Gospel Driven Anglicanism
By the Revd Dr Mark Pickles
Pray to the Lord of the Harvest for More Workers
One of the most crucial and urgent needs in the Church of England, therefore, is the raising up of godly, Bible-believing, gospel-hearted leaders. And where are they to come from but the local church? As we have already noted, Jesus said that the harvest was plentiful but that the workers were few. The solution to that, according to Jesus, is not indifference or passivity, but urgent prayer to God to raise up more workers.
Ordinands do not appear out of a vacuum. My plea is for an integrated vision for the renewal and reform of the denomination. My concern is that as Anglican evangelicals, we:
- Lack, or are disinterested in, a theological vision of historic, Reformed, authentic Anglicanism or
- Have a vision for gospel growth that is localised and parochial or
- Have a larger vision for gospel growth that is indifferent to ecclesiology and simply aims to multiply lots of ‘local Anglican churches’
- Have a larger vision for gospel growth majoring on gospel distinctives and pursues gospel growth in partnership with other gospel churches regardless of denominational allegiance.
The weakness with all the above is that there is no comprehensive vision for the renewal and reform of the denomination. Lacking such a vision, it is inevitable that we will also therefore lack a strategy. A strategy to renew and reform the denomination must be rooted in the ministry and mission of the local church, but the local church needs to have a biblical vision for the outward spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. I am arguing that this ought to be ecclesiologically shaped, not eccelesiologically indifferent.
It is not enough simply to seek to renew and reform local congregations. We are not in the FIEC97, but part of a denomination – a denomination that is episcopally led and synodically governed. That which we seek for the local church we must also seek for the denomination. It is simply a ‘both/and’ not an ‘either/or’. Is such a vision simply unrealistic and impossible? Has it been tried and found wanting….or has it never really been tried?
In his stimulating essay ‘The Supreme Motive’, Samuel Zwemer, the so-called ‘Apostle to Islam’, writing of the need for a passion for God’s glory to be the ultimate motive in mission, says:
“Prayer is the sole dynamic in the Acts of the Apostles…God has a way of breaking through barriers and the unexpected is to be expected when He is leading on…we have only to wait on God. His power is infinite. His time limit is eternity. With God, the missionary enterprise has in it all the glory of the impossible, the adventure of leading a forlorn hope to certain victory; the glory of apparent defeat and real triumph at the end.”
The glory of the impossible. The ‘possible’ glorifies us, the possible is something attainable and achievable by our endeavours, our skill, our resources, our strength; but when the ‘impossible’ is accomplished it is unequivocally clear to all who it is that the glory belongs to.
Another missionary to Islam, Lilias Trotter, who laboured faithfully for the gospel in Algeria in the late 19th and early 20th Century, also loved to delight in the God for whom nothing is impossible:
“Let us give ourselves up to believe for this new thing on the earth. Let us dare to test God’s resources on it. Let us ask Him to kindle in us and keep aflame that passion for the impossible that shall make us delight in it with Him, till the day when we shall see it transformed into a fact”
‘A passion for the impossible that shall make us delight in it with Him’. We need this ‘passion’ now more than ever, but is that not simply what it means to believe the gospel and to believe in the God of the gospel? A true, biblical renewal and reform of the Church of England in this present day may appear at times to be impossible. However, we ought not to despair, but rather remind ourselves that although ‘with man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God ’
Is not now an opportune time to ask God to ignite within us a passion for the glory of the impossible?
Similarly, on a worldwide scale. Every evangelical Anglican church ought to be committed to and supportive of the spread of the gospel throughout the world. There are, of course, numerous, biblically-faithful mission organisations that are worthy of support. But if we are convictionally Anglican, then there ought to be a primary commitment to support Anglican missionary agencies, so long as they are clearly committed to the biblical gospel. For example, Crosslinks is an Anglican missionary society unwavering in its commitment to biblical authority and the proclamation of the gospel. Such an organisation enables a local Anglican Church to be fully engaged in worldwide mission in a way that is shaped by and expresses its ecclesiological distinctives.
Used with permission: Pickles, Mark; Gospel-Driven Anglicanism, pages 114-115, 2017.