This article was recently published in the Community of Concern Newsletter. Due to an error, only half of the article was printed. Here is the full text:
We find it remarkable, astonishing and heartening that one morning, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit filled His church with power from on high. It is certainly exciting that there was an audible rush of wind, that tongues of flame danced upon each disciple's head, and that they were empowered to declare salvation in the name of Christ to Jews who had gathered in Jerusalem speaking every kind of language. But what is really spectacular is that in that one day over 3000 people were brought from darkness into light, and received Jesus and the eternal life he procured on the cross. The community of believers, the church of Christ went from 500 eyewitnesses to their risen Lord to a movement that would shake every empire in history.
Fast forward to the twenty-first century, to a large prosperous country (containing a relatively small population on the world stage) thousands of kilometres away, speaking two languages that hadn't even existed on the day of Pentecost. Focus in on a scattered group of believers gathering in homes and church buildings under the banner of The United Church in Canada. Those who still believe in Pentecost; who still trust the Scriptures as containing the only infallible rule of faith and life; who declare Jesus of Nazareth as Lord and Christ; well, these people are having a hard time connecting their experience of the Church with the powerful and effective Holy Spirit mission that has liberated countless sinners from the death, doom, deception and domination of sin. The church that once gathered 1.6 million souls in worship, service and evangelism continues a dramatic decline. And in the culture around us Christians seem to be losing ground in a world rejecting the good counsel of the Word of God. Our retreat threatens to become a rout.
In this backdrop it can do no harm to consider the perspective of Leith Anderson,the President of the National Association of Evangelicals. Speaking to the 2012 Pastors' Conference at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Leith expressed his own feelings of dismay and discouragement as he surveyed the spiritual climate in North America. Although he didn't directly mention it, his own concerns could only have been compounded by the scandal that had recently rocked the organization of which he was now head. The spiritual impact of the evangelical orthodox faith seems to be in decline throughout North America, even as some people campaign loudly to hold onto political sway.
Whatever the roots of his despondency, his relief came in the form of facts and figures: "And as I sat in my chair and thought about it I reflected on some numbers I had read earlier on that same day. Those numbers claim that in the People's Republic of China there are about 32,000 people every day who come to faith in Jesus Christ, 365 days of the year; And there are about 20,000 new believers every day in Africa south of the Sahara Desert, and about 10,000 every day in South America. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil and I wrote down those and some other numbers, added them together and then divided them by 24. I came out with a number in excess of 3,000. I realized that while the great moment of the early church was the day of Pentecost where 3,000 came to Jesus Christ in a single day, that I live in a time when there is a Pentecost every hour, 24 hours of everyday, 365 days of every year, far eclipsing anything that is recorded in the New Testament book of Acts."
The piece you are reading is being written on the eve of Remembrance Day 2012, My heart and mind are moved by the terrible trials and heroic endurance of our veterans. They fought, and conquered certainly, but they also fought holding actions, and covered retreats, and spent their very lives in trenches, and beaches and foxholes which seemed as far from victory as from home. How dearly they hoped and prayed for supplies, relief and reinforcement. How great their exultation when the rumours of such treasures turned to reality; when fresh reinforcements knelt in the dirt beside them.
Our Lord knows the troubles we've seen. Yes, it's hardly to be compared to the soldiers of battle, or the blood of the martyrs; yet He prizes endurance (which oddly enough only exists in cold, dreary times). "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary." (Re 2:2–3 NIV). The news on the front is good. Reinforcements are pouring in! There is a Pentecost every hour! "From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people."(Ps 3:8 NIV)
Leith Anderson reflects further on the statistics that so encouraged him, "And that sort of led me into a fantasy . A fantasy that one day you and I would be walking down the streets of heaven together talking. . . and a total stranger would come up behind us, tap us on the shoulder and say, 'Somebody told me that you were there then. Somebody told me that your century on earth was the twenty-first century. I'm from a different time and place; could you tell me - what was it like? what was it like to be there when God was doing this great thing, greater than any time before?'. . . People say, 'When I get to heaven I've got questions for Moses and Joshua and Matthew and Mark and Luke and John, I'm gonna get in line- ' It occurred to me that maybe they will be getting in line to ask us, 'What was it like to be there when God was doing this great thing? What was your part? What did you do when God was bringing in a greater harvest than any other time in the church of Jesus Christ?'"
You can say this: You held, you endured. You maintained faith and hope and love, You gave a reason for the hope that is in you. You encouraged your fellow believer, you reached out to your wandering neighbour. You prayed, trained, spoke, and served. No doubt you will also say, "I didn't do that much, I failed more than stood, I fought more than I loved." yet in the day that reinforcements push past your post to victory, they will find in you the testimony of one kept by God's grace for His eternal Glory.