Absence, presence, Time, visible

Community Suffers Alkaloid Burns.

Acid burns by what is in it (a high + on the PH scale).

Alkaloid burns by what is NOT in it (it is a – on the PH scale).

The Alkaloid burns because of the absence.

I was thinking about Alkaloid burns today at a community event today. It was a event when the community organisers specifically tried to invite the Churches along, and the Churches largely shrugged them off.

As I think of leaving the question I ask is, “will the Christian Community be present in any form?” -I worry that largely not.

An Alkaloid burn.

when we saw Christians engage with Street Pastors in love, service and prayer in our local communities night time economy, crime rate fell, the PH rate rises.

The Church being the Church in our communities is what is needed, when the Church is being the Church, the Kingdom advances, it is justice for the oppressed, it feeds the hungry, embraces the lonely, gives truth to the confused.

The absence of the manifestation and advance of the Kingdom of God is a terrible, terrible thing to inflict on a community, truly evil, and yet we unthinkingly do it when the Church withdraws itself from the lives of those Christ has called us to care for

“The Great Harvest never happened here because the mission community were stuck in a side room arguing about what colour to paint the combine harvester”.

In the absence of hope, purpose, freedom and love it provides the presence of God. In destructive and decay we bring healing, wholeness and restoration.

You see we are the light of the world, but too often we enjoy being bright and shiny, with other bright lights, but never go anywhere dark where the light is needed.

The with-drawl of the Church is not just attacking an institution, but rather it is a challenge and an indictment against us all, we all have a personal responsibility to bring the light of Christ to a dark and dying world, we carry the presence of Jesus where-ever we go, the aroma of Christ, the salt of the world. Salt combats decay, what should we do when we see our community decaying -perhaps we ought to up the dose.

Yet, where are Christians protesting to their local MP’s, where are the Christians praying for their communities to be drug free, or free from violence.

James says “we have not because we ask not” so let’s ask, and ask and ask some-more, let us bring the presence of Christ into more and more of our community.

Even our Churches burn people with alkaloid, as they come to us for help, and we feed them, clothe them, listen to them and love them but too often we don’t share with them Jesus who is at the heart of all our human longings. Too often the Church lets the PH levels creep past neutral into minus figures (burning levels) by taking he cash of people who forbid us talking about Jesus and praying with people.

So, let us advance into our Communities rather than withdraw from them, and alter the PH levels of our communities, in Christ’s name, let’s see our communities go from minus to plus.

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Presences, visible

Unlocking the Invisible Church….

This week I have spent yesterday and today in a Church hall hidden in the back of a graveyard, trying to do a 24-7 style prayer room.

Yesterday lady popped into the prayer room to ask about getting her baby christened, and I thought had she have come another day, she’d have probably found locked doors and eventually been able to leave a message on an answerphone…
It made me think too, as have been joined in prayer this morning by two wonderful prayer warriors from the Sanctuary Church, and often find that people just want to pray, have space and haveca quiet moment to just “be” in churches… but yet too often we as Church literally “shut up” from Monday to Saturday. Or we hire someone else’s building so ‘disappear’…
What struck me, is how often are churches are locked up, and the vicars “hidden” away from our communities.
Last week I was(talking to one lady a fortnight ago and described me as “under cover” because I wasn’t wearing my dog collar as  I thought about it, “undercover” was the last thing I wanted to be. My dad’s favourite bible verse is “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe…” I began to think the Church was birthed behind closed doors with the disciples locked in the upper room, scared of the religious authorities, and yet when  the Holy Spirit came, they unlocked the doors and went into the city centre market place proclaiming Christ.
Too often our Churches look like we have come from before Pentecost rather than after it, we have often become a hidden minority retreated from the world we are called to impact and transform, yet I pray the Spirit will once again fill us and cause us to share Christ with those we meet. Let the Spirit be unlocked in our Churches, and lets not keep him to ourselves like a ‘private party of the exclusive members club”, but go and share the good news of Christ with those who are in the cit, in the market place.
This made me wonder in our context whether:
… Too often we are invisible in the communities we are trying to reach.
… Almost locking the gospel, the good news, behind closed doors.
I thought about all these locked up Churches in darkness. This image really struck me, when God called me to plant Street Pastors in Salisbury (my previous parish, the auto correct changed it to my precious parish) I saw that the Churches were in darkness when literally hundreds of young people were pouring into/out of the pubs, bars and clubs all around them and yet the only thing the Churches offered was odd shaped buildings to urinate against!
I don’t want the local Church to be invisible, but visible, and I believe God doesn’t either.
I don’t want the local Church to be a faceless institution, but a loving approachable one… I love the Foodbank where people are welcomed with warmth, and a coffee and a cake, thinking this is putting a loving human face on the faceless institution of the Church… Welcoming in for practical help, love, compassion and reflecting Jesus to his community.
Just like street pastors, when choosing in Salisbury what to do about mission to the night time economy there were a number of projects we could have signed up for, but when I went on line to check out the web page I came across the line for Street Pastors which said “Church in Action on the Street”… This literally made my heart beat faster.
Church, not a faceless institution behind closed doors, or a soul-less answerphone message but Church that comes to you!
Church, that meets you in the gutter, rather than when you have spruced yourself up for a Sunday morning,
Church that is not about the building but rather the mobiles spirit filled Missional people of God living out their faith in everyday life.
It has been often said the challenge is not to “go to Church” (although attending some is challenging) the real challenge is to BE the Church.
Be accessible.
Be where real people are at (so often it is a real fight to try and get our Church people to turn up to big community events, in fact trying to stop them putting on a rival event is a challenge!).
Often we walk in to Church and the building and the welcome have the same lack of warmth, when people come to Church they are told they can’t park here, our Church kitchens are mass of messages telling you to keep your hands off their teabags etc… We think we gave made the Church for sinners and broken people feel like a we weekend at the mother in laws… Businesses pay millions to think about their shop window and the message it sends to the community, at yet if they do notice us and wander in do they encounter the extravagant grace-filled welcome of Jesus?
Thinking too of our Church buildings, locked up most of the time, if made me think are we more scared of a vandalism than people meeting with God?
I can’t remember who but some bishop somewhere once asked a PCC (who are the local custodians of “their” religious building) asking “why have you stolen this building from your community?” This idea that our building are tools,  given to the community to help the community hear and follow Christ… Resources the Church has to connect with their community and lovingly introduce people to their Saviour.
So, let’s be the Church, let’s be visible, welcome and loving, discovering both hospitality and meeting people where they are at with love.
Let’s unlock to doors.
Lets inviting people to “Come and See” whilst reaching out with “Go and tell”.
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