I am blessed with an excellent Christian radio station in my area which airs some of the best preachers and conference speakers, both contemporary and from years gone by. I’ve been listening to a series about John Bunyan’s classic allegory “The Pilgrim’s Progress” on a program called, “Renewing Your Mind”. The speaker for this series is acknowledged expert on Bunyan, theologian Derek Thomas. [You can get copies of the book and series recording from http://www.ligonier.org/]
Every night’s session has been eye-opening in that Thomas is able to give the historical perspective to this seminal work, clarifying the more obscure allegorical references. This book has long been a favorite of mine, ever since I read the children’s version (The Little Pilgrim’s Progress) when my sons were small, but these lectures have enriched my understanding.
One session covered Christian’s arrival at the Palace Beautiful, which represents the organized Church and Bunyan’s love of it. Going through Christian’s experiences in the Palace Beautiful we can see what the Church was like in Bunyan’s day.
I was struck by the emphasis on spiritual talk in the Church Body, both within the sanctuary and among individual church members in their day to day interaction. This spiritual talk was comprised of retelling in worship each one’s path to Christ, and in daily discussions of individual spiritual struggles, blessings, and current strength of faith.
I’ve been in a wide variety of worship services in the past few decades and in none of them was there a regular opportunity in the order of worship for members to share their conversion stories. In a few more fundamental congregations, or at special revival services, I did sometimes observe a time of testimony, but these were rare.
Imagine what would happen if you were to go up to a member of your own congregation in the supermarket or other public place and ask about their spiritual health? Or if you asked to pray with them? In years past, I’ve actually heard church deacons tell their pastor not to ask such things because faith is a private matter; just between them and God.
The Body of Christ has a mission and a vital part of that mission is supporting and building up one another, as well as providing accountability to help us resist temptation to sin.
Listening to this radio presentation made me wonder if, perhaps, the modern church is so weak because we have abandoned the strengthening practice of spiritual talk.