27 August 2015
The greatest challenge facing the UK Church
I became a Christian when I was 17 years old – more years ago than I care to count. I want you to know it wasn’t the great Christian music that attracted me, or indeed stunning preaching or the amazing church I was to join. It was Jesus. Someone introduced me to Jesus. I heard about his life, his death, his history-shattering resurrection and deep down at the core of my being I just knew it was true, and because it was true it was to have a profound impact on every area of my life. At 17 years of age I became a follower of Jesus, the most amazing person who has ever walked the earth. As I now look back over the years, I’ve come to realise how easy it is to get caught up in the ‘stuff’ of life. Not necessarily ‘bad stuff’, but the busyness, even of church and Christian ministry, and I’ve realised how in all this we might somehow lose sight of Jesus. It’s not that he’s out of
sight. I read his book, sing his songs, even have fairly regular conversations with him, but he is not somehow centre stage, he’s not in the spotlight, he’s not where he deserves to be.
In the next few weeks a piece of research will be released that gives a snapshot of the English population’s understanding of who Jesus is. The results are shocking. You’ll be able to read those in the next idea magazine. People don’t know who Jesus is. Living in a country that has historically
"I want you to know it wasn’t the great Christian music that attracted
me, or indeed stunning preaching or the amazing church I was to join. It
was Jesus. Someone introduced me to Jesus. I heard about his life, his
death, his history-shattering resurrection and deep down at the core of
my being I just knew it was true, and because it was true it was to have
a profound impact on every area of my life."
It’s a challenge we can’t ignore. It’s got to be, for me, the greatest challenge facing the Church here in the UK. How can we raise the bar of the UK population’s understanding of who Jesus is? It’s pretty obvious really: people are unlikely to become followers of Jesus until they have some knowledge of the true Jesus. The one we have come to love and obey.
Let me be absolutely clear. We mustn’t stop our foodbanks, night shelters, street pastors and debt counselling. The Church is doing amazing things, meeting the needs of some of the most vulnerable in our society, but simply doing good works is not enough. I have come to the conclusion that it has to be the number one challenge facing the UK Church, as we commit ourselves to God’s mission. Every person across the United Kingdom should have the opportunity to hear, to understand, to experience and come to a conclusion about Jesus. They might not accept him, but surely they need to be given the chance to reject the real Jesus, not the figment of the imagination of a secular, 21st century world.
So back to my personal challenge. Does the way that I live, relate, interact with the world around me, invite questions, inspire curiosity and challenge the status quo? How willing am I, in everyday life, to refer to Jesus, share my faith, offer a prayer and provoke a challenge? Do I really believe, deep down, that the biblical account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is true, and because it’s true, every aspect of life faces the challenge of ‘getting into line’?
How sure am I that the good news is really good news for my gay neighbour, and the Muslim family that live next door? Am I convinced that the most loving act I could possibly engage in, would be to introduce my friend, whatever their background or life experience, to Jesus, the saviour of the world?