Church failing to prepare people for suffering
Published 17 July 2012
Christians need to be ready for suffering, the former Bishop of Chester has said.
Bishop Michael Baughen was addressing this year's Keswick Convention in the Lake District.
He said the Church was not preparing people for the inevitability of suffering.
"There is no answer to the question of suffering, but we have to be ready for it," he said.
"If you are not ready for it, you will be bowled for six by it."
He lamented the lack of resources to equip people in dealing with hardship, saying that only "very few" Christians preach or write about the issue.
"Most books are on healing – that is what we want. But the fact is, most people are not healed.
"It is a much bigger thing to pray people through suffering. The God who suffered comes and weeps with us."
Bishop Baughen urged the church to bring people into a deep faith in the love of Christ that will "hold them" even in the dark times.
He went on to criticise doctrine that implied tragedies were down to a lack of faith or hidden sin. Such theology was "obnoxious’’anti-God" and "reprehensible".
"There is no answer to the question ‘Why do people suffer? We have got to go back to trusting God," he said.
Bishop Baughen appealed to the audience to write notes of encouragement and pray for their pastors and preachers, who various pressures in their roles.
"Pray for the preaching and the preacher," he said.
He continued: "Relationships between people and minister need to be deep."
He concluded by reflecting on the value of prayer during his years in active ministry. Whilst serving at All Souls, Langham Place, he insisted that anyone wanting to become a leader had to attend every prayer meeting because it was during this time that the church would consider the issues it faced and pray these issues through.
This support, he said, was so invaluable to him that he broke down when he was asked to become a bishop.
"I wept my heart out," he recalled.
"I’d been in a fellowship with tremendous support. Now I would be in different churches all the time, giving out – and I fought for time alone each day. It was an anchor for my soul."
He added: "You have got to be inventive in order to keep your spiritual life vibrant."
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