2016 February

February 2016

Dear friends,

I write this in the week that we have heard of the death of David Bowie, whose work and life has influenced and changed the lives of millions.

Through his work, the characters that he invented and his continual re-imagination of himself and the industry in which he worked, he inspired generations to question their assumptions on music, art, fashion and sexuality.

The challenge that comes to me is: where are the Christian role models to our society?  In an increasingly secularised society, where the church seems more and more marginalised, where is the Christian voice in our society, and perhaps more important, is it being heard? Unfortunately, there are many voices that are hostile to the Christian voice, sometimes with some justification. We need to earn the right to be heard.

For example, I recently attended a conference organised by Church Action Against Sexual Abuse Issues (CASAI). While the Methodist Church led the way in giving a public apology following its past cases review of sexual abuse in the church, I was struck by the anguish and hurt experienced by sexual abuse survivors from the way it was presented. Sexual abuse in the church is a monstrous crime against victims and an absolute betrayal of the Gospel, which calls for love. There is no place for abuse. Unfortunately, in the eyes of some, we in the church are often all tarred with the same brush, and the voice of Christians is discounted and diminished.

Having said that, a recent Barna Group survey[1], found that 2/3 of non-Christians know a practising Christian (someone who attends church, reads the Bible and prays) either as a family member or a friend. 60% of non-Christians have a positive view of Christians finding them friendly, caring and good-humoured. Over half of non-Christians surveyed who know a practising Christian have had a conversation with them about Jesus.

The way forward, I believe, is in the hands of us in the local church, taking seriously the need for safeguarding procedures to counter the stain of sexual abuse on our reputation. It also requires us to engage with the community around us. One way in which we are doing this at Moor Lane is in Reach, our youth group. By providing a safe place for young people, we create a narrative that counters the negative one that exists in some places and offer a space where conversations about Jesus may ensue.

Having said that we want to have our voice heard, this is not for our own benefit. The reason for having a voice is not to make the church feel better, but so that those who are currently unaware of the message of the Gospel may have hope where there is despair and joy where there is none. It is not for the benefit of the church, but for the benefit of a society that does not know that they are loved by God.

One focus that we need in the coming months and years is to undertake mission and service that takes us out of our church confines into the midst of society, offering love and grace. That will involve stepping beyond where we are comfortable. Only that will allow a space to be made where the Gospel will be heard and people will find new life through Jesus. We serve a missionary God whose great aim is to share his love with all people.

Perhaps then, the ultimate revolutionary, Jesus Christ may once again influence society in and through us as much as individuals such as David Bowie have done.

With best wishes,

David

 

[1] Barna Group: Perceptions of Jesus, Christians and Evangelism in England, 2015, Available from http://www.talkingjesus.org/research/executive-summary.cfm


Page last updated: 29th February 2016 5:51 PM