The Tide is Turning, is Terry Virgo’s latest book, and is billed as a book on seeing the tide turning against secularism as we build strong churches that bring in the kingdom of God. Essentially the title can be thought of as a prophecy that the decline of the church is slowing and that a new wave of growth of vibrant biblical Christianity is coming. The book reads as a series of expository teaching on the lives of Joseph, Gideon and Nehemiah. From the lives of these Biblical characters, he draws out lessons for the church, but also touches on many topics directly related to individual life.
I actually think this approach is a very profitable one. It means that the book is not topically organised, but actually I think that it results in a book that covers a broad range of subjects, and will have something for pretty much every reader. It is not pitched at scholars or intellectuals, but written in a very readable style, with no footnotes. As will all of Terry’s books I have read, you can almost hear him speaking, which makes me wonder whether this was originally a sermon series.
So the first section is on the life of Joseph, and there are many lessons to be learned about godly character. The need for patience and personal integrity, avoiding cynicism. Terry Virgo often speaks directly to those who came out of more traditional churches to join the house church movement, and addresses some of the criticisms they faced. Its interesting stuff, but possibly an out of date issue, as the new churches are increasingly populated with people who have been born or saved into such churches. The focus must shift from our differences with the old, to ensuring that what we have truly represents the values that we left for.
Thankfully, Terry addresses this very point, when drawing on how Joseph had remained true to the vision God had given him, so the churches with a vision of “restoring the church” must ensure that they do not give up on their dreams. Just as Joseph was able to change a nation for the better, and as a church, we have the principles to do the same.
The next character is Gideon, who demonstrates that God can use the insignificant and the insecure, if they have a hunger to see him move. Again there is some very down-to-earth teaching here as we are encouraged to deal with the idols of our day – money, sex and worldly wisdom. For the church, Terry Virgo draws out principles of not digging in, but going forward in faith and unity. He warns against the destructive power of gossip and rumours in church life.
Finally Nehemiah is dealt with, who is of course a restorationist favourite. The parallel is drawn between Nehemiah rebuilding Zion and us seeking to restore the church. Virgo speaks about needing to pray based on the promises of God, and that we will face opposition in all forms – mockery, disloyalty, slander and disunity. He devotes a chapter to a reminding us that the word of God is central to restoration in the church and our lives. He also calls us to be more aware of church history, that we are not the first generation of Christians that God has used.
He doesn’t ignore the fact that Nehemiah does not have a hollywood happy ending, but that Nehemiah had to deal with sin amongst God’s people. He deals with the subjects of tithing and the Sabbath, arguing for generous giving to support the work of and that though Sabbath observance is no longer binding on Christians, we are called to live differently to the world.
Overall I would recommend the book as good summer holiday reading, particularly for those from church backgrounds such as newfrontiers. You can take each of the three sections one at a time, each requiring only a few hours to read. It will cause faith to rise in you that in our day, despite the bleak outlook in many ways for Christians and the church, God is able to bring something out of nothing.