Book review: Singing the Lord’s Song in a Strange Land, by Tom Stuckey

We are very fortunate to be able to regularly benefit in person from Rev Tom Stuckey’s theological knowledge, when he leads worship or Bible study groups at Broadstone.  Tom is a prolific author and has just published his latest book, sub-titled ‘The Future of the Church in Britain: A Methodist Perspective’.

Tom draws comparisons between the situation of the church in Britain today and that of the Jews in exile in Babylon in the 6th century BC. He sees the Babylon of today as our consumer society, where retail therapy has become the path to happiness and fulfilment; and suggests that the Christian church in this new Babylon, like many of the Jews in ancient Babylon, has been seduced by the standards of this society based on self-assertion and consumerism. He provides many examples of this seduction, and they strike a chord with what is happening in Broadstone at present. For example, ‘We must relinquish our obsession with counting, centralising, trying to find ways of saving the church. These are the features of Babylon.’   And ‘Stop head-counting and panicking. Theological and spiritual discernment is required.’

However, basing his thoughts on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, Tom is positive about the future of the Christian church, in which he contends that decentralisation and smallness will become important characteristics, and where ‘without the distractions of buildings, structure and management, Christians can give more time to prayer, worship, being hospitable, sharing their faith and reflecting theologically on their activities’. This future church looks very different from the one most of us have grown up in, and is likely to be numerically much smaller. Tom believes that many of the problems the church currently faces are the birth-pangs of this new church.

Tom looks in detail at Methodism, with an excellent review of where it is today (he reserves particular criticism for our bureaucratic connexional system), and his thoughts about its future.

While this is one of several books and articles written over the last few years about the way the Christian church needs to change, Tom’s new book has a vigour and clarity, and an emphasis on the Methodist perspective, that makes it a valuable resource for us at Broadstone Methodist Church, as we face many of the challenges he describes.

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