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Sunday, 15 November 2015

You can take the Christian out of the church; and maybe you should... (John 17:18)



'As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.' - John 17:18

For a while now, I've been wondering if perhaps in the church we have had our priorities a little skewed in regards to attracting new members to our congregations....we like to organise many different programmes and initiatives designed to make ourselves attractive to those from outside our church families...we try anything from musical programmes and 'messy church' maybe car washing events... The list is endless.

I'm not saying all these are bad things... Far from it, these ideas can give people a reason to enter our churches and expose them to the love of God through encounters with Christians; but is there a possibility that we have begun to use the church as an excuse to lock ourselves away from the world?...I can certainly understand why we sometimes want to do this, this world can be a hostile place for Christians, people sometimes treat us like there's something wrong with us or that we're deluded trouble makers that don't fit in...people can be deliberately disrespectful or hurtful sometimes we can be mocked or insulted; but should we be surprised at this?

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.' - John 15:18-20

So we may understand why we are sometimes treated badly; and of course we want to guard ourselves against it, we have built these great churches that inspire us and make us feel accepted and safe, but have we become too safe, too guarded and too shut away? Have we somehow managed to isolate ourselves from the very people that need us, and to whom we are commissioned, and empowered to reach out to, have we begun to unintentionally hide the light of God from those who need it? Have our churches become fortresses, which shun outsiders? Have we developed our own traditions and languages that make us into a 'members only club' that makes no sense to others?

I heard the metaphor at a training event last week of the church being like a betting shop...I know where my local betting shop is, I walk past it most days; but to look in the window is to see a strange world that I don't understand or have any interest in, I wouldn't know what to do if I went in, I would feel lost and out of place...is that how we appear to outsiders???

So what's my point in all this? Well it's not really a point, more of a ramble or just something to ponder... Have we spent too much time trying to get outsiders into church and not enough time and effort trying to get Christians out of church and on to the streets and into the hearts of communities where people are? Perhaps we need to create programmes and events that encourage us to leave our safe fortresses and fulfill our mission to be 'sent out' instead of being shut away...