We are facing a crisis in American Christianity:
• The breakdown of creedal Christianity has most of our older mainline denominations teetering on the brink with heresy;
• The almost wholesale amalgamation of the evangelical churches with the culture has left the Church in North America without prophetic voices (but only therapeutic ones);
• The unmitigated propagation of “tolerance” teaching and hatred of Biblical Christianity in our secularized culture is staggering.
As you think about these things I’d like to suggest three books for you to consider. I would begin with two of Philip Jenkins’ books: The Lost History of Christianity and The Next Christendom. I would also add the one that I want to highlight today: Never Silent: How Third World Missionaries are Now Bringing the Gospel to the US written by Thaddeus Barnum. The Right Reverend Barnum is a bishop in Connecticut, in the Anglican Mission in America, consecrated by the Church of England’s Province of Rwanda.
never-silentI commend the first two books so you can read about some encouraging signs of how the Holy Spirit is in fact moving in nations to bring the Gospel of Jesus to the world through transformed lives. In Africa, Latin America, Asia and India God is at work in great ways that ought to excite the hearts of those living in Old Christendom. But in Thad Barnum’s book, which chronicles the story of the coming of the African Anglicans to America, we are not only excited for other nations but also given hope for our own.
One of the most exciting movements in America today is with the Anglican Mission in America and other Anglican groups who are planting churches, revitalizing churches, and sending out home missionaries to prisons and schools and universities. Who would have figured that God would hit the American church in the heart to revive us through Episcopalians? And who would have thought that the jumpstart would come from African Anglicans in Rwanda, the poorest, most war-devastated country in Africa. But isn’t this just like God who, in the middle of the story of national spiritual collapse in Judges and the continuing story of Israel in 1 Samuel, places the story of Ruth and of Hannah. Here a Moabite woman and a childless woman (and may I add, an abused lass) whose heart longs for redemption, lead us to see that God can do great things. Here He worked underneath the larger and more visible “higher history” of nations and kings and queens. In our time, we must be encouraged that He is at it again. He is doing great things as a new Christendom emerges, but He is sending missionaries from those places back to our “Babylon” to bring revival.
Barnum concludes his book with these words on how we in old Christendom must now respond to our own people in sin:
“It is hard enough to face the pain of my own sin, but to face the people who have bound my heart in anger and bitterness? To go to them while the pain is still fresh, the wound deep and exposed, and forgive them as the Lord Jesus Christ has forgiven me? But this is what the global South missionaries are demanding from us. They’ve come to mentor us in Christ to shake us from our sins of arrogance and prosperity that have lulled us to sleep and rendered us passionless…They want us in the mission field with those who are lost without Jesus” (p. 279).
I put down Never Silent after having read Jenkins’ books and turned again to Christ. I asked Him to give me courage, like the global South missionaries who are now coming to us, to never be quiet in the face of sin, to always act on behalf of those in trouble, and to never bargain or make deals with blatant devils.
And I think if you read this book you too will go to God in prayer. Maybe something will happen to you that happened to me, something that is becoming quite rare in these days: you will have hope.