As world leaders descend on Glasgow for COP26, The Tron Church has displayed a banner that reads: “The world’s most urgent need is churches preaching Christ crucified, not climate change”. Here, the church’s minister explains why they did it
The fact that a church states publicly that the mission of the church is to preach Christ crucified, and not something else, should hardly be controversial. But it seems that, when COP26 is happening on our doorstep, saying that there is something more important (far more important) that the Church must speak about is embarrassing for some Christians.
I think this betrays a dangerous misunderstanding of the real urgency of the message we have been charged with taking to the world: an eternal, supernatural gospel.
The challenging word in our banner (which lasted less than 48 hours before being vandalised and torn down) was the ‘not’. No-one would bat an eyelid if we said the church should preach Christ crucified and climate change. But the Christian gospel contains many necessary negatives, and it is only these that make the gospel true – albeit offensive to many.
No-one is offended by Jesus when he says: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life…” (John 3:36). But Jesus continues with the necessary negative: “…but whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” There is the offence for which our Lord was crucified, and all his true apostles martyred, because they witnessed publicly to the truth of that offensive gospel. It is no accident that our English word “witness” comes from the greek word ‘martyreo’. According to Jesus, a good witness to Christ will provoke the hatred of the world (John 15:19), not its adulation (Luke 6:26).
The most urgent need is for the world to realise that its priorities are all wrong
We must not shy away from necessary negatives if the challenge of the true Christian gospel is to be heard – especially when virtually every public Christian voice simply chimes with the united voice of the world: that climate change is the issue above all others. Not so. That is a lie of Satan. The Bible tells us that this whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19) and we are not to be conformed to this world in our thinking (Romans 2:12). The message of hope we proclaim is not a hope in human endeavour, nor a hope in this world but the hope of the world to come. There is salvation “in no one else”; “no other name under heaven” (Acts 4:12) which will save us from the wrath to come, and what Jesus calls the “unquenchable fire” of hell (Mark 9:43, ESV).
Caring for the world
We are not denying that Christians should care for creation – in the way that God commands, of course, and for his purposes (which may be very different from what some climate activists want). But we are saying that if the world stands at “one minute to midnight” (to use the Prime Minister’s phrase) the real urgency is for people to know what that means. The unique charge of the Christian Church is to herald that truth, and the consequent essential warning to mankind.
According to Jesus, you can know everything about the weather and the climate, but nothing at all about the real and pressing need of the day. Our Lord’s own banner for COP26 might well have been his words in Luke 12:56, which begin, very offensively: “You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”
a good witness to Christ will provoke the hatred of the world, not its adulation
And his answer? The most urgent need is for the world to realise that its priorities are all wrong. It is time, he says, to repent: “…unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:3).
His message was offensive then, and it is still offensive. But this was the priority message of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it must be the absolute priority of his Church today.