Were any of you listening to/watching last night's TV programme 'What have the 'noughties' done for God?'? I had not noticed it in the evening's programme and I was sight-checking part of John's Gospel in the Huastec language for Wycliffe Associates (UK) when the TV programme in the background changed. So I stopped checking when I could (at the end of a page), to listen. Actually, I discovered that I was listening to Newsnight (as I usually do) and, with the end of the first decade of the 21st Century in sight, the BBC had begun a series on the changes brought about during this decade - the 'noughties'.
I found it a most depressing account of the decade, since it dwelt on the arguments and divisions that have been prominent in the media and the often highlighted decline in churchgoing. It was said that the habitual church-going world had vanished very quickly, and marriage and the sanctity of human life have been downgraded; that freedom of speech now comes above religious belief, which is now less influential, with no monopoly on the moral highground. It went on to say that today there is a fuzzy faith, so that the church now meets the people half-way, bringing the secular world into the church with cafes, and that many Christians question the rules (on homosexuality, for instance) - in turn, causing schism and a two-tier Church of England.
The programme included the change that radical Muslims had brought about by the bombing of New York and London, and also the new prominence of atheism, with an atheist exhibition in Cambridge and posters denying the existence of God on London's buses. Showing a ruined church, it stated that people want a religious home but not a prison, and it concluded that 'this is an age of doubt which offers great opportunities but threatens it with ruin'. Most depressing! But is it right?
How do you view the last decade, the 'noughties'? This programme emphasised all the negative aspects of life in the last ten years, but what about the positive side? I would like you to listen to last night's Newsnight on BB2 iPlayer and join me in listing what we HAVE actually done for God in the 'noughties', please.
In many churches, fresh ways of worshipping and 'Back to Church Sundays' have brought many people back to church in this decade. Countering that sense of being imprisoned in the four walls of the church, its people are now taking the Gospel out on to the streets much more than in previous decades, using all kinds of new expressions of church, like cafe churches and the surfers' church in Devon! The
most notable of all is Share Jesus international 'Pentecost Festival 2008 and 2009' which flooded the streets of London with all kinds of events to bring the living Jesus to the people of London. Again, outside the churches, events like , Easter People and , , and , to name but a few, keep gathering together many hundreds of Christians (young and old) to worship and learn with great enthusiasm. There is no decline there! The emphasis today is that the church is not the building but the people who worship there. There are churches who are selling their church buildings in favour of worshipping in the school or community centre.
In Reading, an ecumenical charity called has grown in the 'noughties' from one small shop and advice centre to five shops in all, covering the outskirts of the town - and plans are in hand to open a sixth in another area. CCA demonstrates God's love by meeting people's practical needs and restoring self-worth to immigrants and those who are rehabilitating after treatment for drug or alcohol addiction or a spell in prison. The shops sell donated goods ,and donated furniture furnishes the flats of those starting a home.
Then there is the remarkable success of Wycliffe Bible Translators in the provision of the Scriptures in the heart languages of so many peoples throughout the world - a work which gathered pace tremendously during the 'noughties' and set a target of Vision 2025. Alongside this, Wycliffe Associates (UK) have produced EasyEnglish translations, with limited vocabulary at three levels, for people whose second language is English and for the Deaf. This work has been so successful that it created a demand for similar work in other languages and now teams of people across the world are working to produce easyBibles in their own heart languages. Forgetting everything else, all this translation work alone has done mighty things for God in the 'noughties'. I am glad and proud to have lived to see this transformation, making it possible for all kinds of disadvantaged people to be able to read and hear the Word of God in their own language.
I must mention the work made possible through the which has made small miracles possible around the world - training and assisting small farmers to grow more efficiently and providing clean water in poor countries. The 'noughties' have done so much for God through the giving to MRDF!
Finally, not least are the countless churches here that are twinned, as my church is, with work in other parts of the world, building churches, paying teachers' salaries and providing equipment. This work goes on quietly, regularly, and added up tells a story of powerful work for God in the 'noughties'.
I could go on, and I'm sure you could all add to what I have written. Why don't we let the outside world know what IS being done for God? Isn't it time that the Media ran some Good News stories instead of concentrating on the arguments and negative aspects of church life? It would make much better reading than the depressing news we keep hearing every day, and please, please, PLEASE can't someone produce a really good film for TV Newsnight showing the positive side of our work for God?