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A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed that we’d be facing any one of these challenges. We’re facing all of them at once, which should drive us to our knees.

  • Personal fatigue — Most people I know are tired and a little discouraged. Ministry is challenging at the best of times, and these aren’t the best of times. I recently read a prediction from the Economist that widespread vaccination will be achieved in Canada in 2022, not this year, and my heart sank. The cumulative fatigue we’re all facing is significant.
  • Division — I’ve watched friends separate Stateside over their political differences. I’m watching the same happen here over issues like epidemiology and secondary theological issues. The church should definitely not divide over our understanding of epidemiology. While secondary theological issues are important, I agree with what one pastor in Australia said: “It’s not just about what you fight over but about how you fight.” Gavin Ortlund writes, “In doing theological triage, humility is the first thing, the second thing, and the third thing. It is our constant need, no matter what issue we are facing.” And yet humility sometimes seems in short supply.
  • Flabby church muscles — I know churches that haven’t met once since last March. Another church I know isn’t allowed to meet in person, and the Internet is too slow for any kind of online call. When we start to meet again, we’ll probably find that some of our church muscles have atrophied and need to be trained again.
  • Bills C-6 and C-7 — Two proposed bills, one regarding conversion therapy and another concerning medically assisted death, carry significant implications for Christians. We can expect more issues like these to arise in coming years.

How to Respond

Francis Schaeffer published a book called The Church at the End of the 20th Century in 1970. He describes a world in crisis, marked by polarization, disillusionment, and upheaval. It’s not one of his best known books, but I think that Elliott Clark is right: it’s perhaps his most relevant book for our time.

Is there a future for the church in the middle of this crisis? Schaeffer thinks there is, but it will involve taking a stand for truth, even when it’s costly, and forming churches that are communities, not just preaching points.

“We need a Christianity that is strong, one that is not just a memory,” he writes. “The games of yesterday are past. We are in a struggle that the church has never been in before.” We need fresh compassion for all segments and societies, to open our homes, and to structure our churches for community.

“It is not a day for small games,” says Schaeffer. “We need to teach a Christianity of content and purity of doctrine. And we need to practice that truth in our ecclesiastical affairs and in our religious cooperation if people, young and old, are to take our claim of truth seriously.”

In other words, the church must be the church: repentant, robust, dependent, and ready to meet the challenges of the day.

The times are challenging. The world needs the church. With God’s help, let’s rise to the challenge.

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