What kind of nation changes a church?
You may be thinking by this title that I have miss-typed the name of our conference which will soon be upon us. But no, that is not the case, I am fully aware that our theme this year is ‘what kind of church changes a nation’ and I am very much looking forward to our time together and to catching up with many of you again.
But what kind of a nation can change the way churches act?
There are two ways that our interaction with ‘the world’ can affect us:
1. We change and become like ‘the world’, or
2. We change so that ‘the world’ want to become like us
1. There are real dangers that in our attempt to become accepted by our community we fail in our responsibility to positively influence society. The Apostle Paul asks a very relevant question in Colossians 2:20 ‘Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules’, he then goes on to say in firm language ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!
I very much believe that it is essential that we integrate with those around us and I am not suggesting for one moment, that we should lock ourselves away in some holy bubble. There are many tools available to us that would make our churches and our services rather more palatable to the unchurched and that can only be a good thing. However we must insure that our interaction with those around has a positive influence on them, that they would see something favourable and desirable in us.
2. On the other hand there are changes that we can explore which would draw people to find out more about our faith. There are many things that we can do which, while being familiar with our neighbouring community will not detract from the gospel. Of course the very word ‘gospel’ means good news and I rarely see someone giving good news looking like they have just swallowed a very sour grape!
Our churches need to look like they have good news, and we as leaders also need to reflect the ‘joy of our salvation’. I sometimes offer a challenge to go inside a betting office not to place a bet, but see how unsettled, unfamiliar and uneasy you feel. Everything around seems alien (at least I hope so!) and people may begin to look at you, because nothing is familiar and in general most people will be intent on their purpose for going there. Maybe, that is how people feel when they enter our churches, little seems familiar and those already inside can seem more interested in the activates than in new comers. Churches should be a comfortable place, an acceptable and welcoming space.
As I type this I am sensing that it all sounds a bit of a rant and that is not my intention at all, rather to say, we have the best news in the world, a God that loves us, sent his son to die for us and wants to guide us through life and eternal life. Let us not be influenced by a nation that changes the church but an influencing church that changes a nation.