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Church must be ready for suffering, says Bishop

"There is no answer to the question of suffering – but we have to be ready for it" - that was the message from Bishop Michael Baughen at the Keswick Convention this week ...

Christians need to be ready to suffer, stated Bishop Michael Baughen, but the problem is the Church is not preparing them for this inevitable part of life.

"If you are not ready for it, you will be knocked for six by it."

Speaking at this year’s Keswick Convention, the Bishop went on, "Very few people preach on suffering, or write about it. 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."

And once people have really got hold of a deep faith in the love of Christ, he went on, then "it will hold them, even in the dark night of the soul".

He described any doctrine that implied that a lack of faith or hidden sin routinely leads to the tragedies in people’s lives as "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 called on his audience to understand the pressures of being a minister or pastor in today’s church, and encouraged them to "Keep writing notes of encouragement. Pray for the preaching and the preacher."

Turning to the relationship between the congregation and the leadership, he said: ‘Relationships between people and minister need to be deep.’ In fact, during his time at All Souls, he insisted that anyone who was asked to become a leader had to be prepared to attend every prayer meeting, because it was at these that the church would look at all the issues it faced, and pray those issues through.

And this support, he said, was invaluable to him – so much so that he broke down, when he was asked to become a Bishop.

"I wept my heart out. 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. You have got to be inventive," he said, in order to keep your spiritual life vibrant.

The Keswick Convention runs for three weeks each summer, and this year takes place from 14 July until 2 August. It is expected to attract around 15,000 people of all ages.

Photo: Mark Rushton/Keswick Convention

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