I was in a taxi today and the driver (a Muslim) asked me on my thoughts on the future of the Christian Church in England. A good question, he was a nice guy I liked him, but he clearly thought we as the Church are loosing the battle of the hearts and minds of ordinary people, especially young people.
I said that I wasn’t too pessimistic about the future, and dis still believe that Christianity, and in particular Christ himself, were as captivating as they have ever been, and although the world is pretty crazy but I still reckon people are searching for real and authentic answers for those big questions of life.
His next comment was interesting… If you want to get young people are you going to water down your message –again not being rude- and I said “no I wasn’t”. And what I should have said (but didn’t) is I don’t think people want us to sell out, people long for authenticity and integrity and look for leaders who are prepared to stand for something rather than constantly courting popularity like some fading reality TV star.
Yet the message of the cross has never been popular:
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor.18) & “… “but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1Cor.23).
At the heart of our faith has God himself suffering and dying in agony upon a cross, and as the Easter Hymn puts it “and we believe it was for us he hung and suffered there”.
It is not a popular message, the call to repentance is an uncomfortable, even the band blue reminded us that “sorry is the hardest word”.
Again, as I reflected further on my conversation with the cabby, I should have said something about the character of God, God who is at his heart is Missional, a God reaching out to his beloved creation.
Jesus saw his mission as being like “the good shepherd (Luke 15)” who would seek and save the lost.
The Holy Spirit whose job in the world is to bring us to Jesus Christ is also the Spirit of all truth, convicting the world of sin and pointing them to the solution.
Jesus’ own description of God was “of the a Running Father” (Luke 15) seeking out the lost, leaving behind his dignity and taking on his sinful sons shame..
I was reminded that “it’s not the Church that has the mission of God, but rather the missionary God who has a Church”, the future is not entirely down to us but actually rests in the hands of a God who does not give up on his creation easily, a God who doesn’t leave himself without a witness, a God who doesn’t desert his bride, even when she’s frail and fragile.
So, although there are plenty of challenges when we think of the Churches future, even so I believe that God will be faithful to his Church, his bride which he is coming back for.
I will close with a prayer from St. Paul.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20&21).