The question is Jesus’. He asks it to Peter but I wonder if we, the church, were to ask the same question of our communities what kind of answer we might get?
I noticed on Question Time on BBC the other night someone referred to Britain as a ‘Christian country’ before launching into a tirade about how ‘they’ come here and take ‘our’ jobs and live separately and don’t want to integrate. I don’t want to get into that discussion just now, not because it isn’t important, it is, but because I would prefer to spend some time and thought on any contribution I might make to an already over polarised debate.
My interest at the moment lies more in how we become ‘they’ and ‘them’. Many, many times in my adventures in youth work have I heard adults complain about young people in such terms. ‘They’ and ‘them’ seem somehow to have appeared on our street corners from nowhere. I wonder where ‘they’ sleep at night because ‘they’ never seem to be the children or grandchildren of the grown ups ‘they’ spend so much time making life miserable for.
But, back to the church. I wonder who people say we are? It seems perhaps that as far as Sunday morning worship goes people have perhaps voted with their feet, shopping trolleys or golf clubs. Has public worship become something that bears little or no relevance to life? I’m not so sure, but then I lead worship fairly regularly so I might be biased. I visited the USA in 2001 to find out how the church worked there and asked the question ‘What brings people here?’ In more than one place the answer was ‘the preaching’. How interesting. Perhaps people like it when the church has something to say and when it articulates that well. Why then is so little time spent on preparing our ministers for this central function? Knowledge of theology doesn’t guarantee good preaching!
A Holy Huddle? Is that what the church is? I know for a fact that this isn’t true! I’m the least holy person I know and I hang out in and around church lots with others like me. I wonder how the spurious holy huddle image gets out? Surely the church should be for all, particularly the unholy and unworthy. Isn’t that the point?
Not connected to people’s lives? I don’t get that either. The places that the church does seem still to have contact with people’s lives is at births, marriages and illness and death. It seems strange that if the church is so irrelevant people should call on it at such important times in their lives.
So what do you say the church is?