
It is time to resist the pull of the world to compromise our faith.
It is time to resist the call of the world to conform to their standards of personal and sexual attitudes.
It is time to resist cultural drift when it is anti-God.
It is time for us to learn the lesson of the story of Daniel and the rest of the “Hebrew 4” who resisted the pull of Babylon to compromise their faith.
It is time to recognise how broken down the “walls of the church” are.
It is time to come together and learn the lesson of the story of Nehemiah and the Jews who had returned from Captivity – and to rebuild the “walls of the church”.
It is time!
And as we embrace this 2022 Vision we must accept that it is not going to be easy. The society in which we live is not going to be happy with us. Let us acknowledge the truth that:
“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16: 33)
Our society has rejected God and become sick. Let us listen to the words of the Psalmist and cry out to God for help:
You have rejected us, God, and burst upon us;
you have been angry – now restore us!
2 You have shaken the land and torn it open;
mend its fractures, for it is quaking.
3 You have shown your people desperate times;
you have given us wine that makes us stagger.
4 But for those who fear you, you have raised a banner
to be unfurled against the bow.[e]
5 Save us and help us with your right hand,
that those you love may be delivered. (Psalm 60: 1-5)
And all this must begin with a final “R”…Repentance. We have failed to live as the church that God has called us to be, as the individual disciples that God has called us to be. We have stood back silently for too long and allowed the world to hi-jack the thoughts and beliefs of a people without God. We have compromised in our beliefs and our actions; we have kept our mouths shut when we should have spoken out. It is time to repent and turn back to Almighty God; time to truly follow Him again. THEN we shall be ready to risk, resist and rebuild. Let us begin, therefore, by repenting…
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7: 14)