God, Faith & Church

niche church… the only way forward?

What’s so wrong with churches that serve a a particular group of people?  Why isn’t there a youth church in each town?  A church for elderly people (ok maybe there is one of these most places!), a children’s church…

Does the church suffer from trying to be all things to all people?  The churches that seem to be growing offer groupings to people based on shared interests or age or gender or whatever.  Is that the way forward?  Is our obsession with ‘being together’ the thing that is driving us apart?

What do you think?  Should we be going for variety?  Or one size fits hardly any?  Or is there another way?

God, Faith & Church Theology

God outside the church

Do we meet God outside of the church?

I’m sure we do.  I experience God in all sorts of places.  In my work I often ask people where they feel close to God and almost all of them talk of places other than a church building.  Not that they don’t ever feel God’s presence in church, but the vast majority of people experience God in lots of other places.  On top of mountains, washing the dishes, in bed or on a train.

How do we value these kinds of experience of God?  Does our church language enable us to help people see that these experiences of God are just as relevant and valuable as any experience of God we might have inside a church?  Or do we never mention that God lives outside the church?

God, Faith & Church

You’re welcome… is the church a welcoming place?

‘Evangelical’ is a word that seems to make people either quake or rejoice because it is a word that seems to have become interchangeable with ‘conservative’, particularly in theological circles.  I don’t get that.  Evangelical simply means telling someone about something else, particularly if the thing being told about is life-changing.  So why the association with conservatism?

Perhaps because people of a conservative theological persuasion have generally been much more active in up front evangelism.  Those who might call themselves ‘liberal’ could be stereotyped as being more prone to engage in quiet conversation and encouraging people to come to their own conclusions.

The thing is that there are many things that liberals hold to be ‘fundamental’.  Non-discrimination, the value of all and right of all to participate and be heard.  Liberals are often accussed of being ‘woolly’ and not really believing in anything definitive.  I find that to be just as untrue as the generalisations made about ‘conservatives’.

The reality is that most of our churches are inhabited by a broad range of people who hold a broad range of thoughts and ideas and beliefs.  In those circumstances the liberal base line of involvement and participation of all seems to me to be vital, but back to evangelism.

What is it we, as Christians, want to tell people?  Unless the message we have is that what we believe is life-changing in a positive way then we have little chance of convincing anyone that our faith has something to offer them.  I was preaching this morning and spoke about the initiative of the Uniting Church of Christ in the USA.  Check out the ads and have a think about the strap line… ‘Whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.’  I wonder how many of our church fellowships could with hand on heart say this to be true?

Jesus was pretty set against people making judgements about who was out and who was in but we seem driven to make all kinds of pronouncements about all kinds of people, usually the kinds of people Jesus spent most time talking to.

My observation was what if Jesus had been the son of a single unmarried refugee?  Oh that’s right, he was!

So our message must be that whoever you are and wherever you are on life’s journey, you’re welcome here.