Saturday, 24 November 2007

Irrelevant?

I'm now back from Bournemouth having had a great week partnering the CU there in their mission. It was great to meet other Christian brothers and sisters, to see their confidence in the gospel increasing as the week went on, and to see their real boldness in inviting friends and seeking to speak about Jesus. It was also humbling to see God at work and some come to faith for the first time.

I've been reflecting a bit about the week since I've been back. In many ways the student scene in Bournemouth is slightly different to the one I normally work in up here in Lancashire and Cumbria. The Arts Institute means that the influence of art is pervasive. Bournemouth University itself has a strong media influence. However, I'd reckon that the student scene in a place like Bournemouth is more reflective of the cross section of the general population more than, say, a more academic institution where intellectual arguments hold influence. And the shock that we experienced time and again this week in Bournemouth (as I mentioned in my previous post below) was this: I don't care whether or not Christianity is true. Even if I was convinced of its truth, I wouldn't become a Christian.

Now, obviously, there are spiritual forces at work here: it's possible to know intellectually that the gospel is true but to reject it simply because one doesn't like its consequences. But having chatted to some of the students that said this sort of thing, it also reflects the idea that Christianity has nothing to say to how a person lives their life now. Life is for the living, and to most non-Christians, Jesus has nothing to say in this realm at all.

I think part of the problem here is a church that is isolated from non-Christians. Most unbelievers have no idea of the sort of difference that the Holy Spirit makes to a person's life as he transforms them from within. Certainly, in Bournemouth, those who were most willing to listen to the gospel's message were those that had already sensed a change in the lives of their friends.

I wonder if this is also a reflection of a church in Britain that has a gospel that is too small. Conservative Christians rightly emphasise Jesus' lordship and judgement - but perhaps to the extent that non-Christians never hear that Jesus is the bridegroom inviting all sorts of people to his feast, that he is the one that calls dissatisfied and dry people back into the relationship for which they were created, and that he is the one who frees people from slavery. Doing questionnaires this week has made me wonder: do we need to think again about how to reach those who perceive Jesus as completely irrelevant to their lives?

3 comments:

Chris said...

thanks pete. good work this week. Certainly makes much of the assumption that christian living provokes questions (1 peter 3)

I'll chew on this for the next couple weeks and see where I get.

peterdray said...

Chris, I think you're completely right. The importance of sharing one's life as well as the gospel is so important.

On further reflection, I think what the experiences in Bournemouth showed is perhaps an ongoing shift in the understanding of Christianity by non-Christians. Not so long ago, people were willing to see Christianity as morally (and possibly experientially) positive - and so then only needed to be persuaded of the truth. Now it seems that many people (particularly those that know no Christians) view Christianity as both morally and experientially negative or dissatisfying.

We have a lot of work to do.

Dave K said...

I think what the experiences in Bournemouth showed is perhaps an ongoing shift in the understanding of Christianity by non-Christians. Not so long ago, people were willing to see Christianity as morally (and possibly experientially) positive - and so then only needed to be persuaded of the truth. Now it seems that many people (particularly those that know no Christians) view Christianity as both morally and experientially negative or dissatisfying.

Very true.

Difficult to think of how to deal with this perception without falling into the trap of making Christianity appealing by removing the offence of it. Initial thoughts, in line with what you say, are that we must not just show the good news as salvation from judgment, but salvation to new creation and the beauty of that new creation being in the presence of the amazing God we worship. As John Piper says, God must ultimately be our Gospel and we must show that he is a better God than the idols that are his alternatives, in our lives and in our speech.

I must confess that as I look at myself here I'm deeply guilty.

In church tonight we looked at Job and Acts 16 were Paul and Silas sung songs of worship to God while in prison. That (and the minor matter of a miracle) were enough for the jailer to see that our Father is far from irrelevant.

And yet I've just been ill for a few days and suddenly I become self-absorbed and self-pitying... madness!

I ramble again.

Good post Peter.