'Not bothered about the wider church, my job is to build the church where I am.'
Now, as much as I try I have never shifted a single one of them from this position and yet, rather ironically, not one of the proponent of this isolationist approach has been in a church that was flourishing. In fact the reality was the complete opposite in that they were diminishing and even floundering!
Now hear what I'm saying - not what you think I've said!
We must witness to those around us and seek to bring them into relationship with Jesus, the Christ, and those who follow Him. But we do it with integrity, seeking to build the Church first and our own piddling little expressions of it (for in comparison every local gathering is minuscule - even if there are hundreds of people in it) second. If we did this then perhaps we'd send people to a church that fits the bill for them rather than try to cling on to them.
Now before you suck air in through your teeth and start shaking your head, let me tell you that should you arrive where I am and want church that offers:
- choirs and organs
- high church
- low church
- chocolate biscuits
- something else
After all when we do this we are helping to build the Church and are displaying the reality of Church as a bunch of people in relation to each other rather than competing outlets of the Christian franchise.
When we do this I believe God sees that integrity and honours it and let's be honest here:
Should you have someone visit and attempt to cling onto them, even though they're not truly comfortable, you have won yourself someone who will never quite fit and making more work for yourself. Pass them on, get people who are the right fit for your outlet and then, as a happy little band of brothers and sisters, worship the Lord in the beauty of having a church that runs like a sewing machine rather than a jackhammer.
And those you have sent, because they are happy where they have landed have a warm feeling towards you and yours for having had the kindness to assist them in their search.
And those who lead the churches around you will be warm and friendly because what you say is what you are (WYSIWYA) and that makes unity a reality rather than a forlorn hope.
And God (who, even though I'm an Anglican, I am convinced exists) will bless and enable and quicken and inspire to do even greater things. For being faithful in the ones and twos when they come a looking will demonstrate how you can be trusted with the many (and if we have few - can we assign that totally to the place we're in without considering the people that we are?).
So here's a bit of a tough one today - one that (as a friend said recently) is probably 'rather rude'!
If it is - I'm afraid I can't apologise for it - because it is, I fear, also 'rather true' too!
So let's end on a. Lighter note shall we.
A Vicar walks into an opticians saying they think they need glasses. The optician takes them to the window and says, 'Look up at the sky, what can you see?'
The Vicar replies, 'Absolutely nothing at all!'
The optician responds, 'Yeah, I've been to your church and I didn't see the Son either!'
Happy Monday - let's go build Church
* Although come to think of it there are some for whom the illness bit might apply in some form or other
+even when it transpires that some have policies never to do the same for anything outside their walls - you know who you are and should repent before God comes done and has a chat: or is that why your numbers and fellowship is failing perhaps?
**Sadly of course that doesn't necessarily mean that they'd stay - but at least we've tried :-) The key is that we've done the right thing.