Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Post about the Last Post

I began responding to the comments on the last post, and then realised I had not only written a post-length comment, but also said some things that might be best said on the blog itself rather than the comments.

The more I have thought about this last post on churches being closed Christmas Sunday, the more I have thought I needed to say more, or perhaps less, and in any event, said it more clearly. I am tempted to withdraw it altogether, but perhaps it will serve as an object lesson against PWT (posting while tired -- am I coining a phrase?). In any event, I am not satisfied with what I have said, and I feel I need to think a bit more about it.

Barnabas wrote with conviction the following in the comments: Yes we need to make church more relevant, I spoke at Housegroup meeting this week about those on the edge of society, making church more inclusive not exclusive.

Maybe not doing church on a Sunday maybe in a pub on a Wednesday evening, Jesus meet people where they were, he meet them at the point of their need, perhaps we should be doing the same!

(I reproduce it here just so that it is clear to what I am responding.)

Barnabas, Thanks for these thoughts. I need to be clear -- and the more I think about this post, the more certain I am that I wasn't clear, either about what I wanted to say or what needed to be said.

To respond to the points you raise will require another post, of course. (In the event, even the "brief summary" required another post! -ed.) But to briefly summarize what I might say: I see no contradiction between (on the one hand) having strong, vibrant church practices which do not completely reflect the culture around us* and (on the other) doing everything possible to meet people where they are at, in whatever contexts they live and work. In fact, I take this dynamic of both-and to be the essence of inclusivity, not of exclusivity.

One historical example of this at work is the Anglo-Catholic clergy of the various urban centers in the UK, and (alas, somewhat less so) in the US. Certainly, particularly when it arose, anglo-catholicism was not entirely in step with the currouding culture, and featured strong, vibrant ecclesial practices. And yet the clergy were unusually dedicated to being in the streets and factories and homes of people in their "day to day" lives.

Of course, the answer is not to return to those days. But it does raise the possibility that maybe the way that Bill Hybels, George Barna, and the Megachurchers are doing it -- and saying that we ought to do it if we are serious about the gospel -- actually isn't the only way to do it.
I'm not sure that I agree with you that the church should be more relevant, in part because I'm not sure what you mean: relevance is relative. Relevant to what? Relevant primarily to the Kingdom of God, I would think -- but even then, we need to tease out just what "the Kingdom of God" might mean, here and now.

And I'm ALL FOR the church (i.e. the community of Christians, not just clergy or "the hierarchy") doing all sorts of things in all sorts of places. (Perhaps the ways we've divided up secular/sacred are problematic in themselves? Isn't this the product of enlightenment and modern ways of thinking? And aren't these ways of thinking themselves worth reconsidering?) But I see these activities as being ways in to the relationships of the church, to the worshipping community. Jesus did meet people where they were at, but that wasn't the end. He met them, asked them to follow him, and they were transformed in the process.

Barnabas, you might not find this is a full and satisfying response to your comment; as with everything, of course, my prayer and thought is not done on this issue (nor, I would wager, is yours). But your points were helpful for me in moving along a bit. I am grateful for the sisters and brothers who take time to provoke, challenge, correct, and encourage -- and for that I thank you.

*Of course, there will always be overlap, and why not? But "overlap with" is not the same as "identical to". And if this is so, then this it is a matter needing judgement and practical wisdom about just what ought to overlap and what ought to be different, in what circumstances and times. (And this, then, is a matter for rhetoric, not analysis, that is, for persuasion about what might be the case, rather than demonstration of what obviously must be the case.)


Blogger Barnabas said...

Jason - Thank you for your reply it was an intresting read, I would not disgree with anything you said.

I would however say that "The Church" needs to see itself as a body, a living body not a church building. I would like to see it move outside it's walls and be radcal in the community to show that Jesus still lives and loves us! That what I mean by being inclusive not exclusive!

I agree that this is a complex subject and I too need as you said to reflect and pray about this further.

Friday, December 09, 2005 7:16:00 PM  

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