A Dead Church?

It isn’t often that I stick my head up and make comment on something like the synod of The Church of England but here goes. There was a report that prompted Dr Ruth and I to talk for a couple of hours this afternoon about the nature of God, The Church ™ and our place within it.

“The Church of England will cease to exist in 20 years as the current generation of elderly worshippers dies, Anglican leaders warned yesterday.”

This is a truism. For my beloved Church of England to continue witnessing into the future there needs to be a recognition of the changing world in which we minister. In the rhetoric that has been reported there have been some unfortunate soundbytes such as the need for a “recruitment drive”. There has also been the use of business model type language to describe the impending fall or rise of the good old CofE. This type of discussion has prompted me to a key theological question:

What is the role that The Church of England is called to within the missio dei?

To see our primary motivation to mission as merely “perpetuating The Church of England” as a goal in itself then we have missed the point. God is on a mission and invites us to be involved with it. We need to reexamine the true nature of our call as a church to go into the world as followers of the way. Along the way we need to keep pointing to our destination and call others to join us on the road. If we believe we need a “recruitment drive” then we may as well pack up the shop and go home now. We need to empower people to live out their baptism call corporately as the body of Christ.

How can i try to paint a picture of the problem as i see it? Lets imagine that The Church of England is transported to a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. When Luke landed on Degoba he met with a little muppet called Yoda. Yoda did not turn to Luke and say “welcome to Degoba, you’ll love it here. Pull up a rock by the swamp, please stay”. Why would he stay in a place that is completely alien to him? Where is the desert he knows knows so well from his homeworld? And once he has crash landed here he meets someone who is completely alien to him. Yoda doesn’t speak the same kind of language as him, the lifestyle is completely alien to him. Luke almost walks away and fails to recognise that Yoda’s advancing years have given him an ancient wisdom. Ironically, Yoda tries to dismiss Luke for being too impetuous, youthful and “not the right kind of person to be one of us”.

When Yoda was talked around by Obi Wan he did not point to all of these differences and the settings around him. What he did was point towards something much more significant than himself or the place where he found himself. He pointed to something much more profound and something much deeper than Luke could imagine. He prepared Luke for the journey that he was on and eventually sent him off to fulfil that journey.

How can we as a church get beyond trying to recruit people to man the jumble sale and become more like Yoda?

Or as @emptybelly tweeted a couple of days ago:

If the 21st century church took Jesus as seriously as the 1st century church, this world would again be turned upside down for God’s kingdom

3 Responses

  1. I see the the church itself as the biggest obstacle to The Church.

    To outsiders like myself – it is tempting to see attendance at the building ancient building (ancient or modern) as the key to claimimg the golden ticket.

    “Come to church – you may like it” is indeed the worst advertising push imaginable.

    Its outside the church walls where the true work of The Church and its members really matters.

    If the faith isn’t lived every moment of those 166 hours every week – the last two hours in the pews are empty gesture.

    If you don’t cheer the band with all your heart during the gig – buying the t-shirt will not make you a fan.

    Personally i don’t think losing the weekly ritual would be the death of the faith – it might be its liberation.

    • Sorry man, didn’t notice the comment in my absence on holiday.

      What you say is largely true. I think that the perception is that The Church (TM) is a 2 hours a week organisation. The reality is much bigger than that but the perception non the less has been coloured by the Monty Python sketches through to the modern day.

      I think The Church (TM) gets a lot of bad press it doesn’t deserve (and a lot it does). Heck, as an ex outsider an critic, I had to have many of my own misplaced preconceptions challenged before I… Jumped in with both feet.

      Where I keep coming back to it the challenge I gave above. Follow the dude where he is leading. “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter”.

    • The two hours a week is about orientating in that direction (or it should be). It should be the point where community gathers to perpetuate our common goal of following. The two hours a week should be where we gather together to share our common experience of “there must be more to this”. The two hours a week should challenge and sustain us for the journey that we are taking day by day.

      The reality is that it often does. Look at MLK Jnr for example. Look at Desmond Tutu. Look at William Wilberforce. Look at the work that Christian Aid do. Look at the work of St George’s Crypt.

      Let’s put it another way. The Leeds flickr group meet once a month at the click n sup. We sit around and discuss our common experience of photography. We share our triumphs and our woes with each other. We try inspire each other to try a little harder to take better photos.

      We try.

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