Wednesday, 10 February 2010

To go or to be... that is the question

Whilst the General Synod rolls on... the sense of thinking 'outside the church' gets stronger. Last night in our Home Group we debated the question: "How would you answer someone who said: 'I can be a Christian without being a part of a church'?". My immediate thought was one of enormous sympathy! Overnight I mused that it is actually the question that is wrong, it should be about 'being church' rather than being 'part of', then I would field a completely different and affirming response. Then this morning I was intrigued to read David Keen's blog which had a link to 'Don't Go To Church Sunday', the content with which I obviously concur.

Earlier in my blog I drew attention to Walthamstow's Farmers Market run by a church, they moved their regular Sunday service to a different day to enable them to serve their community better. recently Joe Haward picked up the BBC story about a church buying the local ten pin bowling alley.

Above all this over the last year I have met and shared fellowship with committed Christians who simply don't attend church... the scary thing was that even though I am a regular churchgoer (a Church Warden has little choice!) I am possibly more cynical than they are... shame on me, in a way, but while the C of E and the Anglican Communion seem intent on beating themselves up, what would anyone expect?!
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Evangelist Changing said...

I have real sympathy too Peter! I don't think it is merely the CofE that is struggling to make connections with the community.
Did you read my posts on incarnational mission? I am looking forward to getting down to Devon and trying these things out.
I'm going to have an evening soon exploring incarnational mission and how it might look when we church plant in Devon. I'll let you know when it's on. You might like to come.

sharpies said...

As Mum of someone who won't come to church, I'm sympathetic - and sad. We can't do anything but be there, love, pray and trust God. We are blessed that our church has a lot to offer but J just doesn't feel he fits in. More saddening still are friends elsewhere whose trust has been so destroyed by the way they have been treated, that they can't risk going to another church at the moment.
I don't want to be too negative - we know of much that is good including some church plants successfully trying new ways of 'being church'. I think a major key is relationship and being real, loving people and patiently being there for them. Something you're very good at incidently! Hang in there...

Sam Charles Norton said...

The trouble with 'I can be Christian without being part of a church' is that it so rapidly devolves into 'I can be a Christian on my own terms without having to take account of people who are very different to me' and we end up with self-selecting mutual support groups (aka modern western culture) all saying "I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else..." . I wouldn't for a second dispute that there is a great deal wrong - I do occasionally have daydreams about a church full of people like me, where 90% of the congregation are younger rather than older than me, but I would ask: what is the concrete alternative? What are the new boundaries, and who are the people who get abandoned or thrown overboard in order to accomplish it?
Church planting in a completely new context, eg a school hall, might be one way forward but even that has problems.
BTW I think you also need to unpack what 'committed Christians who don't attend church' means - to me it's a contradiction in terms, but I suspect you're using 'church' to mean something more tightly defined than I would, ie I would say it is the place where you come together with others to break bread in remembrance, and that can be anywhere - after all, it was in people's front rooms for at least the first 200 years!

Peter Banks said...

Thanks, Joe, have already read your Incarnational thesis, am a regular reader of your blog anyway... Look fwd to hearing about the Newton Abbot experiment!

Thanks for your thoughts, Jennie, you highlight a real issue which, incidentally, Joe has recently posted about. One of the problems is a generational issue and the biggie is the church barely resembles what our Lord started! As Jesus was 'Rabbi' we must assume the average age at the first Lord's Supper was seriously lower than the average age of church. Furthermore the early church folk were feeling their way with something radical and new whilst still having some cultural baggage...

As usual, Revd Sam, you've pretty much nailed it... Both the theory and the practical matter of where my brain is at!

The committed Christians I mention (and myself) have an inner longing to actually go to church, the deeper longing is to 'be' church. For my friends they are not welcome in their nearest church(es) because they want to 'be' rather than just 'do' the way the church does (and probably has done for many years!). They stuck with trying to 'do' (at their local) until their spirits started to wither and die... meeting and sharing food together, studying the Bible and reading lots plus the annual pilgrimage to Greenbelt has restored their discipleship.

In my upbringing 'church' never revolved around the building called 'the church' and was always about the body of believers who broke bread together and served the church and local communities... I fear this is still not clearly understood, particularly in the established churches of whatever flavour...

There you go, about ten uses of the word church!

Sam Charles Norton said...

"meeting and sharing food together, studying the Bible and reading lots plus the annual pilgrimage...the body of believers who broke bread together and served the church and local communities"
Yep. That's church :)
It's also a heck of a lot simpler, harder and ultimately more rewarding than (much/most of) what we presently do!

Peter Banks said...

Sounds a bit like The Learning Supper then?


Ordinandy said...

Thanks for this Pete, (and for another mention of us in the 'Stow).

This is a live one for many of us on the fringes of church, who wrestle with an awareness that it is indeed nonsense (as Sam stated) to try to pursue life as a 'Christian' as an individual, but who's experience of 'gathered worship' has been one which has not fed or energised them for the rest of the week.

Being church is the thing, as you say. Trouble is, in my experience, most Christians would agree with this in theory, but quickly drift into a practice which re-enforces the idea that "Sundays together" is the focal point - and the other stuff happens if we have the time and energy.

keep up the good work mate!

Evangelist Changing said...

Good stuff being said here.

Peter Banks said...

Cheers for the comment Andy, still have lots of affection for my old stamping ground in the 'Stow! How's your pioneer training stuff going?

And Joe, yes, really pleased to see the responses and what they've drawn out.

sharpies said...

Thanks for your comments, Peter, and ref. to Joe's blog. I've been wanting to read some Ken Bailey and you've inspired me to buy one of his books!