In 1890 William Booth, the English minister and founder of the Salvation Army, wrote a book called In Darkest England and the Way Out. It was sort of a juxtaposition to books about those Christians going into deepest, darkest Africa to help the ‘wretched savages’ there. As he said in Chapter One:
This summer the attention of the civilised world has been arrested by the story which Mr. Stanley has told of Darkest Africa and his journeyings across the heart of the Lost Continent. In all that spirited narrative of heroic endeavour, nothing has so much impressed the imagination, as his description of the immense forest, which offered an almost impenetrable barrier to his advance. The intrepid explorer, in his own phrase, “marched, tore, ploughed, and cut his way for one hundred and sixty days through this inner womb of the true tropical forest.” The mind of man with difficulty endeavours to realise this immensity of wooded wilderness, covering a territory half as large again as the whole of France, where the rays of the sun never penetrate, where in the dark, dank air, filled with the steam of the heated morass, human beings dwarfed into pygmies and brutalised into cannibals lurk and live and die. Mr Stanley vainly endeavours to bring home to us the full horror of that awful gloom.
In his book Booth was trying to point out that in “Christian” England things were actually not much better. Diabolical darkness had descended upon the once Christianised West. In Booth’s day London especially had become an utter hellhole of abject poverty, misery, drunkenness, prostitution and immorality.
So he spoke of how darkened and decrepit things had become. And of course Booth and his Army did so much incredible work to dispel the darkness and shine the light. Those not familiar with this mighty man of God – and his amazing wife – can see more here: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/01/07/on-aggressive-christianity/
I write all this to demonstrate how things have changed. Christianity helped to make the West. The old paganism was eventually replaced by the Christian faith, and modern Europe is a reflection of the Judeo-Christian worldview in action.
For centuries, to speak of Western civilisation was to speak of Christendom, since the two so closely-overlapped. Yes there were ebbs and flows, as in England during the times of the Booths. But because of his work and that of the Salvationists, and other Christians, things did get better, morally, socially and spiritually.
However, today so much of the West is right back to the dark old days of two millennia ago. Whereas Europe especially was among the greatest of Christian outposts and missionary-sending continents, today Europe is the most secular and anti-Christian continent. Today Europe has become a mission-field, not a missionary sender.
A few hundred years ago Europeans were sending out Christian workers and missionaries to the rest of the world. The United Kingdom for example has countless examples of this. Plenty of fearless and devout English Christians went out as missionaries into the developing world.
Simply think of William Carey (1761-1834) who ministered in India; David Livingston (1813-1873) who worked in Africa; Robert Moffat (1795–1883) Scottish missionary to Africa; and Hudson Taylor (1832-1905) missionary to China.
Many more could be mentioned. And then think of all the famous English preachers and teachers such as J. C. Ryle, George Whitefield, the Wesleys, Charles Spurgeon, F. B. Meyer, A. W. Pink, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and John Stott to name but a few. What a rich and deep heritage of godly men.
But today we find the West in general and England in particular renouncing its Christian heritage and reverting to secularism and paganism. I have documented all this time and time again. Let me here offer two more very clear examples of this great reversal.
As the West continues to descend into the gurgler, places like Africa are holding up a light in the darkness. It is not Western Christians who are leading the way here, but so often those from the non-West. My first example shows how far the UK has fallen. It involves a Christian preacher who was arrested for preaching the gospel – and he is an African! One report says this about the story:
A black street pastor, believed to be a Nigerian man, was arrested in London on 23 February apparently for an alleged “breach of the peace” as he preached the Gospel outside Southgate Underground Station. He was later “de-arrested”, according to a Metropolitan Police spokesman.
The preacher pleaded peacefully with two white police officers not to take away his Bible. In a humiliating arrest, they placed his arms behind his back in handcuffs and took the Bible from him and one officer can be heard replying, “You should have thought about that before being racist [sic].”
In a verbal exchange recorded in a two-minute video, one officer tells the unidentified preacher that he was “required to go away” because he was “disturbing people’s days”. The preacher responded, “I will not go away because I need to tell them the truth. Jesus is the only way, truth and life.”
An eyewitness told Barnabas Fund that, before the police arrived, the preacher was being confronted aggressively by a young man, apparently Muslim and in his 20s, wearing a hooded top. The man was loudly abusive about the Bible and God with his face close to the preacher’s. The young man also threatened the preacher, brandishing a closed fist holding prayer beads.
When the police arrived to question the street preacher they were witnessed saying that there had been a complaint of “Islamophobia” made against him. It is not known at the time of writing who made the complaint to the police. The young man ran away from the scene as soon as the police appeared.
Wow, did you get that? As Islam grows and grows in the UK, Christianity is becoming an endangered species. Whereas not all that long ago England and the West sent out Christian missionaries to share the good news with the rest of the world, today it is getting harder and harder to preach the gospel there – increasingly you risk being arrested.
And the real irony here is we had a man from Africa doing the preaching. We used to send Christians to Africa to evangelise them and set up churches. Today we have preachers from Africa and elsewhere coming to re-evangelise the West.
How the tide had turned. But America is in the same boat. The US once led the world in sending out missionaries to the rest of the planet. Now American Christianity is also struggling, while African believers seek to keep it afloat. Consider the recent vote on homosexuality in the United Methodist Church. Said one news report:
The United Methodist Church on Tuesday voted to strengthen its ban on gay and lesbian clergy and same-sex marriages, a decision that could split the nation’s second-largest Protestant church. After three days of intense debate at a conference in St. Louis, the vote by church officials and lay members from around the world doubled down on current church policy, which states that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” The vote served as a rejection of a push by progressive members and leaders to open the church to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Now, a divide of the United Methodist Church, which has 12 million members worldwide, appears imminent. Some pastors and bishops in the United States are already talking about leaving the denomination and possibly creating a new alliance for gay-friendly churches. “It is time for another movement,” the Rev. Mike Slaughter, pastor emeritus of Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio, said in a phone interview from the floor of the conference. “We don’t even know what that is yet, but it is something new.”
The decision, passed in a 53 percent to 47 percent vote, is the latest eruption in the fight over the future of American Christianity and over whose views of human sexuality are enshrined as Christian.
But much of this was due to Africans, Asians and others holding the line while many Americans and Westerners were jumping over the line. As Al Mohler put it:
As the sexual revolution targeted and captured many mainline Protestant denominations, the UMC held its ground. The committed conservatives within the church did not leave; they pressed on with convictional leadership as they attempted to stem the tides of secularism and liberal theology. Moreover, conservative leaders in the UMC received encouragement when the denomination opened its membership to international churches in Africa and Asia—these churches maintained a deep fidelity to traditional, biblical sexuality. Indeed, over the last several decades, the majority of the UMC’s growth arises from those Methodist churches abroad. Thus, when the denomination gathers every four years for its General Conference, conservatives have enjoyed greater representation because more representatives hail from places like Africa and the Philippines.
Consider one African champion who gave a speech on this issue at the conference on Saturday. Dr. Jerry P. Kulah, Dean of Gbarnga School of Theology, United Methodist University in Liberia, said this in part:
Friends, please hear me, we Africans are not afraid of our sisters and brothers who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning, or queer. We love them and we hope the best for them. But we know of no compelling arguments for forsaking our church’s understanding of Scripture and the teachings of the church universal.
And then please hear me when I say as graciously as I can: we Africans are not children in need of western enlightenment when it comes to the church’s sexual ethics. We do not need to hear a progressive U.S. bishop lecture us about our need to “grow up.”
Let me assure you, we Africans, whether we have liked it or not, have had to engage in this debate for many years now. We stand with the global church, not a culturally liberal, church elite, in the U.S.
We stand with our Filipino friends! We stand with our sisters and brothers in Europe and Russia! And yes, we stand with our allies in America.
We stand with farmers in Zambia, tech workers in Nairobi, Sunday School teachers in Nigeria, biblical scholars in Liberia, pastors in the Congo, United Methodist Women in Cote d’Ivoire, and thousands of other United Methodists all across Africa who have heard no compelling reasons for changing our sexual ethics, our teachings on marriage, and our ordination standards!
We are grounded in God’s word and the gracious and clear teachings of our church. On that we will not yield! We will not take a road that leads us from the truth! We will take the road that leads to the making of disciples of Jesus Christ for transformation of the world!
Wow, amen and amen brother Kulah. What a breath of fresh air. He actually believes the Bible! He actually prefers to remain faithful to God and his Word than to run with the latest trends of immoral Western worldlings. We need more believers like him.
Again, we have Africans and others coming to the West to uphold biblical Christianity, while it is withering on the vine there. Talk about a massive reversal of fortune. The West once led the way in sending out missionaries. It is now a mission field. Praise God for our faithful brothers and sisters from the non-Western world and their great care for us in the West.