I recently came across a blog commenting on trends and movements within the church over the last 50 years. I have read lots about what God had been doing over the centuries concluding that God has continually sort to renew His church when it has lost its way or needs correction.
This was what happened with Martin Luther and the Protestant Revival; Wesley and Whitefield with the Methodist / Evangelical Revival and there are many other historical examples. In each case the renewal movement created a new branch of the church as well as bringing correction and adjustment to the church they left.
What was stimulating was the encouragement to reflect on the movements that God has been bringing to His church over recent years, the years since I have been part of His church.
“Over the last 50 years there have been two main movements that have helped to reshape the church so comprehensively that we sometimes forget that a change took place. First, the Pentecostal/charismatic movement has caused many to experience personal faith and a corporate encounter with God that has enabled the church to be renewed and empowered for mission.
Second, the ecumenical movement has dramatically changed the landscape so that most Christians now see their identity in Christ as primary and their denominational affiliation as almost incidental. It was not always that way round. We are now in a significantly post denominational situation and able to work easily across boundaries that were previously impermeable.”
Then even closer to today we have had “the emerging church”, which has encouraged innovation and imaginative new ways of being the church, to take account of the culture of those we are seeking to reach. This has been accompanied by “missional church”, recognising that mission isn’t just something we do in other continents, but is relevant and important in our own context.
Following on the heels of these movements has been what is called in the US “New Calvinism” centred on the teaching of Tim Keller, John Piper and Mark Driscoll amongst others. In the UK Tom Wright has been similarly influential. “Following a time when Christian teaching has seemed to dance to the tune of the secular world, many new believers have yearned for clear and intellectually sound explanations of Christian teaching. Clarity and substance are in demand.”
In summary, the consequence of the renewal God has been bringing to His church over my life time has been an emphasis on unity in Christ, empowered by the Spirit, concerned for good teaching, oriented towards mission and relevant expressions of the church.
This is something we can easily take for granted, but has been a genuine, real and exciting work of God.
There are still challenges ahead, how do we grow in a mission context that is hostile to the Christian faith, how do we get our voice heard in the public square? There is always more for God to do, however I found it helpful to reflect with gratitude on what God has already done.
WRITTEN BY TONY THOMPSON
Tony is an Elder at Hope Church Luton and part of the Leadership team.
He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.