There are such things as aliens. I should know, I am one. That's why I don't quite fit in. I'm a bit too different to the people around me. They sense I'm not quite one of them and it makes them uneasy. Which is why they sometimes get uptight around me and that comes out sometimes with mocking comments or some verbal abuse. No, not talking about church meetings, (although...) but echoing what Peter says about Christians in his letter to the churches. Christians are aliens, foreigners, strangers, amongst the rest of the world. We don't fit in and so life is sometimes uncomfortable, indeed, downright dangerous in some parts of the world.
We're reading Everyday Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis as a church leadership and I am using it as the basis for a sermon series on a Sunday too. Fabulous book and full of good and godly wisdom. I plan to blog through the series but would urge you to read the book. Way better than my sermons or blog posts.
Chapter 1 open with a survey of landscape in the western world. Writing from a UK perspective, the tide is out. there was a time when church attendance was much higher than it is (though, of course, that isn't the same as being a Christian), Sunday School was attended by the majority of kids and the church (for good or bad) had a great deal more power and influence than it does today.
The last census figures (2001) show that 72% of people say that they are Christians and yet a Tearfund survey in 2007 say that 70% of people say that they have no intention of going to a church. Something doesn't quite stack up there. Be interesting to see what the 2011 census figures say, I believe that they are due out next month.
Stuart Murray outlines the differences between the olden days of Christendom and the situation today. He describes the change for Christians as being:
- From the centre to the margins
- From majority to minority
- From settlers to sojourners
- From privilege to plurality
- From control to witness
- From maintenance to mission
- From institution to movement
As they never quite said in the Wizard of Oz: “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Christendom anymore”.
We came up with an extra one while we discussed this at a Deacons Meeting:
- From respect to ridicule
At one time the church and the Christian faith would be respected by most, whether people believed or not. Now it's pretty much open season. There's nothing new under the sun though as a first century piece of graffiti shows.
The inscription is "Alexander worships his God."
As Chester and Timmis write, “Rather than assume we should have a voice in the media or on the high street, we need to regain the sense that anything other than persecution is an unexpected bonus.” (40)
All a bit gloomy? Well the situation is pretty close to the one that Peter's readers found themselves in and the church seems to have grown hugely since then. Perhaps we just need to find a new way to do church. Next up, Everyday Community.
Part of my reason for blogging this series of sermons is to make sure that folk from the church who miss some of them can be in the loop. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the church, the value of a sermon can go down as well as up, terms and conditions apply.