Friday, March 18, 2011

Continuing reflections on church

As I continue constantly to reflect upon the nature and purpose of the church, upon the need I see (and desire I have) for simpler expressions of church life and the questions I have about the structures we impose upon the movement we have made into an institution, I can't help wondering what questions we should be asking and what questions we ought to avoid. All too often we ask church centred questions rather than gospel centred questions. We ask what the church should be in order to reach our wider community more effectively. But ought we not to be asking what the gospel looks like in our modern cultural setting?

I'm not suggesting changing the core message, but surely we have to agree that only church people think in terms of the role of the church. Most people outside the church see it as little more than an irrelevance. At best it's where you might consider getting married, if the setting will give you nice photographs.

Our structures also bear little relevance to the world beyond the bricks and mortar. I have a Masters degree in theology. If I wanted to teach in a theological college I've been told I would need a doctorate or at the very least a published book! But neither of these qualifies me for anything in the wider world. Outside of the church these degrees and diplomas mean nothing. It means very little to very few people.

What does matter is that I'm there when a member of the family passes away. What might matter is that I'm there to cheer them on when everyone else has given up on them. What could matter is someone being available when they need friendship. And you don't have to be a minister or pastor to do that!

Perhaps the gospel looks like the community we say it is but often fail to live out in any real sense. Like everyone else we've become too busy in our individual world to be connected to anything beyond ourselves.

All this rambling brings us again to the need to live the gospel and not just preach the gospel. For we preach the gospel in isolation to the already converted for the most part. And all. The while, those who desperately need to both hear and experience good news are beyond our reach because we don't have the time in our busy and complicated expressions of church to spend any quality time with them.

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