26 June 2015
What kind of Church?
A year ago the Evangelical Alliance in Scotland produced a booklet entitled What Kind of Nation. It was an attempt to get Christians to think about the type of nation we want to live in. Issues such as justice, how to deal with poverty and environmental concerns were all raised. The booklet was hugely successful, leading to a reprint and a series of hustings across the country. But since then, church leaders have been asking a new question. Fred Drummond, director of Evangelical Alliance Scotland, explains.
Several times during the discussions around What Kind of Nation? I was approached by Christian leaders asking a different question: what type of Church brings about a transformed nation?
I was challenged by that question. In a time of huge change for the Church, not just in Scotland, but across the UK, which faces numerical decline and a disconnect with large parts of society, what type of Church makes significant impact? While thinking about this I was challenged directly by several people to write a booklet aimed at creating a discussion to lead change in our Church across the UK.
What I didn't want to do was to write another How-to guide: 10 pointers to being a super cool church, or just 'do this stuff better and your congregation will grow'. I wanted to get the whole body of Christ to think about the values that are shaping us and whether they are the values that shaped the early Church. The booklet is about what is central to us as the people of God: when we gather and when we are scattered, our identity and our calling. You can read a sample of the resource in the box:
Encounter and Engagement
Moses encounters the holiness, power and compassion of God. He is a man full of doubts about himself, and his suitability for the task God has called him to. However, he was able to face pharaoh and the people because of he encounter he had with God, and because God had promised to be with him. It was the encounter with God that led Moses to engaging with the powers of his day.
Isaiah had a really tough calling. He was to take the word of God to people who wouldn't hear, didn't understand and didn't care. He is to remain faithful and just keep going. How do you keep going in the midst of a sea of negativity and disappointment? Maybe that's a question some of us face in our family, workplace or church every day. But he was able to keep engaging because of the depth of his encounter.
His engagement was not based on altruism, but on calling. It is the encounter that shapes the engagement. It is out of our intimacy with God that any meaningful transformation takes place, and it is serving in the world that leads us to desire greater intimacy with the one who weeps over cities.
It is a mistake to separate mission – our involvement with God in His transformative presence in and for the world – from worship, prayer and reflection.
Encounter with no engagement leads to a pious retreating from the world that denies the incarnation and ignores God's transformative purposes for the communities He has placed us in.
Equally, to engage with the world without a deepening and consistent encounter with Jesus is simply to offer, at best, a powerless grey replica of what the world already offers.
As a Church, when we offer engagement without encounter, we have reduced ourselves to religious secularists devoid of kingdom power. We need to have a holistic vision that sees everything in the context of Jesus Christ as Lord. It is Jesus who calls us. He is the one who has lifted us and given us hope. We are Jesus people.
The closer to the light you are the more light you radiate.
The booklet then looks at the Church - gathered and scattered. I suggest that these are two sides of the same coin. The booklet includes discussion about the marks of the Church gathered in the New Testament. Seven things that, though not an exclusive list, were central to the life of the early Church. Then there is a discussion about being sent as witnesses into five main areas of life: family, community, the workplace, the public square and the world.
I believe that the fields are white unto harvest. I am convinced this is a time for the Church to catch that desire for intimacy with Jesus again, which leads to a renewed sense of our calling to be sent witnesses of Jesus. Knowing that Jesus is able, the gospel is the power of God to salvation and it is our time. It is time for us to be what we were always meant to be: bold, loving, kingdom culture makers.
What kind of Church? Join the conversation, take action.
The booklet with discussion questions will be available from July. A series of conversations will begin in Scotland in September.