Reformed evangelicals will be writing about this years’ shepherds conference Q & A session for some time to come. I don’t plan to address what went on before the final question of that session. This isn’t because I don’t find that conversation important, but it’s because many other people will write on such issues (and already have), so if you are interested in that conversation go ahead and type into google about it and I’m sure you will find what you’re looking for. Instead, I would like to address the best quote of the entire session.
The best quote of the session came a whopping hour and 10 minutes into the Q & A when Sinclair Ferguson was asked by John Macarthur, “How’s things going in Scotland?” Prophetically, in the sense of a man of God speaking into a culture, Ferguson spoke for a few moments on the current spiritual context in Scotland. His words were very dark and gloomy as he explained the 50 years further past the United States that Scotland currently is in decline. He explained how the Scottish Government “is determined to be the most progressive government in the world concerning these areas,” the areas he referred to are LGBT related, “to the point of a child of whatever age declaring themselves no longer to be a boy but a girl, and essentially the parents barred from any consultation (for example).” He lamented this incredible break-down in logical thinking in regards to sexuality which pushes young children to make decisions for themselves in these regards while simultaneously not giving them the freedom to make many other free choices for their lives in mostly any other regard (I.E. they are more likely to allow a child to choose a gender than a diet). Ferguson then went on to share his belief that the overarching thoughts of the Scottish people are that if they can get rid of the Christian people they can go back to being the decent and free people they used to be. He noted the irony that before the Gospel came to Scotland their country was actually pagan (Haven’t you ever seen “Braveheart?”). After explaining such dark and gloomy cultural, logical, ethical, moral, and most importantly, spiritual conditions in Scotland he then proclaimed the church in Scotland is now living like the New Testament church more than ever before and “we need not be pessimists; the gospel will prevail.”
The perspective Ferguson has is utterly gospel-focused, and is nothing but encouraging to me as a young person who is living in a society, that if he is right, is only 25-50 years behind in terms of moral decay than his own. This means quite literally that when I am Sinclair’s age I may be the one needing to speak the exact truth he has spoken at this year’s shepherd’s conference to the younger generation. We as Christians may look at our society and think, “If it is this bad now then how can we even have hope to move forward into the 2020’s, and the 2030’s, and so on?” The answer for Ferguson is the same answer for each of us, even if we are not from the U.K., and even if we are considerably younger than he is.
I was having a conversation yesterday with a young South African woman who was telling me about the drastic racial situation in her home country, and she said “You all as Americans can’t even fathom what they will do to you back in my country.” She was referring to the way in which people in South Africa will literally kill a member of a certain group and get away with it. In the United States we certainly have our issues, but this young woman is correct in that we can’t wrap our minds around the current climate which makes it unsafe for her to return to her home country at the moment. Not too long ago, I had a very similar conversation to the one with the South African young lady only this one was with a young Egyptian man. The young Egyptian man was explaining the threat of a Christian in Egypt being killed by the former Muslims in power. I’ll never forget what he said to me, “In my country they will literally kill you, but in America they will kill you on the inside.” I said this quote to the South African lady I spoke to yesterday, and she said “I think that’s true, and I think the way they kill you in America is even worse…” How can we hear that and know this is true of our current and future American culture, and yet still agree with Ferguson’s quote and have hope the way he expressed it?
Ferguson helped give us the reason why we can and should have hope moving forward. He said, “These are days in which living churches under the ministry of the word are being built and these are so remarkable to people that when they are exposed to them they say ‘I did not know that the church was like this…’ And so the church is becoming, I think, like the one divine community in a community that has rejected God that will shine like a light in a dark place. And those churches are being built. They are small, but they are real, and I belong to one of them and it’s a thrilling thing to see.” Having a high view of God’s sovereignty leads us to trust His Holy Spirit to do His work by His word, and it allows us to live out the reality that though the gates of Hell are aligned against Jesus’ church they cannot prevail!
What was so encouraging about Ferguson’s closing comments of the entire Q & A was that he did not tuck his tail between his legs and say, “Maybe it’s time we just give in.” He also did not call for arms and alarmingly declare a crusade. Furthermore, he did not suggest a strategic culture war using propaganda tools- NO! Ferguson was realistic about the darkness of his nation, but even more optimistic about the power of the Gospel that is “the power of salvation for all; to the Jew first and then to the Greek.” As the church carries onward, lives out our calling as Christ’s bride in the midst of a world that rejects him, well we will become more and more Gospel focused and centered, because we will know more and more our great need for Christ and His perfect life, His sacrificial death, His resurrection, His rule in heaven, and His return to take us home. If a culture is getting darker then it needs the light of the Lord Jesus more-not less- and so let it be that we trust in the gospel message of the light who came into the world, so that as non-believers hear the good news of Jesus we will also, “Let our light shine before all men, so they may see your good deeds and glorify your God in heaven.” God has ordained and elected us as His Church for the cause Ferguson spoke to, so may we trust His Word and His Spirit.