As part of going through a course in our church at the moment I have a regular meeting with a mentor (which is absolutely fantastic and we even spend some time talking about things to do with the course), My mentor is a retired clergyman, with great wisdom and I find it really helpful to talk with him about all kinds of issues surrounding my ministry and where it’s future lies as well as the specifics of the course, (in many respects I suppose the future stuff is linked).
Anyway this week we got to talking a little about the image of the church, I guess for several years now the church has had a reputation for being an outdated institution, I remember someone saying a few years ago (can’t remember who) “the church is a organisation for old ladies run by middle aged men” and I guess I can see the argument, for many who don’t attend our churches it does have a reputation of not having changed much in the last 150 years or so. Perhaps another part of the problem is that many people don’t distinguish between the Church and being a Christian, leading to an idea of “if you are a Christian then you are everything that my idea of church is” and looking at the media’s portal of Christians and the church in recent years we have ‘Christian characters’ from the telly like Dot Cotton who I would say is not a great advert, the Vicar of Dibley perhaps slightly better, in that it put a normal human face that people can relate to in the church. Then you go on to look at the news and the church suddenly becomes a place full of child molesters and homophobes. Even from within the church at the moment we seem to be full of infighting and disagreement.
It’s time for a change, lets look to Jesus, as for the infighting, yes we all interpret different parts of the bible differently, but lets face it, as confident as we maybe in our own interpretation somewhere we have probably all got it wrong, I am looking forward to getting to heaven and finding out where I was wrong! No matter how right we are, “let those who are without sin cast the first stone”, and I don’t recall “love your neighbour” having a clause about “so long as they agree with you”. If we are the body of Christ lets celebrate our common ground, love one another and get on with the job of serving him, yes lets discuss the areas where we disagree, but not let it stop us from serving and loving one another. Surly the image the church needs to be displaying is one of compassion, one of concern for our communities, their individual members and our world. One of the phrases I have heard a few times recently is about the gospel being for the Last, the least and the lost, I also remember Mike Yaconelli speaking at Greenbelt (probably back in the late 80’s) and talking about the church is the only organisation that exists for it’s non members, and yet these are the people we are putting off. it’s time we stopped casting stones and started loving and forgiving. it’s time to improve our image and become more Christ like.