As I write the Taliban have once again taken over Afghanistan and thousands of ordinary people, especially those who have helped the US and British forces, have been scrambling to get away via Kabul Airport. The scenes have been shocking and heartbreaking.
With the US military pulling out, we are back where we were twenty years ago. Afghanistan will become a brutal Islamist state. There are already reports of terrible atrocities in the country and thousands of hardened extremists have been released from prison, including from Bagram air base, and, in time, will unleash their terrorism upon the West.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks I reflected in my editorial in Evangelicals Now, ‘Will the Western world have the backbone to stand up to such fanatical and determined opponents?’ Evidently the answer is ‘no we don’t.’ Why is that? It is ultimately because secularism, which believes only in this life and believes only in personal peace and prosperity, has nothing worth dying for. Therefore, it has great difficulty in summoning the moral fibre to defend itself.
What has this got to do with the churches?
As I watched some of the distressing news footage of the withdrawal from Kabul, I felt ashamed that we should abandon ordinary people to the mercy of the Taliban. But then it hit me that maybe something just as shameful is going on spiritually.
All over the country many little churches are on their last legs. If they close – and it seems as if the vast majority will in the next few years – then we will be abandoning whole communities to something far worse than even the Taliban. We will be leaving them to the tender mercies of Satan, sin and secular values which take people to a lost eternity. The last witness to the Lord Jesus Christ will go out like a light.
And when I consider this, I shiver to realize that Christians are doing this because of the same lack of backbone which has led to the retreat from Afghanistan. The church has, by-and-large, lost its grit because we have grown used to being comfortable. Our churches are full of people who have been brainwashed into believing that they are fragile and could not possibly take on a risky venture of faith for Christ.
I remember talking sometime ago to my old pastor Stuart Olyott. He told me that when he graduated from Bible College there was a bravery among many of his fellow students. He quoted one who asked where he was hoping to minister as saying, ‘the place with the least pay and the most devil’.
And, of course, this attitude is not unique in church history. We all remember the famous words of C. T Studd, quoted in many a sermon: ‘Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell’. But it seems the heart for that kind of thing has now evaporated. Instead we have a plethora of glossy ‘discipleship’ courses, which never actually produce any real disciples – well not in a way a previous generation of evangelicals would have thought worthy of the name.
You can do this
It’s time to take a look at ourselves. It’s time to be brave. Actually, young Christian, aspiring pastor, with the Lord’s help you can do this. You are not lesser people than those who went before. The arm of the Lord is not shorter than it was.
Let’s not pull the plug. Let’s find those places that need the gospel and go there.