I have had a lovely weekend for my birthday. Never take any notice of me of I say I am too old to celebrate. I have taken tea in several of Plymouth’s finest eating places including the photo above and had a whale of a time. Even my son remembered to phone and say happy birthday. In fact I was the first thing he thought of when he woke up on Saturday – AT MID-DAY. Better late than never I suppose.
I watched Field of Dreams (again) because it was my birthday shout and happily cried like a baby. Am not sure I could ever love anyone who didn’t love this film just a little bit. I have heard quite a few preachers preach on it and its famous lines.
“If you build it – he will come.”
“People will come Ray. If you build it people will come.”
I think the idea is that if we just sort of put church there, then people will be drawn to it by osmosis or something. Now I know plenty of people who have found themselves in church because the Holy Spirit has been prodding them but not everyone I know has stayed in church after that.
I have been part of a team at my church that has looked at the way we welcome people into church. One member of the team found something online about how Disneyworld approaches its customers. It is that Disney always acts as if it is expecting visitors and makes preparation for them. Now that may be obvious for a theme park but I wondered if church always acts as if we expected and welcomed visitors. Having visitors can be a bit of a maul sometimes. You have to make an effort and shove newspapers under cushions. You find out what they want to eat or drink and you pay them your full attention. It would be rude to talk about things that they don’t understand or have involvement in. I’m not saying that we should change the message. John The Baptist attracted massive crowds despite the fact that he was a bit odd in his life habits and wasn’t afraid to tell a few home truths. But John preached for his time. People were used to listening to preaching and John was very good at it. Anyway, I don’t think people are afraid of the truth, when they recognise it. As church we need to make sure we are delivering it in a way that people get.
Not that long ago I saw a Christian drama acted out on a shopping precinct. I can still feel my stomach tightening as I think about it. For reasons I can’t quite remember, it involved the Devil in a boxing ring. I remember thinking how surprising it was that, as the Devil had been chucked out of heaven for pride, he hadn’t bothered to iron his cape that morning. Anyway, it was a foreign language to most of the people listening and most people (me included) left them to it.
I love my God. I love my faith. I am convinced that Christians can be God’s force for good – a thriving, loving influential community. I am just not sure that we are showing that enough. Jesus talked with people about sheep and fish and robbers and servants and hunger and pain. People immediately connected. I’m not sure that shepherding and fishing were Jesus’s real passions. What certainly was, was finding common ground to connect with those he came to save.
There’s a lot of frankly rubbish talk about the church being on it’s last legs. Still it is a challenging time. People are under pressure in lots of ways and although Christians and non Christians are still looking for a place to call home, we have to make sure we are finding the right ways to invite them in using a language the understand. Don’t cha think?