Monday, January 18, 2010

Is Church a Net or an Ark?

I remember being involved with a university mission week once, it was a pretty massive effort with rather minimal results.  Lots of big events and speakers and stunts to get people's attention.  One memory from that week is how a girl from my circle of friends was accidentally invited to a prayer meeting (for Christians only ;-)) by one of the guest evangelists who presumably mistook her for a Christian.  What a disater!  How are the Christians supposed to pray with an unbeliever in their midst?  But, surprise-surprise, she was so impacted by seeing Christians praying passionately to their God that faith found her there and then.

Often when we are exhorting Christians to be more missional and to think more about people outside of church we are reacting against an experience of church that has been insular, selfish and out of touch with the world around it.  However this can become a reflex that has its own tendency to a different extreme that is so focused on reaching the world it forgets to edify (build up) the saints.  It is not that I think Christians should go to church to "get something" for themselves but at the same time they perhaps should not be expected to turn up week after week purely on the off chance that a stranger walks in from the street and therefore gets to see a room full of "happy" people.

The thing is, maintaining one's faith is really hard work.  We are surrounded by forces that wear down our resolve and passion.  Church mission is so often lackluster and passionless because church people are so often underfed and barely keeping their heads above water themselves.  We don't feel like sharing the gospel because we are not so sure we still want it ourselves. Worship should not be primarily about evangelism or being seeker friendly.  It should first be about seeking God and second about reafirming and strengthening the congregation in their diaspora identity as the people of God.  If God's people are meeting with God in spirit and in truth that should be a more powerful way to introduce and strangers to Christ than creating some kind of inoffensive tepid bath of a church experience in the hope of enticing them back again. 

I've got to be honest, I go into 2010 kind of jaded about church wondering if I will ever find it the source of life, joy, and inspiriation that I used to.  Still, I am a great believer in trying to be part of the solution (cos let's face it, I do my share of whinging about the problems).  For the first half of this year, at least, I am withdrawing from preaching duties.  This was initially for the purpose of making time for finishing my thesis and for the family issues that we will be facing this year.  But I will be leading worship about once a month, and I am looking forward to having a bit of headspace and really working to create worship services that connect people to God and build them up in their faith.

I'll let you know how it goes.  Pax

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