Contrary to popular thought, the Church is experiencing explosive worldwide growth with more people than ever surrendering their lives to Jesus.
So said Evangelical Alliance chief executive Gavin Calver in addressing the annual conference of the Church’s Ministry among Jewish people (CMJ) in Staffordshire.
In a stirring call to recover our confidence in the gospel and invest in young people, he said the church in Britain (clearly not matching the success seen elsewhere) needed to hold her nerve and work together, especially in empowering young people.
The former Youth for Christ leader pointed out that, in reaching out to the world, Jesus formed a youth group – it is reckoned that his disciples were aged between 15 and 22.
This situation still holds true today, he said, with 86% of those who come to Christ doing so before they reach 25, borne out by the sea of hands raised from those in the auditorium who fitted this category.
Jesus empowered his young disciples by handing them the responsibility, for example, of feeding the 5,000 (which was really at least 12,000 including women and children). The generations needed to journey together, he said, which fitted in well with the conference theme ‘Together with Yeshua’.
He cautioned against putting up barriers which stop people seeing Jesus, sharing how he had been banned from church for six months as a young teenager for displaying traits for which he would later (as a prominent Christian leader) be commended!
The church was often caricatured as predictable, he said, but Jesus was full of surprises. And true Christians, he believed, should surprise people with their love and mercy.
A keen football fan, he said we had an open goal before us of those ready to hear the gospel of hope for which many are hungering. A recent poll revealed a staggering 1:3 people are interested in knowing more about Jesus (up from 1:5 in 2015).
He called for patience and perseverance – “the most counter-cultural thing you can do is to stick at something for the rest of your life” – and never giving up hope.
If he had given up following the diagnosis of infertility made over him, he and his wife Anne would never have had their two precious children, Amelie and Daniel. Yet he was determined to believe God was good whatever the outcome of his prayers, reminding us that Jesus did not have the answer for which he prayed as he agonised over his coming fate in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“This is the greatest moment for the gospel in my lifetime,” he told hundreds of delegates, adding that there was a period immediately after World War II which saw a huge rise in church attendance.
A similar window of opportunity presented itself today following the two-year pandemic when many were forced to look death in the face. People around us are hungry for Jesus and we should take this ‘open goal’ chance while it is there.
Charles Gardner, July 2022.