Jeremy Craxford dreams of an England of old, when the pulpits were aflame with the Word being preached, and the churches were full of hungry souls. He lives in the northeast, in a town called Sunderland. Newcastle, right next door, was a favorite preaching spot for John Wesley in the 1800s. The itinerant evangelist visited more than 50 times. William Booth started a church in Gateshead, just a few miles away, and it was nicknamed “The Converting Shop” because so many people got saved there. Alexander Boddie, the founder of Pentecostalism in Britain, had a ministry in Sunderland. But that was then.
“Now, less than 1 percent of the population of Sunderland regularly attends church,” Craxford said.
Cindy and I spent an evening with the Craxfords in their home on June 29, after I had presented a conference that day in Newcastle. I was there to encourage the men, mainly, and to equip them to lead their families. That evening, I interviewed Jeremy about the spiritual condition of the UK, and his desire for God to breathe new life into the area.
Fox: Describe the spiritual decline here and what you see as the causes of that decline.
Craxford: I would say it has been happening over the last 100 years. Men would go out and earn a living in the factories, or mines, or shipyards, and they would see that as their responsibility. But they didn’t see their responsibility to bring their children up. I remember my brother and I being sent off to Sunday school by my parents when we were little. My parents didn’t go to church, and because I didn’t see any real faith in my parents, I didn’t have any real faith of my own.
Fox: What is the state of the Christian family, here?
Craxford: I can’t even think of five Christian families with a father and a mother and children who are being brought up in the faith. Lots of single moms. Lots of husbands or wives whose spouse is not committed to the faith. Lots of parents whose children have just rebelled and are not bothering with the faith.
Fox: I had a man tell me after the conference today that he had never heard these things taught in the church here. And all I was teaching was the simple truth from Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Is that part of the problem, that the pulpits have gone silent when it comes to teaching the Word of God?
Craxford: Yes, and I think there are all types of reasons for that. One is that the theological colleges tend to be very liberal, and so the preaching reflects that weakness. Also, looking the men in your church in the eye and saying, “You must take responsibility for your families” takes a certain amount of courage, and a lot of the ordained men in England do not have the courage to say that. I heard a chap say in a sermon years ago, “To be a man is to take responsibility,” and those eight words changed my life.
Fox: What are you asking God to do through you to make a difference here?
Craxford: I’d love to be involved in planting a family-integrated church. I really think there are a few keys that, if we would start using them, that something tremendous can happen in the U.K. If you look at the ministry of people like John Wesley, things had gotten to a really desperate stage in the U.K. before he came on the scene. And this was a man who was brought up very diligently by his parents, and all he did was preach the Gospel. Through his ministry God did tremendous things in this country, especially in places like Newcastle. We just need to get a few keys in place, and something tremendous can happen here, again, I think.
J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man” and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can Tweet him @jmarkfox and can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org