There was yet another knock at the monastery door and the monk went to answer it, yet again, and discovered more hippy young people asking if this was the Buddhist temple. They had been disturbed all day with this. Again, it was a young guy asking where to find the Meditation centre, but this time the monk ended up chatting to him and discovered that he was wanting to go to the meditation centre because he had a deep yearning in his soul for something deep, real and authentic, filled with questions about life, God, truth and simply about how to make life work, to ‘be happy’ and to ‘be a good person’. He and the monk talked long into the night, and the young guys discovered that the Christianity he thought he had rejected was something of a caricature, that what he thought/sought from Buddhism provided was available in the Christian faith, and the practices he felt he needed were there in abundance in the Christian tradition.
For any of us who have been involved in mission and outreach for a while have noticed something of a transition, we live in an age of greater spirituality but less engagement with traditional types of established religion. For the postmodern generation their spiritual hunger and hunting has led them to explore Eastern theology, philosophy and practice such as Buddhism and meditation.
Understanding spiritual maturity and openness is a complex matter, where we have thought that having someone in Church but thinking about fishing was better than having someone fishing and thinking about God (which is a caricature of the difference between the modern generation -in church thinking of fishing- and the post-modern generation -fishing thinking about God)! Each generation has to learn afresh how to communicate the unchanging truths of Jesus, and what is certain that what we have done in the past might need to be re-looked at to see if it still works for the mission in the 21st century, and perhaps the things we have previously thrown out might need to be picked up afresh to reach a new generation?
An image I refer to often in my mind as I think of God showing us a new way into the future is of David being given Saul’s armour to fight Goliath, it being too big and cumbersome and David fought Goliath another way, which worked, and David won the battle! Too many of us are trying to fight Goliath in the clunky armour of a previous generation.
Yet, I am excited by this generation, and believe that God has gone ahead of us -for such a time as this- preparing the way, opening doors and preparing hearts and minds to meet with God.
The conversation around spirituality has gone East, are we prepared to go onto unfamiliar territory for the sake of the Kingdom of God, to learn new things, new ways of talking and being, to reach the people we find there, and as we wander we discover that Jesus has got there before us, has gone ahead of us and will be there long after we have left. When Paul left the comfortable Jewish world and began to speak in Athens (Acts 17) he learned a new way of preaching the same unchanging message to a new audience (compare the message with Peter in Acts 2 it sounds very different, but yet was the same message inspired by the same missionary Holy Spirit).
Those of us who are Anglican clergy, have to promise that we will ‘proclaim the Gospel afresh to each generation’, yet too often I think we simply proclaim it ‘again to every generation’, often answering questions they’re not asking and missing the keys that God has put within the culture (and every culture) to draw people to himself and his arms of love.
The Monks in their monastery soon had a group of travellers exploring faith with them, discovering the rich treasures of Christianity, realising that the Christian faith was not about wearing Sunday best, minding your P’s and Q’s and reading the Daily Mail… Discovering the dynamic and depth of a real Christianity living the way of Jesus.
What of us, are we prepared to re-think how we do Church and Mission to discover both the spiritual seekers but also the work of the missional God active within every culture and wanting to draw everyone into a real relationship with himself.