Wednesday, 17 September 2014


I struggle with many of the Christians who tell me how we do too much and boast that this their primary message from the pulpit and on the streets is : The Church needs to stop doing and 'Just Be'!" Now accepting that this is a mantra I have used myself I have to ask why does it cause such me such angst?

A conversation regarding this led me to realise that for many of us in Church the most apt analogy is that where the gathering of Christians is portrayed as a train, and here's my reasoning:

The locomotive is full of people with energy, vision, enthusiasm and commitment. It doesn't matter how long they've been Christian or how long they've been in the church or eve how old they are, these are the drivers, doers, movers and shakers. They have a head of steam and are keen to keep themselves and the church on the rails.

Behind them is the ministry team - those people who are keen to enable, equip and release those moving the train forward; fuelling, watering, maintaining and repairing wheresoever the need might arise.

Then come the carriages, each bearing the good names like 'just be' and 'family commitments' and (full of)  'good intentions' and once they are coupled to the tender, the train is ready to leave the station - with nothing to slow it's steady (also known as 'snail's pace') progress towards growing the kingdom.

Well nothing except perhaps the endeavours of the stalwart members (also know as 'stalewart' in some circles) who populate the brake van at the rear of the train whose job, as I'm sure many will already know, is to apply the brakes should the whole caboose start to run too quickly. This is done effectively in so many instances by the application of the mantras of 'tried that before, it didn't work' and 'we're not THAT sort of church' and the like.

When I was in my sending church I had a family and was a member of a church and there was little conflict between the two. We went to church and lived our lives as a family and the two aspects of our life rarely collided. If we went away for the weekend we did it in such a way that we had Friday and Saturday and managed it so that, as much as possible we were back for the Sunday service. After all, Sundays are usually taken up with getting up and having something to eat and then heading home so what did we miss by leaving early on a Sunday or late on a Saturday?

We balanced and managed our lives so that the two important things worked together and we were blessed by it (and I hope family and church were too) and so were not confined to the 'family' coach but were free to get on the footplate.

The 'Good Intentions' carriage is another struggle; for we all fall foul of this minefield. We all want to be useful and to be an active members (we do, don't we?) - but the problem is that we don't put the stuff in our diaries or perhaps we really mean to be somewhere but then the lure of friends and getting together or visiting a pub or doing any one of a million other things that crop up just get in the way. The problem is that this is the active outworking of the passage where the Bible tells us that where our treasure is, that's where our heart is to be found. If we are really engaged and committed then we will move heaven and earth, put off the distractions and get onboard with Church. It's like having friends who never come round (or perhaps never invite you to their homes) - eventually you realise that they are friends at all - same applies to Church: You get to realise that they are acquaintances and destined to never be close (or even, to be honest) friends (at all)!

The Stalewarts at the back are a real challenge because these are really the people who, knowing the
track, should be up the front in the loco' but instead struggle to keep their church as it was when they were young (a great example being a church member who recently told me that they wished the children who visited wouldn't because , "It spoiled the service!" Ironically it is a church with almost no children in it - wonder why?). Armed with buckets of water to extinguish the flames in the firebox they criticise and carp and complain and hearken back to the old days when, "You couldn't get a seat!"

Should they find people who want to take the church in a new direction they apply the brakes and rush round making sure the points are set in the 'right' direction and then, assured that they are on a familiar track, allow the train to proceed. Even then, should things start to speed up past the point of their liking then on go the brakes again until those driving things get the message and slow down, give up or (better still) leave!

Then along come the 'Just Be' folk - the people who, as I have in the past, tell everyone that it's not about doing but just resting in the Lord. The problem with this is that my reason for telling people this is to get them to develop a relationship with God because things will come out of that whilst it seems others are content to have those around them 'being' and equally content with them not doing.

When I was first married, having a wife who didn't drive, when I came home and knew she was shopping I would take the route I knew she'd be on so that I might see her and give her a lift home. At other times, if she was somewhere and it started raining, I'd go and pick her up to save her from getting drenched. The outworking of my love was that I did things for the focus of that love. This is what 'Just Be' is all about - it fosters stuff as the outworking of the relationship.

James 2 sums it up wonderfully for us:

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?
Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Goodbye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”- but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.
What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless."

Faith produces doing and if you're not doing and yet claim to have a faith then something is wrong. Of course - just to make sure you don't get it wrong - if you go off doing stuff all the time and think this shows you be a Christian, then you've got it wrong (again) because regardless of how much you do, how much you give to the church or how many stained glass windows, pews or silver you give - you can't work or buy your way into heaven: It's all about relationship with God through Jesus, the Christ.

So some simple questions:

Are you on the train that is Church?

If you answered 'Yes': Where are you on it?
If you answered 'No' would you like to find out how you can be?

All aboard

1 comment:

JonG said...

David Watson tells teh story of visiting a church and getting into a conversation with and elderly Church Warden, who proudly claimed to have been their for more than fifty years.
"I expect that you have seen a lot of changes in that time?" observed Watson.
"Yes, and I've resisted every single one of 'em!" replied the Warden, proudly.

I call them "Pillars of the Church", because we all know that the main function of a pillar is to hold something up. I knew that it was time to move on from my old church when, after one of the most moving services it has been my privilege to be involved with, I was dragged back to earth with the comment of "Very nice, but we don't want That sort of thing Every week." And sadly, it was that sort of experience that has a lot to do with why my family want nothing to do with the Church now - which does cause difficulties.