The Glory Departed from Preston

In the mid-twentieth century, classical Pentecostalism was a powerful herald of gospel light in Great Britain. Although it still had in its churches the odd crank, most of its pastors were godly, conservative men who sought to be faithful to the Bible. They sought the gifts of the Spirit because they were so Biblicist; few would countenance the idea that God revealed additional, divine truth through modern day prophets and apostles.

In Preston’s town centre is a large, imposing brick building, which was then the town’s Assembly of God. Each Easter, from the Friday to the Monday, a convention was held. Many can still remember those great meetings from the sixties with Tom Wilson of the Scarborough summer camps, Albert Mellor from Wakefield’s Glad Tidings Mission and Jimmy Salter, former missionary to Congo whose misprounciation of his R never detracted from his faithful preaching. Indeed, it was whilst hearing Salter at the convention in the 1920s that Amy Entwistle heard God’s call to the mission field. Each year, hundreds gathered to share faith, food and fellowship.

The building is now a mosque. Although its current occupants may hold a sincere form of godliness, it surely denies the power thereof. The sterile morality of Islam is a stark contrast with the abundant grace that was once preached in that place. Pentecostalism, like most protestant denominations, retreated, and not just out of city centres. Whereas my Congregational brethren drifted into a pale liberalism and lukewarmness, many Pentecostals swung towards showmanship, entertainment and the lies of prosperity.

In Ezekiel 10, we read of God withdrawing Himself from the earthly temple:

Then the glory of the Lord departed from off the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubims. And the cherubims lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight.

That earthly tabernacle and symbol of God’s presence had been so compromised and spoiled by successive generations, that God removed Himself therefrom. He handed it over, disavowing any former association. I wonder if the Lord does that with many of our churches, no matter how fine and faithful they were in their heyday. The Lord did not wait for the Babylonians to come before He evacuated His glory; likewise, the glory of God may have departed from this red-brick sanctuary long before the emissaries of the desert prophet claimed its keys.

Churches today which seem to function and prosper must ask themselves if the Spirit of God is still with them, or whether He has discreetly disconnected. The Lord sometimes leaves well in advance of the last pastor and member.