Nick asks ‘what is the purpose of the Church?’ As ever, he was thought provoking and so I’ve been thinking! It’s a huge question and I dissent from nothing that Nick preached and has written.
Perhaps the purpose of the Church is to be prophetic? To move ahead of the social climate into accepting the marginalised and the outcast. But, woefully, it is often the Church that lags behind and drags its feet. Its record with LGBT people is poor. It took decades to come to terms with divorce (and the Roman Catholics still haven’t. Methodism for a long time refused its pulpits to divorcees. Its attitude to unmarried mothers has been less than warm. It has been slow to build bridges to those of other faiths and of none. It so often prefers to keep its head down, to be invisible, so as not to be ‘controversial’. Instead it could have outpaced society as it made clear its wish to accept people where they are.
We at Christ Church had an opportunity with our reflection on Living with Difference. The answers to our questionnaire showed that in many ways we were ahead of the game. Did we make them known to other churches, the local press, the library users, Brunel students? No! We put the answers in a cupboard!
With some exceptions, churches seem not filled with people with feet on the accelerator but rather with people whose feet hover near the brake. We want everything kept as it is and we want to open our doors to people just like those inside and not to people who might press us to change. We don’t want to engage in debating the things that matter to those outside our walls and relate them to our faith. We want a bolt hole, a comfort zone.
To many in the churches it is still ‘gentle Jesus meek and mild’. But Jesus of Nazareth wasn’t like that. He was a revolutionary. He said some tough and controversial things. Look at Matthew 10 v 34. He was seen as a threat and killed for it. So what would be the reaction of the churches if he returned now?
Yes, it is the purpose of the Church to continue the mission of Jesus, the real Jesus. The tough guy who caused upset and demanded change and befriended people that no-one else wanted to know. But what would the first ten people asked in Uxbridge High Street say was the purpose of the Church?
I am frequently assailed by people who ask how I can belong to the Church. I am told that it is stuffy, reactionary, that it has outlived its place in history, that it is dying on its feet. I argue back. What would YOU say?
P.S. By the way when I use a capital C I mean the whole Christian Church in the world not just us at Christ Church, Uxbridge!
This article was first published in the March 2016 issue of Look-In, our monthly church magazine. To download the full issue, please click here: Look-In Mar 2016