My cynicism kicked in as I settled into my seat in the balcony of All Souls Church, London. Before arriving in the UK many people told us how post-Christian Europe and Great Britain are so I really didn’t expect to hear a gospel-centered message from the pulpit of a 160-year old church.
“The only way to have the gates of heaven opened to us,” said the speaker about two minutes into his sermon, “is to confess to God that we are sinners under God’s judgment and in need of God’s mercy.”
I about fell over the railing. “Are you kidding me,” I thought. “So much for teaching that amounts to moralistic therapeutic deism.”
Rico Tice, All Souls Associate Minister of Evangelism, then spent the next 30 minutes preaching from Luke 15:1-10 rightly sizing up what ills humanity (sin that separates us from God) and made some provocative statements:
“Christianity is for bad people.”
“There has been a shift in the way we think about sin. Sin has gone from evil against God to crime against people to sickness against self.”
“Religion is man’s attempt to reach up to God while Christianity is God reaching down to us and finding us.”
“We are catastrophically lost in sin and can do nothing to save ourselves.”
“We remain incomprehensible to ourselves” [quoting Blaise Pascal, in the context of one who is lost and doesn’t comprehend their spiritual condition.]
“God loves us in spite of our self-centeredness.”
I would expect to hear such a sermon from John Stott, one of the great minds of the 20th Century and recognized as one of history’s great theologians. Dr. Stott is 90 years old now and living in a nursing home, so I anticipated there might be a drop off in the intensity of the gospel-centered preaching he brought for more than 30 years from All Souls pulpit. However, there in the heart of London, next door to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corp), blocks from Buckingham Palace, 10 Downing Street and Parliament, Christ was being exalted as man’s only hope for reconciliation with God.
What’s more is that All Souls is a true picture of The Church universal. There is an African and an Asian on staff in prominent positions and more than 30 nationalities represented in its membership (See Revelation 5:9 and 7:9). The church is engaged in worldwide ministry and missions.
So, if you’re passing through London on a Sunday, I recommend a stop at All Souls. Feel free to leave the cynicism at the airport.