|A cartoon church leaders ignore at their peril.|
I was at a meeting with an ex-mayor of our city. We were picking his brains about fund raising for our plan to purchase the Night Shelter buildings. He offered to go with us to meet with likely people that he may know, but with a twinkle in his eye he said, "Mind you there are some people who do not like me!"
I thought that was an honest and mature statement. It is true for me and I guess for all of us. There are always going to be some people who do not like us, and we ought not to get too hung up about it, but at the same time be aware of the reality.
There are people who do not like the Church.
There was a telling cartoon in the local Otago Daily Times the other day. There are two guys in a pub, and one is reading a newspaper. The heading on the paper reads, "CHURCH'S MIRACLE POTION UNDER FIRE." The heading relates to a news story about a group calling itself a church which is selling a bleach based potion that is meant to be a cure-all, but in fact could do harm. In the cartoon the newspaper reader looks at his mate and says, "It's something bogus that can do more harm than good." His mate replies... "And it's taken them 2000 years to get it into a bottle?" - it is an obvious dig at the Church... It is the cartoonist way of saying that the "Church's (- not just the group selling the potion -) message (influence, presence,) is "bogus" and that it does "more harm than good."
I do not think enough Church leaders realise that there are lots of people out there who do not like the Church and it's message! I think many church leaders think that the people "out there" just think (erroneously of course) that the Church and its message is irrelevant. That is true. I think they still think that most people have a benign attitude toward the church. That is not as true as it used to be. Church people say things like, "There are no athiests in a foxhole under fire." and think that somehow the population will return to the church if only we jazzed it up a bit or when things got really tough for them. Churches just keep on saying the same things and doing the "same old" as if it does not really matter. Let me repeat my point - if you are a Church leader - at least in New Zealand - there are more and more people who not only think we - the Church - is irrelevant, but that we are harmful. People see the church and its message as negative and life limiting. They see the church as part of the "establishment" which contributes to injustice, division and prejudice. For God's sake church leaders - WAKE UP! You cannot keep doing "the same old" if you really believe what you prattle about. I spend most of my time among non-church people and this is the message I get. They may accept me, but they do not accept "Church" the body I represent as a chaplain, and they love to get a dig at it. One of my firemen recently reposted something I said on facebook. "This man is a minister, and surprisingly quite a nice bloke!" Amongst his friends obviously, ministers are not "nice blokes". They are for them part of the problem in society, often seen as bogus, unreal hypocrites. ( I need to say that this guy is a thinking guy, not superficial in any way.)
My wife and I were discussing the sermon we heard today and the calibre of sermon we are hearing from visiting clergy in our local church. Today's preacher is the best of a not too good selection. But the presentations just depict Christianity as irrelevant! They do not hit the real world. My wife said, "I guess he's harmless." and then went on to say that one of the others had an actual harmful concept of God. Then we changed our minds... presenting the notion of the sacred mystery in life and the values of Jesus in an irrelevant way is harmful. .... very harmful. Leaders - take seriously your calling! There are people out there who do not like us and actively dislike us.
The Church today needs to earn its credibility. Talk does not cut it any more! When the Church does talk it needs to "be real" for the twenty-first century humans. People should not have to leave their brains, their personalities or their moral compass at the door when they come to church.