Some days I ponder the question ‘what will it take to see the church in Australia begin to make a dent in society?’
I mean a serious dent. I know people come to church and faith in ones and twos, but what will it take to get to a place where people see us as having something valuable to say to the issues going on in our country? Where people look at the church and see us as having a life that they desire because it is so incredibly attractive… albeit costly.
It feels like a lament as we are a long way from that dream, but I don’t think the situation is completely hopeless. (I do think its close if all we have to offer is ‘more of the same’ in the way we do business.)
I keep coming back to the thought that the only hope for the western church is for the people within it to experience a renewal in faith that puts them in a place where they live lives so demonstrably different to the world around them that the only explanation is the existence of a good God.
Richard Foster says:
?”The problem today is that evangelism has reached the point of diminishing returns. I talk with people and they say, “What am I to be converted to? I look at Christians and statistically they aren’t any different.” You want to be able to point to people who are really different.”
In arguably his greatest speech ever Jesus said:
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
He was saying those who don’t care for the things of the kingdom place their focus on temporal things and are concerned for sating their more primitive appetites, but for those of us who claim to know Jesus this ought not to be the way.
But it is.
It seems that some of us have inverted Jesus words in the sermon on the mount and now seek first material prosperity, personal happiness and security and then the kingdom of God if its not too inconvenient or costly. Is it any surprise no one wants to listen to anything we have to say when our Christ filled life looks just like a religious version of aspirational middle class suburban living?
Our lack of distinctiveness is surely a cause for great lament.
In my role at Quinns Baptist I am paid to lead the church and I’m employed for 2 days a week to do that. The beauty of only having two days is that you don’t have time to fritter away doing inane things. You only have a small window of time so you need to choose wisely what to invest it in.
Once you carve out a big slab of that time to do the not negotiables – teaching prep, meetings, admin, Sundays there aint a lot left to invest. But in the time I have this year I have chosen to invest it in the blokes of our church in a course based around spiritual disciplines.
I have been looking for a point of leverage – a place where I can make a significant contribution in a small amount of time. So we are starting a fortnightly blokes group that has the specific brief of equipping men to train themselves to be godly, of empassioning blokes for a richer deeper relationship with Christ and with each other and of giving them experience in a wide range of spiritual practices so that they can put themselves in a place where they can encounter God more vividly and regularly.
It will be a challenge. To get people to commit to something for 13 weeks seems like a huge ask in today’s world, but I am convinced it has the potential to be the start of something very very good in our lives as blokes and in the life of the wider church.
I wrote previously along these lines so I thought it was time to take some action and try to do something about what I see. At one level its a personal quest to re-ignite my own relationship with God that has felt dry and weary over the last two years. But I am conscious that I am not the only one who ha been struggling with a sub-par faith experience and I imagine that giving blokes a place to come and spur one another on might just be a catalyst for something greater.
I’ll let you know how it goes.