He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” John 1.51
These are dark days for many churches in Scotland. Pentecostal churches continue to make inroads and the Free Church is pursuing its vision to plant congregations in every parish and time will tell if the momentum lasts. But, for the majority of mainline denominations, a double whammy of seemingly irreversible decline and the waves of exhaustion and disillusion engulfing clergy confirm the Moderator's recent pronouncement that we are operating within an increasingly hostile, post-Christendom environment. As with polar ice-caps, there comes a point where the erosion is irreversible and where combining factors accelerate the process.
Here is where it is important to distinguish between denominations, which are human constructs, and the Church of Jesus Christ, which is God's invention. The former will come and go, like everything else. The latter will achieve whatever the Creator decides and we have it on record that the Church of Jesus Christ will advance and not even the gates of hell can resist its progress. This is the underlying reality to the decline and despair that have dominated my 30 years in ministry. The challenge before us is three-fold: to see through the apparent narrative of hopelessness, to discern what God is doing at the deeper level and to take appropriate action.
As various as our roles in church life are the options we have. Those with their hands on the levers of power may be able to initiate institutional change in their denomination. For most of us it is a personal decision. What we cannot do is bury our head in the sand or walk away. We are the church and the church is the body of Christ, so to love Jesus means to care for his spiritual body, as we do our physical bodies. So whether we decide to stick it out wherever we happen to be or join with others in moving towards a post-denominational way of witnessing and worshipping, it is still church and we are still members of the body - His body!