Can we handle life in the highways and byways?

12 July, 2005 at 3:30 pm 4 comments

Lucy's comment on the "Visions to Avoid" post set me thinking (read that thread if you haven't – we need to develop it!). We're "selling" Jesus, she suggests. That's what we've got to offer. And she raises the question, "To whom?" I wonder what most of our church folk would answer if (a) the question was, "Who would you most like to attract to your church?" and (b) they had to answer honestly!

I suspect that the answer is that we'd like middle class, well-spoken, enthusiastic, productive, skilled, younger, thinking, popular, gifted, comfortably off people. I'm getting on for sure-to-certain that the answer will not be poor, damaged, difficult, marginalised, unpopular, dirty, destructive, embarrassing, unemployed (unemployable?) people who need giving to.

This is where I get stuck. I actually believe that these are precisely the people we should be seeking to attract first (ie before turning our attention to those less needy). That's what Jesus did, after all! But Jesus did more than extend charity and hospitality. He chose these people as friends! They were his first choice.

We concentrate our efforts on people like us. We are battling to communicated with jaded, satiated consumers who are overwhelmed with choice. That is not to say for a moment that they – and we – aren't needy. But our needs come from having too much. We pray "Give us this day our daily bread", while my daily bread frquently goes hard and mouldy and gets fed to the ducks and swans because I have so many other, more exciting things to eat. We have Communion services, procaliming Jesus to be the Bread of Life, while people starve to death. Then we have theological arguments about how to dispose of the leftovers! One of our greatest health problems is obesity and our most common mental health problems centre around our bodies and self-image. Part of our salvation is a fairer world in which we live more simply in order that others may simply live.

The parable of the Great Feast is about abandoning concentration on those who are most reluctant to hear the Good News of the Gospel and concentrating on those whose need is greatest – for whom the Gospel comes as gloriously Good News. That is not the same thing as abandoning those others. It's about where our efforts are concentrated.

So how can we make that sort of quantum leap? How can we begin to create a Church that is recognisably the Church of Jesus Christ precisely because it reflects Jesus' priorities in this area? That seems to me part of the task of catching the vision of God's Tomorrow.


Entry filed under: emerging church, evangelism, mission.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. stuart  |  15 July, 2005 at 12:23 pm

    That strikes me as vision worth catching. I do worry that you might not take to many with you. We are very good at saying we would welcome anybody into our churches but I fear the reality is different. I pray that God will allow us to see a vision that extends beyond our own limited comfort zones. Good to have you blogging Lawrence!

  • 2. Wol  |  15 July, 2005 at 1:39 pm

    Thank you, Stuart! Yes, it’s a vision worth catching, and yes, it will be difficult (a) to take people along and (b) to achieve, even if everyone was right there with it. My problem is that I can’t see it as an “optional extra”. It seems to embody too fundamentally what the Kingdom, in Jesus’ preaching, is all about. If we don’t do it, we’re in the wrong place – because this is what we believe God is doing! Maybe it’s time to think of our situation in terms of a Kairos? In other words, it’s “get with the programme” or “miss the hour of God’s visitation”. I have to say, quite honestly, that this seems to me to be far more than rhetoric: it may indeed be precisely where we’re at! May God help us – literally!

  • 3. stuart  |  15 July, 2005 at 3:43 pm

    I’ll add a link from my blog, I just need to prove that at least two members of the URC can use technology. Look forward to interesting conversations, although I have to be honest and say mine are sometimes just about going to the pub!

  • 4. Wol  |  18 July, 2005 at 6:45 pm

    I’ve subscribed to your feed, stuart, and will add a link when I do my next template edit.


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