How to make it happen in church
Part 1 Modern worldliness
- Introduction: the failure of discipleship
- Key facets of modern worldliness
- Secular dualism in the church
Part 2 What is church?
- Recognising the church
- Recognising church servants
- All of life is mission
- Sharing the burdens
Part 3 How worldly is the church?
- Introduction: what is a Christian school?
- Assessing churchly worldliness
Part 4 Refounding the church
- Church: it isn't working!
- 11 o'clock theology
- Preaching and teaching—comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable
- Worship and prayer: the church at work
Part 1: Modern Worldliness
1 Introduction: the failure of discipleship...most nominally Christian societies have already downgraded religion to a matter of minor importance towards which there was no danger in exercising toleration. (John Rex, 1985, p.11)
Christianity is in catastrophic decline almost everywhere in the Western world (Brierley, 2000,2005, Brown, 2001, Bruce, 2002, Voas, 2005), and Western societies generally regard religion as a marginalised affair of little or no relevance to public life. Christian churches are seen as providing neither a viable alternative, nor any significant challenge to modern secular life. Sadly, this assessment is largely true and reflects a massive failure of Christian discipleship.
Many of us have been so effectively influenced by modern worldliness that we have lost key elements of Gospel distinctiveness. This essay explores the meaning of worldliness today and suggests paths of repentant action that will—by God's grace—lead to a reclaiming of the lost ground.
2 Key Facets of Modern WorldlinessOnce upon a time in the West worldliness and separation were code words among gospel people. Worldliness meant smoking, drinking, ball-room dancing, novel reading, theatre- and movie-going, makeup for women, deodorant for men, mixed bathing for adults and late nights for children. … There is far more to worldliness today than was dreamed of at the far-end of the Christendom culture of the West fifty years ago, and a far more radical view of separation from the world has now to be thought out.
(James I. Packer, 1998, pp ix-x)
Modern worldliness has three key facets:
- Secularism – living as if God doesn't exist
- Individualism – my individual choice is the moral priority
- Consumerism – creating my self
The undergirding requirement for personal holiness is too foundational to the Gospel to ever be outdated. But an exclusive focus on the kind of issues mentioned by Packer fails to recognise that a practical atheism has been built into modern life and modern institutions (see Gay, 1998). The most insidious temptation to 'worldliness' today comes in the form of an all-pervasive suggestion that it is normal and expedient to live as if God doesn't exist. We can be non-smoking, non-drinking, non-drug-taking, and virtuous, but still live as if there is no God. Living as if there is no God is fundamentally what secularism is all about and, whatever our confession of faith, that is how most of us live. Those Muslims have a point, who comment that they do not see Christians, but only secular, materialistic, individualists who happen to go to religious meetings!...it now seems the rationalistic world view of Western man has almost totally devoured Christianity. ...there is hardly any difference between the attitudes and morals of most Christians and those of the liberal secularists ...this means that Muslims have to take Christians not as their friends, but as a part of the disease that is—at least for them—the fundamental problem of our time.
(Ziauudin Sardar, 1991, pp 60-61)
In our Western world individualism rules. My right to choose is almost unquestioned, i.e. God-given requirements and standards are ignored. Furthermore, our whole society functions on the assumption that my foundational choice will be consumption‐that it is through my choice of consumer goods and experiences that I will create my identity and image, realise my potential, and pursue my self-interests.
3 Secular Dualism in the Church
The main way in which secularism seduces us as Christians is through dualism. In place of the Biblical diagnosis that two regimes (of God & of Satan) are contending for the whole (every part) of creation, we tacitly accept the secular version that there is a struggle between two realms within creation. This version accepts a division between private and public areas of life and between religious (or sacred) and secular (or profane) activities. In Biblical terms, we have accepted the lie that only certain parts of the world have been affected by the Fall and thus only those parts need to be redeemed.
Christians and churches influenced by this pagan dualism restrict their Christian activities and teaching to the private and religious areas of life (as defined, of course, by secularism). Tacitly they accept the myth that the public and secular realms of life are religiously neutral—neither for nor against Christ. In contrast, the Bible teaches us that faith is foundational to everything.1 If we withdraw Christian faith from any realms of our lives, then those realms will become entirely shaped and controlled by other, idolatrous, faiths. And, rather obviously, a Christian faith that presents itself as irrelevant to life in the workplace, education, the arts and sciences, politics and to the development and transmission of our culture in general, is hardly real. More importantly it is a different faith to that of the Bible.
Since secular schools and secular media are the dominant influences today, it is little wonder that many Christians and many churches have been heavily influenced. In Part 3 (Section 10) are some simple tests which I have developed to help churches assess how far they may have become worldly. The reality is that, under the onslaught of secularism, Christians and churches throughout the Western world have withdrawn from engagement in public lifeinto a privatised religiosity focusing almost entirely on personal morality and personal evangelism. In his newly revised book, New Issues Facing Christians Today (1999) John Stott aptly calls this period of Evangelical history 'The Great Reversal' (p 8). And those familiar with the writings of the late Bishop Lesslie Newbigin2 will remember that his prophetic challenge was for Christians to reclaim the gospel as public truth and cease living as if it was only private opinion.
Part 2 What is church?3
4 Recognising the Church
Church is not building, but people. It is not just any group of people, but people-in-community. They are sharing and outworking together a commitment to Christ. Church is not community restricted to a private realm separated from the world, but community in the world, proclaiming the gospel as public truth, and taking responsibility in every area of true human life. We are the church in our local neighbourhood as much when we are 'scattered' in our homes and workplaces as when we are 'gathered' in church meetings.
Yet the church is a paradox. On the one hand it doesn't belong. It exists on the margins of the modern world, 'outside the camp',4 an alien and pilgrim community.5 But it is also the new humanity, the first fruits of the new creation appearing in the midst of the old, the witness to the nations.6 It is marginalised simply because the gospel is resisted and opposed by the world. The Church cannot but be an alternative community engaged in mission to the world in which it exists. To be anything else is a denial of the truth of the gospel.
5 Recognising Church Servants7
If the role of church servants is to see to it that every member is equipped for every good work,8 then why do we regard our ministry in the workplace as less holy than that of the minister and our work of little or no interest to God? Why do we regard work in the home as a third-rate choice?
On average, UK Christians spend 65% of their time in the workplace. David Clark's seminal survey (1993) found that the overwhelming majority of Christians in Britain (of all denominations) feel that they get no support through prayer, teaching, preaching, worship, housegroup fellowships, or pastoral support—for their time at work. Many simply wanted to be asked about it. Similarly, Mark Greene's research9 into what evangelicals feel about the preaching they have received reveals that of the four main life areas he identified - work, home, church, and personal/spiritual—Christians feel that ministers have helped them least in the area of work. More specifically, 50% have never heard a sermon on work, 75% have never been given a Christian perspective on vocation, and only 25% have been encouraged to minister in their workplace. Since these respondents were drawn from highly motivated groups the reality is almost certainly much worse!
6 All of Life is Mission
The clear lesson of Acts is the Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit and that all whom He fills are called to be missionaries all the time. The Spirit-birthed and -filled church was to continue Jesus' ministry (Acts 1:1) as the light of the world10, starting in Jerusalem and then moving out to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). This was not primarily in the sense of, 'first to your own neighbours and nation and then to foreigners', but, in conformity to the Biblical pattern, 'first develop a true Christian community life (church) where you are—which, in Jerusalem, already included people from diverse cultural and language backgrounds (Acts 2:5-12—and then go and see that it is reproduced throughout the world'11.We are all called to serve and worship God in every part of daily life and work, witnessing to the truth of the gospel of Christ in word and deed, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Christian mission takes place wherever we are. It is not something that only takes place overseas. Yet the 'overseas' assumption is so prevalent that it powerfully thwarts much vital missionary work. To take one kind of example, when we returned from South Asia in 1987, to work amongst the same South Asian people in the UK, our financial support steadily fell (no longer being overseas, we weren't real missionaries any more!). We found that in the town we were called to, many thousands of pounds annually was going from the churches to support mission work in India, Nepal and Pakistan, but after 30 years of South Asian presence in their own town (by then nearly 20% of the population!) not one Christian worker was adequately supported (and very little of the support was locally generated).
We are all witnessing all the time, and all converting all the time.... The only question is, what is it we witness and convert to? Is it our own culture, our own lifestyle, our own sense of superiority or sense of failure? Or is it Jesus Christ? As a missionary, did I spend more time witnessing unconsciously to the "atheistic" culture of Europe inculcated in me by school, university and even theological college, than I did consciously preaching and teaching about Christ?
(Dan Beeby, 1990, p 1)
Mission does—and must—take place in every profession and occupation. All of life is religion, but not all is church-related (in the institutional sense of 'church'). The missionary character of the church does not refer just to activities such as the preaching of the gospel in evangelistic meetings. Rather it refers to the entire presence and action of the church in the world. Yet the 'church' assumption is another one that significantly undermines mission. Much vital UK Christian work in the professions and public life is unsupported by churches. This is, of course, one reason for the enormous growth in 'parachurch' organisations. That growth has created enormous pastoral problems (see 7.2 below). By their very nature, parachurch organisations are specialised and don't deal with Christian life as a whole. Consequently, when trouble comes there may be no-one to pick up the pieces. In a deep sense they tend to lack integrity. Yet their growth has been a (perhaps necessary?) response to the retreat of churches into privatised religiosity.
Mission is not just about personal morality and personal evangelism. It is also about the nature and practices of our daily life and work. Even Christians—and even 'overseas missionaries'—can, in their work practices, be effective witnesses to the 'practical atheism' of Western secular idolatries, rather than to the gospel of Christ.
7 Sharing the Burdens
All Christians need and should receive mission(ary) support. Many Christians are able to work at these issues in their normal home or work context. The support they need from their church is that of insightful and challenging teaching (2 Tim 3:16-17) and prayer support. It hardly needs saying that we all need to be in a context, and in pastoral relationships, where such (mutual) support is available.
Christians may be working on issues, or in projects, which cannot, in the relevant society, be pursued in publicly accepted roles. In some instances this will apply to our own society. Such people may need our financial support as well as our fellowship and prayers. Corporate action may be needed. George Vandervelde's example (below) provides a good example of these points. Does our church's mission(ary) support anticipate and cover such situations?
Some time ago an acquaintance of ours had increasingly greater qualms about his daily work. He worked in Canada at an international oil company. As he worked there over the years and became more aware of the destructive effect of the company's policies on the environment and on the economies of third world countries, he wondered whether he could continue to work there. He realised that simply going to another oil company would help little, for the policies would be very similar. Moreover, he had trained all his life for this work. He started sharing his concerns with members of his church community. Some of these members became convinced that he should leave his job and told him so. This advice was no doubt given with the best of intentions. It lacked only one thing. To their advice for him to quit his job they should have added this phrase, "And we will pool our resources to make it possible for you and your family to sort all this out." The advice of his friends lacks Christian integrity, if it is not born in and borne by Christian community.
(George Vandervelde, 1996, p 9)
In the light of this discussion, Mission(ary) Support Committees could be given two main roles. There is the general role of ensuring that the church programme trains a missionary congregation, and a specific role of responsibility for the oversight of matters of support under 7.1 and, especially, 7.2.
Gathering these points up we must affirm/insist that Christian mission:
- involves every Christian.
- is corporate as well as individual.
- occurs everywhere, not just overseas.
- takes place in every profession and occupation.
- is not just about personal morality and personal evangelism, but also about the nature and practices of our daily life and work.
- requires us to readjust our priorities in giving and receiving prayer and teaching support.
- is such that some Christians—both here and overseas—will need financial support.
Part 3: How worldly is the Church?
9 Introduction: What is a Christian School?
I have been in Christian schools where I seriously doubt genuine Christian teaching is possible. (John Van Dyk, 1997, p 174)
To clarify the issues, we can consider a different matter, that of Christian schooling. American education professor, John Van Dyk, recently asked the question, 'Can Christian teachers really teach Christianly in a Christian school?' (Van Dyk, 1997, p 174).12 A seemingly absurd question, but Van Dyk had a serious point. If Christian teaching is the kind of teaching that guides our children towards knowledgeable and responsive Christian discipleship, then some Christian schools may be structured and run in such a way that this goal is unattainable.
Let Van Dyk explain:
In many ways [Christian schools in the US] are identical to public schools, and in some ways they have not changed in a hundred years. I mean such things as short class periods, bells ringing, children mass taught while sitting in rows, teachers talking for more than 85% of the time, grading, sorting, competition, and so on. What kind of disciple-ship can we really teach in such an environment? Or look at the curriculum. You will find many a Christian school curriculum chopped up and fragmented into unrelated pieces. Talking about God here and there is not going to prevent our children from catching a fractured picture of what should be understood as a beautiful, coherent, interrelated creation. Think also about the appalling lack of community in numerous Christian schools, when teaching Christianly should mean, among other things, inducting our children into a real community. But what do we see? Individual teachers cooped up in their classrooms with hardly a moment to confer with a colleague, infighting and strife, contradictory philosophies, conflict between principal and staff or board. Moreover, some parents give only lip service to the talk about Christian discipleship; in actuality such talk is mere "warm fuzzies" to them, as in reality they look for schools to teach their children to be ambitious, success-seeking individuals, trained in the American way of consumerism. Can you teach Christianly in a Christian school? Can you really teach the children to become radical, self-effacing disciples of the Lord, Christians who will be out to sacrifice themselves for the poor, the widow, and the orphan? Are we exciting graduates who, in fact, prophetically address the sinfulness of much of our cozy, comfortable, more-is-better style of life? Could you teach these values without running into serious trouble with the school authorities and parents? (Van Dyk, 1997, pp 174-175).
These are exactly the kinds of issue that we face in our churches. If our churches have become worldly—significantly conformed to the secular world and its values—then they will not be able to model Christian discipleship, or provide proper contexts for its practice.
10 Assessing Churchly Worldliness
I have developed five simple questions to help churches assess how far their Christian faith may have been moulded by the secular world:
- In the life of our church, which professions and occupations are recognised and supported?
- How is this support reflected in our church's services and prayer meetings?
- What are the testimonies given in our church's meetings about?
- Which Christian stories13 are told in our churches and which aspects of Christian life are emphasised in them?
- Do we regularly recount the Christian history of our country, town and church?
If there is a hierarchy of occupations implicit in our church life then we are thinking in worldly fashion. Numerous surveys show that most Christians place missionaries and pastors at the top14, other church programme leaders after them, then those in 'caring professions', education and political leadership, followed by those at the forefront of crisis situations, or who have the task of maintaining law and order. All others hardly ever feature at all. Prayer reflects these perceptions, only adding those who are ill, or in situations of serious need. The testimonies tend to be about personal moral or evangelistic successes or failures, reflecting the same emphases in the stories we tell and in the books we recommend. Rather, we need to think of a spectrum of occupations and seek to understand what Christian discipleship means in each case.
John works in Munich. He was a town planner, but now works for a European mission in street evangelism. He visits his church in England several times a year and often gets a short slot in a Sunday service or in a midweek meeting. He produces a regular prayer letter, often with requests to pray for specific people by name. Those 'at home' will probably never meet any of them in this life. Andrew, in contrast, works in a local hospital. He is a housegroup leader, on the PCC, and occasionally preaches. But even his housegroup members do not know the name of anyone he works with and he has never shared about any of the active issues in his part of the National Health Service. He has not asked for prayer about issues that affect him, nor asked for pray for the salvation of his work colleagues. Andrew prays about these things, but his church and housegroup don't. Why? Well, we all know why - John is regarded as a missionary and Andrew isn't. But is this true or right? Is it Biblical? In whose situation is someone more likely to see the difference that Jesus makes to a life?
When, if ever, did we hear a testimony about:
- the latest work of a Christian artist or musician?
- a business enterprise being refashioned into a caring Christian community?
- a Christian veterinary scientist explaining the debates over BSE?
- a Christian executive seeking to reform 'grey area' business practices?
- a medical practice implementing a Christian vision of care and prevention?
- a philosophy teacher running a church programme that introduces members to the secular worldviews that shape modern life, and suggests appropriate Christian responses?
- a Christian craftsman demonstrating some of the skills involved in producing beautiful furniture from well-seasoned wood?
- a Christian financial services consultant explaining all the different financial products, but with discernment of the idolatries at work?
- a Church school teacher reporting a breakthrough in the development of a Christian geography, or foreign languages curriculum?
- a Christian biologist explaining some of the latest research that renders evolutionary theories so implausible?
- a Christian parent leading a discussion series on the influences on home life.
- a Christian politician running 'Election Awareness' meetings which introduce people to a Christian perspective on current issues, publicise the known commitments of local candidates, and involve hustings events at which those candidates can be interrogated?
- a Christian soil scientist explaining her research into the design of soil and soil microbes and the harm caused by some common agricultural practices?
- a Christian social worker exploring new ways of tackling homelessness?
- a Christian management consultant critiquing the pagan assumptions and beliefs embodied in modern management training and practice.
- a Christian agriculturist illuminating the controversy over the Genetic Modification of plants and animals15
If such testimonies are infrequent or rare, then how will our young people catch a motivating vision of what Christian discipleship and mission mean (and may cost) in all the different areas of modern life? And will it not mean that most of us will continue to leave (at least) 80% of ourselves at the church door (i.e. our daily lives)?
Which stories do we recount? When we tell, say, the story of William Carey taking the gospel to India (1793), do we tell of his work of cultural transformation?16 He became a great linguistic scholar, translating the whole Bible into six Indian languages and portions into 29 more. He was a professor of Bengali, Sanskrit and Marathi at Fort William College, Calcutta, for 29 years. He was so proficient in Bengali that he is known as the 'Father of Bengali Prose' for his grammars, dictionaries and translations. He founded Serampore College (1818) to train Indian Christians. The college was evangelical, but interdenominational, with open admisssion. The curriculum was wide and Carey himself lectured in botany and zoology as well as in divinity. He helped develop the great Royal (now Indian) Botanic Garden in Calcutta. Its great botanist was William Roxburgh, but it was Carey who edited and published Roxburgh's works at his Serampore press. Carey also led in the formation of the Agricultural Society of India (1820). He established a network of charity (free) schools and developed wide-ranging curricula (and this was nearly two centuries ago!). His press produced the school texts. In the preceding century in Britain, John Wesley founded schools, wrote popular books on a wide range of 'secular' subjects for his Methodist bands and classes, and carried out several significant scientific experiments. Do we convey the richness of the stories, so that our children are envisioned to live by faith, live for Christ, in every area of their lives, public as well as private? Are we able to be such role models?
Do we discover and keep in church memory the Christian history of our country, town and church, again in all its breadth? Do we celebrate each year the key national and local events of Christian history? Christian history is no longer taught in the schools (perhaps the greatest thing we have lost by surrendering education to the secular world). I often put up a list of key Christian dates to see how many are known!17 Without the forging of those historical connections between the Bible and our lives today, we are rootless as Christians, and the development of Christian culture and community—of real gospel challenge in our society (and therefore persecution,18—will not happen.
Part 4 Refounding the church
11 Church: It Isn't Working!
In today's Church, evangelism is singing outside Tesco's, it's sketch- boarding, it's acting in shopping centres, it's inviting friends to Seeker services, it's developing relationships with our neighbours. It's lots of things. But one thing it isn't—it isn't working.
(Mark Greene, 1999, p 12)
Without a visible local Christian community, the reality of church evaporates into a 'spiritual presence' (of regenerated individuals) that does not actually engage with the nitty-gritty of everyday life. It's mission focus tends to be set not on the here and now, but on the overseas and the hereafter.
Talk of Christian community does, however, raise a major problem: where is it in the modern Western world? The secularism, individualism and consumerism (section 1) of Western culture have so ravaged the church that it hardly exists as community anywhere. Yet the palpable presence of the new creation turns on the reality of that community. If mission is discerning and living out the reign of Christ in every sphere of life, then without community, mission will play little or no role in the lives of most members of the church. Obedience to the gospel leaves us with no alternative but to make a concerted effort to recover Christian community.
12 11 O'clock Theology
A church's servantship (‘leadership’) must have the concerns, needs and interests of all its members (and potential members) very much at heart. That demands a plural servantship that includes those who, in their daily affairs, are in the same world of work as the wider church membership. Needless to say such a plurality is plain in both the Old and New Testament patterns and implicit in the New Testament teaching.19 It entails the development and practice of what Mark Greene calls '11 o'clock theology'.20 In all that they do in their ministry in the church, church servants should bring to bear the questions, 'When it is 11 o'clock on a Monday morning—in the home, factory, office, classroom, or…—where are the people God has called me to serve? What issues are they facing right now? Am I equipping them to live Christianly there? Am I equipped to live for Jesus where they are? Do/can I visit them in their workplaces?'
Whatever else has to be laid aside, church servants must spend time with people and engage in a great deal of listening and sensitive probing. That can be very difficult for both sides. People have imbibed the idea that they only go to church ministers when there's an emergency or crisis. They have to be trained to communicate the daily content and texture of their life. On the level of personal holiness, what is their relationship with their boss? What personal problems do they face? How do they deal with a pornographic or flirtatious environment, or with the pressures to lie or be dishonest? What do they most enjoy about their work? What do they least enjoy? On the public level, what are the ideologies operating in their area of work? What are the issues that affect the wider Christian community and wider society? What is a Christian perspective on these issues? Are there other Christians in the same realm of work who can provide practical insight and support?
Many believers are on their own as Christians in daily life and the church must encourage regular conversations among people in similar or related areas of life—that they may share their joys and engage with their burdens. This calls for great wisdom and commitment. It will require churches not to be defensive with regard to alternative gatherings of the faithful, especially if—as may well be necessary—they lead to sharing across church boundaries. It requires of these groups that they do everything in their power not to become alternative churches that set themselves over against the overarching structures of the existing church. Such separation would only turn the groups into sects.
If church servants reflect on all that is learnt of the work and home situations in the light of Scripture, then it might swiftly and radically change the preaching, teaching, worship and prayer of the church.
13 Preaching and Teaching - Comforting the Disturbed and Disturbing the Comfortable
The church teaching programme must connect Biblical doctrine with everyday life, so that the members are envisioned and guided.21 What does this mean? If believers are to engage Christianly with their everyday life in home and work, then that presupposes that they are sufficiently critically aware of the nature and idolatries of the surrounding culture, of their own Christian faith, and of the ethical, legal and political (etc.) implications of their faith, to be able to do so. That is what the teaching programme must facilitate. It may seem a very tall order. Indeed it is and the task before us is immensely difficult. We are talking about a deep-reaching and long-term programme. But it is surely obvious that what our present position highlights is the malaise of the Western church. The task of discipling Christians to be witnesses to the gospel as public (as well as private) truth is one that cannot be evaded by Biblically based Christian servants.
Above all that goal requires a teaching programme that gives Christians the big picture of God's purposes and methods. We all need to learn to see every Bible character and event in the wider context of the great Creation-Fall-Redemption-New Creation story. In dealing with the details of the Old testament laws, we need to understand them as aspects of an overall plan. God has given us there an example of how He would order a culture and its history in a fallen world. It holds many lessons for us today.22
Too often we teach Scripture solely in relation to personal moral issues (and in so doing betray our captivity to the pietistic individualism of our age). We need to set our heroes back into their actual context. The Bible is full of relevant help for everyone when we rescue its characters from Sunday school oblivion. Joseph and Daniel were holders of high political office in pagan empires. The Israelite midwives were state health workers subverting immoral practices. David, hunted by Saul, continued to respect the authority God had invested in Saul even while he sees his actions as unjust - lessons here for employees smarting under bad employers. Nehemiah, Naaman's servant girl, Esther, Lydia and many others can be helpfully interrogated.
One approach to facilitate an effective preaching/teaching programme is the All-Age Learning programme where, at various seasons of the year, the main Sunday service is condensed and the sermon replaced by an interactive seminar programme covering different areas of interest. One pattern is to have a 15-20 minute service followed by a ten-minute coffee break before an hour-long seminar. More radical alternatives should certainly be considered in due course.
14 Worship and Prayer: The Church at Work
As George Vandervelde asks (1996, p 18), if our entire Christian life is ministry and mission, why should only those whom we know as 'missionaries' (because they work overseas) experience their work as body-of-Christ mission?
Each Sunday a spokesperson for a special interest group could join the worship team to help prepare a service designed to highlight the challenges that face people in that area, e.g., of health care. In the service the spokesperson could help the congregation to understand the challenges peculiar to that field. This could be done through a short presentation, through prayer specifically for health care workers, or by asking the congregation to pray during the week in specified ways for the challenges in the health care sector. In this way it would become clear that being the body of Christ is not a part-time occupation; rather all are engaged in body-of-Christ ministry even when they have no other Christians alongside.23 The experience of the body of Christ would become much more real through the congregation's prayers and through their expressions of interest and support.
Prayer meetings should provide space for all members to bring their successes and failures, their problems and concerns. These meetings should be the exciting focus of church activity that nobody wants to miss, the briefing/debriefing meetings in the midst of battle. Here, or in the housegroups, situations may come to light that demand a corporate response. Then the church as a whole can provide the support that is needed and, with the Holy Spirit, anoint members to the task. But this is likely to be costly; perhaps we really are too comfortable with the way things are...
The local church is the show-case of Christ's reconciling and renewing presence. For Paul, the gospel mystery was made plain in the presence together in the church, on equal terms, of Jew and Gentile, of Pharisee and outcast ('sinner'), of slave and master, of male and female.24 If that reality of the gospel is not visible, then all public witness must tend to fruitlessness.
The church is the ecclesia ('public assembly') of God that by its very presence ought to be an affront to the public religion (just as the NT church was an affront to the emperor idolatry of the Roman empire). How can we think that we should be any less of a public affront to the secular humanism of our Western societies? The church is a mission community and the offence of Christ (Saviour and Lord) is a demonstration that mission is truly underway.
© Arthur Jones, 2001, 2004, 2005
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Peter Brierley, Report from Christian Research. See Jonathan Petre, Churches ‘on road to doom if trends continue’, Daily Telegraph, 03 September 2005, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=HKDBA2BNC22KJQFIQMGSM54AVCBQWJVC?xml=/news/2005/09/03/nchurch03.xml
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About the Author
Arthur Jones is Development Manager and Senior Tutor for the Thinking Space Christian gap year project of the West Yorkshire School of Christian Studies (WYSOCS). He is also Research Consultant for Curriculum Development to the Christian Schools' Trust, and a tutor and course writer for Sarum College, Salisbury (an ecumenical Christian distance-learning college) and for NorthStar UK (a Christian internet learning community) He writes and speaks on many related topics and is the author of Science in Faith: a Christian Perspective on Teaching Science (1998) and of No Home + Alone: a School Programme on Homelessness (1999). He also contributed a chapter to In Six Days: Why 50 Scientists Choose to Believe in Creation (John Ashton (ed), 1999).
Arthur Jones BSc, MEd, PhD, CBiol, MIBiol
21 Stalybridge Road, Mottram, Hyde, Cheshire, SK14 6NF,England, UK
1 See, e.g., Romans 4, Galatians 3 and Hebrews 11.
2 E.g.. Newbigin, 1986, 1989A, 1989B, 1991, 1995, Newbigin, Sanneh & Taylor, 1998.
3 There is a vast literature – see,e.g., Clapp, 1996, Clarke, 2000, O’Donovan, 1996, Simson, 2001, Stevens, 1999, Thwaites, 1999, 2002
4 Hebrews 13:13-14.
5 Philippians 3:20, Hebrews 11:13, 1 Peter 1:17, 2:11.
6 1 Corinthians 15; 1 Peter 2:9.
7 On servanthood (better than ‘leadership’) – see Clarke, 2000 and Stevens, 1999.
8 Ephesians 4:11-13.
9 See Greene, 1994, 1999.
10 John 8:12 with Matthew 5:14.
11 Cf. Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35; 5:12-16; 6:1-7.
12 This section is not an exposition of Christian education which is, of course, life-long and life-wide. It is far more than just schooling and need not (as in home education) involve schooling at all.
13 Whether non-fiction (e.g. missionary biographies & autobiographies) or fiction (e.g. Christian novels).
14 This may seem only right (see, e.g., 1 Timothy 3:1-7; 5:17) and I would not disagree except to ask why (servant) leaders are assumed/expected to be only those who have trained specifically for church roles (as we have narrowly understood them) and who often have had little if any experience outside that church context (contra 1 Timothy 3:7)?
15 These are all just samples; the list is as endless as the opportunities in modern life.
16 See Mangalwadi, 1993
17 In case you wonder, usually none are known!
18 2 Timothy 3:12.
19 E.g. Romans 16:23 (Acts 19:22; 2 Timothy 4:20); Colossians 4:14; 1 Timothy 3;7; Titus 1:5; 3:13.
20 Greene, 1999, p 14.
21 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
22 See Wright, 1983, 1990, 1992, 1995, 2004
23 See Clark, 1997, for Christian insight into many areas of work.
24 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Galations 3:26-29; Ephesians 2:14-22; Colossians 3:11.