The challenging, and sometimes depressing, news we receive daily, ranging from domestic violence at home to the Euro-Brexit abroad, reminded me of something we posted back in 2008 about the British Methodist minister, W.E. Sangster.
In a 1953 sermon, Sangster, who was pastor of Westminster Central Hall, London, asked “What would a religious revival do for Britain?” His answer: 1) pay old debts; 2) reduce sexual immorality; 3) disinfect the theatre; 4) cut the divorce rate; 5) reduce juvenile crime; 6) lessen the prison population; 7) improve the quality and increase the output of work; 8) restore a high sense of destiny for the nation; 9) make Britain invincible in the war of ideas; and 10) give happiness and peace to all the people, (found in a web article by Mark Bumpus, First Baptist Church, Mineral Wells).
Would revival … would turning back to God, solve all our nation’s problems? It may be hard for some people to see how. But it’s even harder to see how the results that Sangster claims would be bad in any way.
There’s evidence to suggest that the benefits claimed by Sangster do happen.
There are stories in our newspapers from time-to-time of people who settle decade-old debts after having “found God”.
Churches are well known for promoting marriage as the proper context for sexual relationships and supporting people in their relationships. While we don’t always manage to live up to our ideals, it is an important part of our faith. The evidence linking uncommitted relationships and negative outcomes is pretty strong.
“Disinfecting the theatre” would extend to TV, videos, and films, which would no longer need to carry warnings about “content which may offend” – and of course the internet.
NZ church life survey figures indicate that marriage break-up rates are significantly lower in the Church than the general population. This translates into fewer family breakdowns and resulting cost in society.
The majority of young people are not involved in crime whether they are part of a church or not. But youth involved in Church are supported in spiritual growth, and frequently participate in activities for the benefit of local communities.
A UK survey showed that Christians volunteer for community activities at over 4 times the rate of the general population.
The evidence from our faith-based prison units shows that the behaviour in prison is better, and recidivism rates are reduced, where people have found faith in God.
The “Puritan work ethic” is now something of a cliché, but highlights the fact that Christians have played a significant role in developing people’s understanding of work. Scripture says “do everything as if for God and not just for humans” which is a constant challenge to the quality of our work.
New Zealand was once called “Godzone”. Revival would restore a sense of destiny for the nation. A nation hungry for God would be a nation hungry for justice, goodness, purity, strong families, compassion, honesty, and integrity. Who does not want to see these things in in New Zealand?
Revival would open people to God’s wisdom which is infinite. This wisdom is the foundation of Christian living which evidence again suggests leads generally to happier, wealthier, longer lives, and even enjoy better sex lives than the general population. Who would not want these blessings for themselves, their families, and for our country?
Life is intended to be lived in right relationship with God, which helps people live in right relationship with each other. In faith communities people develop a relationship with God, which the Bible says is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom.
A secularist approach to solving society’s ills, does so, without reference to God. But the heart-change God produces in revival, which can be seen every week in churches around the country, could remove many of these ills altogether.