Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Lord grants me a Sleepless Night!

This is a real struggle to write, and post, for many reasons. Those I trust will agree with the words and yet will tell me that they will, 'Put people off,' but to remain silent is to be complicit in the wrong that I see before me.

 Reminiscent of the days when the children were small I often find myself woken during the night - but not by a child who wants a drink, had a nightmare or merely 'can't sleep' (yet in seconds they do!); no, the cause of my disturbed sleep rests in the actions of others. Or perhaps I should say 'inactions'!

I find myself drawn to conversations, averted gazes and empty seats; to those I meet who have never heard the Gospel (and worse still, never seen it lived out before them by those who otherwise have described themselves as 'Christian'). I find myself challenged by those who appear to be comfortable with a self-serving church or those who are resigned to 'manage decline' rather than be enthused to 'grow the kingdom'.

Sharing my angst with a colleague recently, I have to be honest and say that their response: A shrug, rolled eyes and the words, 'I know, but what can you do?', didn't really do much to ease the pain.

So here I am wondering what people hear when I share the words:
'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.' 
(Matt 16.24//Mk 8.34//LK 9.23). 

I wonder how the words, '... And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple,' manage to slip past unheeded, without the slightest sense of remorse or even a hint of desire and a (never to be met) vow to change.

This is tough to say but I don't think the devil needs to prowl around looking for whosoever he might devour. There's no need for humanists or new atheists to jump up and down and plot the demise of the mentally-ill folk formerly known as 'Church'. The reality is that Church can deny Christ more effectively than them, after all, we know they don't believe in God so they would say that, wouldn't they?'

If we want to really destroy the Church it's better to engage in 'green on green' encounters rather than engage the enemy (red on green). An even more effective way to undermine our engagement with those who oppose us is by being indisciplined and using the most effective tactic of all: Practising the art of 'not turning up'!

So, I suggested that we might take up the challenge and seek to 'train the troops' and was told that to do this would, 'Turn people off!' So here I am wondering what I need to do to to, 'Turn them on!'

What I'm learning from my discussions is the bitter truth that if you do stuff the people watch. The reality for so many is that the thought, 'If you build it - they will come,' was wrong. Generally they don't come to do it with you; those who do come, come to watch!).

So here I am wondering how to add to those who are doing the stuff and 'denying themselves' are growing in faith and becoming true disciples and how those tepid believers can be warmed up so the they are not spewed out like a similarly heated cup of pale insipid tea.

For those who are engaged and walking toward the cross of Christ, denying themselves and working on becoming salt and light to the world - thank you for the encouragement and the faithful life you lead.

Those who are happy to come to the show and sing the happy songs and have their ears tickled - the day is coming when the battle will be engaged and you will find yourself 'not fit for purpose' - time to 'man up Church.' 

Time to become disciples and if not ...

Time to realise that the Christian life is costly - not just the price paid by Jesus, the Christ, on the cross but by the price we are called to pay in our own lives.

We need to be faithful and continue in the calling God has given us, to resist the urge to chase popularist methods and means and to stay consistent - our eyes fixed firmly on the cross - step by step and inch by inch. This is the way the Kingdom is won. Who will join us?

And so I continue to pray and do and be - for here I stand (walking) for I can do nothing less . .



Anonymous said...

This is not popular approach to an eben less popular topic.

Those in my churches are content to come, sing, sleep during the sermons, pay and pray and asking anything more (like commitment) upsets them and causes some to leave for nicer churches where they are happy to have numbers and income and maintain a comfortable (this means unchallenging) lifestyle for their flock.

Preach it brother

Soup D said...

A couple of weeks ago, I was pottering around, setting up before the service, and watching the congregation enter out of the corner of my eye. One by one they came in, took their seats and waited for the performance to begin: that was exactly how it felt. None asked if there was anything they could do to help; none sat quietly preparing themselves for the service. They chatted easily with each other and waited for the signal that we were about to start - just as if in a concert or theatre.
The culture of this church is relaxed and laid back, and has often been described as very welcoming - all of which is good. I am happy for the relationships that the congregation have with each other, that are expressed in the pre-service chit cha; butI do wonder if we have lost something along the way.
'Liturgy' is defined as 'the work that we do'; i.e. that the congregation do in coming together to worship God; but it seems our relaxed (consumerist) attitude has re-defined it as 'the work that someone else does while we watch and enjoy'.

The Underground Pewster said...

To paraphrase J. Gresham Machen,

Shall we be satisfied with parishioners who merely ‘do not deny’ the Cross of Christ? God grant that such satisfaction may be broken down! The world is perishing under the ministrations of those who ‘do not deny’ the Cross of Christ. Surely something more than that is needed. God help us to raise up parishioners who, instead of merely avoiding denial of the Cross shall be on fire with the Cross, whose whole life shall be one burning sacrifice of gratitude to the blessed Savior who loved them and gave Himself for them!

Paraphrase of J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, (1923), 176.

Robbie the Rector said...

Just chanced across this and I have to say that:-

a. you must be bonkers to write this as you will undoubtedly be pilloried for holding such thoughts.

b. Whilst correct in your assumptions and position, you will be berated by those who merely want a popular and happy church.

c. I would love to be a member of your congregation but my bishop would not be too happy to see me missing on a Sunday!

May God bless you richly for the courage, passion and enthusiasm you show for His Church.