Over the last year or so the headlines of many newspapers have been to do with the soap opera that is the royal family – most of which centres around Harry and Meghan. Just this week, their UK residence has been given to Prince Andrew and many pages have been written on the big question, ‘will Harry be at the King’s Coronation?’ It feels like only yesterday, Charles walked Meghan down the aisle due to her family’s division rather than Harry’s. Things seemed happy and united then. The fairy tale wedding had just begun...
When I think back to that event, I recall a striking memory. My social media. You may remember the brilliant American preacher who enthused us all to love God and love neighbour. After his preach, my social media came alive with comments like this, “Amazing! If only I could preach like him, my church would be full”. “Expect church to be full tomorrow wherever you are, the Gospel has been heard brilliant by millions across the globe”. I went to play cricket shortly after the service and asked those I played with (all non-church goers), “what did you think of the sermon?” The replies were startlingly different to those my Christian friends had made. “Boring”, “irrelevant”, “long” (it was only 10 minutes) and “uninteresting” were the memorable descriptions. I realised at that time that is how my life has been split for many years, my Christian friends saying “if only we did this church thing better (preaching, worship, youth, website, coffee) people will come” and my non-Christian friends saying “its irrelevant, we are never coming”.
But at the same time I was suffering with medical anxiety. This basically means that whatever ailments you have, when you describe them, I have them too! I have been through the menopause twice!!! When people asked in my community “how are you?” I shared my vulnerability, “struggling, anxious”. This approach beautifully opened the door for the other person to share their struggles, and my word, everybody is OK until you get to know them. I have heard of every human pain and sadness. So, I ask, “what do you do with that, how do you cope?” The replies have been vast: spiritual guru, hypnosis, tarot, crystals, etc… etc…. I ask, “Why did you do that?” The constant reply, “My friend said it worked and that I had to try it”. I was amazed. “Have you ever tried prayer?” “No – I have never been offered prayer”. How sad is it that we have the good news of relationship with God and the peace that it brings but so many non-Christians have not been offered prayer and instead are turning to other methods evangelised by others. Let’s pray for people. The best evangelism there is.
As I heard the replies to the royal wedding sermon and as I discovered the brokenness on my doorstep - I realised that people were not looking for a service that was done better. They were looking for authentic community where they could weep - and together move to healing and love. They were looking for the church.
So, instead of focusing on how we do our church services better in the hope people might come – let’s spend our time being family, and creating the type of culture where all are welcome, all are able to take their masks off and together walk to wholeness offered by our Triune God.
I offer you the following biblical imagery to dwell in and discern how your Christian community could become an even more radical loving family.
The Gethsemane community: The place where Jesus bled from his forehead with hyper anxiety, knowing his death was near. The place of tears. The place of loud lament. Where does Jesus go? To his disciples, “pray for me”. Even when they let him down, he keeps going back. Time and time again. Gethsemane is the place of vulnerability, empathy, and perseverance in community.
The Philippi community: The place which shines like stars! And when we look at the church being planted we realise that the first three disciples were radically different. Lydia, the middle-class foreign business owner. The slave girl, imprisoned by her owners. The ex-roman soldier now jailer. How does your community create places for ‘the other’. Where we love and are loved and thus reveal God’s love.
The Acts community: The place where they are one. One in love, one in preaching, one in belongings, one in mealtimes, one in prayer, one at the table. And the result of that community was many miraculous signs, all filled with awe, the favour of all people and THE LORD ADDED TO THEM DAILY THOSE BEING SAVED. Not because of what they did, but because of who they were together. Let’s concentrate on being one – and let the Lord add to our number.
Your community: This week may you focus not on how well you ‘do stuff’ but what sort of culture you have – and may you become more vulnerable and share. And even though you are different from one another, may you be one, unified; a vision for the world that loves division and needs to learn another way. And because of these things, may the Lord trust your community with the most broken and desperate by adding to your number daily those being saved.
Have a great week!
Ben Lucas Consultant