I often write on social media about various musings on God, his word and how he affects those that live in him and he in us. But this was my first time in front of a real audience and my parish and those that I love and worship with every week.
Anyone who hears this please remember, This is just MY thoughts, and “a” way of expressing things” not the way, every one is just as valid
You are the first bible people meet.
I joined our Parish two years ago or so now without any idea about who or what the church was and is. It was quite hard for me, I had zero church background and knew nobody from the church (or didn’t know I knew anyone from the church). I had a relationship with Jesus forged from years before when I was very lonely in a flat down in Bournemouth.
Born into a very noisy active family down in forest gate in among the bad boys I got given the chance to move to Bournemouth through work. I decided this was my chance to get out. Change my perspective Change my life.
Thing is being young and silly I bought a flat in Bere Regis right out the back, with nobody around. Beautiful, isolated, and for a city boy from a 24/7 family a very lonely place. I had zero social life and albeit some very good friends came with me I was at the end of each day, alone.
One day in my bedroom I was so lonely I picked up a Gideon’s bible I was given at school and said “Jesus I really need you, if you’re real please help me”
My room at that point was filled with him, his love and it was SO real I could touch it. From that day to as I stand here now I have had an active relationship with Jesus.
He is right HERE (at that point I pointed to my heart)
The years passed and I never went to a church because I never felt like I needed too. Then after drifting away for a long time I came back, and this time I really did want to join, but again just never knew HOW to join, what the culture was like, what the people would be like, are they the harsh judgmental souls represented by the American church?
Are they leaping round like the charismatic, are they very serious, are they, are they and so on.
Is it boring?
All sorts of excuses, plus how do you choose?
All religions are the same?
What are you good people Like?
I never knew
Then one day (he asked me to say I was Guided by the lord) I met a very outspoken (in everything actually) Christian called Hugh Southon, and we met through mutual love of all things west ham, I am a bit of a west ham anorak, and quite a good blogger and very good on social media, growing a west ham page to about 5000, but it was the non west ham chat that changed my life.
I was telling him that all religions are the same. I was in the position at that time of having spent 30 years arguing with a Jesus I was either trying to prove existed or didn’t, I spent all my time in philosophy and alternate religions seeking him so I could deny him
I’ve tested you out and really I don’t know.
Hugh and his friend Caroline were arguing that Christianity was “the” religion, because Jesus was alive”. I said it’s the same as all religions.
Caroline quoted John 14:6 “I am the way the truth and the life and nobody comes to the father except through me”.
She said that if that was not true, then Jesus was a liar.
This ultimatum rather stopped me in my tracks, forced me to make a choice, and forced me to find a way in through the church door, through all the stereotypes, baggage, and cynicism of a world that really is increasingly distant.
I sent a LONG email to Jane and here I am.
But it was very clear the final catalyst was because someone in a public place nailed their colours to the mast and said “I am Christian, this is what I think as a Christian”
As I grew into the body of the church I found the problems we are all aware of.An aging congregation was a problem for the church as was a shrinking one.
That’s really sad because once very soon after I joined while getting my ear healed through prayer (story for another day) I was asked “what do you want” A very deep truth spilled out of me when I said
“I want others to feel like this”
and I do, Very badly.
Why because I meet homeless people who so need to forgive or his forgiveness, I meet anger and greed and they so need his love.
The world needs his love, the refugee’s and the disenfranchised all need Christian love.
Assad, Isis, David Cameron, Donald Trump, All the big corporates like Amazon, banks, all need it, all the big countries, all need his love and to follow his example. All of the people, in all of those things.
They all need him.
The world Need’s him
However we can be a bit silent, a bit invisible.
The question is WHY?
• The ever more secular growth makes us feel unusual.
• The angry atheist, makes us feel vulnerable
• The people that think Christians are homophobes, or judgmental make us feel vulnerable.
• The news where companies that sack people for wearing a cross, that persecute the church and those that speak out.
The problem is, that in a world ever more moving away from us, a world very much LESS exposed to the bible than people have been for centuries, as someone said the other day.
You are the first bible people meet.
All of you,all of us.
We have to fill that gap, and that means being in plain sight?
We have to speak out.
But with our voice an ever shrinking demographic we must speak and go to meet a world moving away from us.
There are ways to do this, when you’re at work and someone asks “where are you going”, Say “off to Christian studies”.
When in a few weeks’ time someone says “what are you doing over
Easter “ Say I am a Christian and that means Holy Week, so very busy in my church”
In the pub, wear a lapel badge, state who you are, be more visible, be where Christian voices don’t normally go.
On social media chat pages, in work, at football, wherever you go.
Maybe pin a line of proverbs up at your desk (good news bible versions of this are good, the use of normal English makes them easier to use)
“The Lord has given us eye’s to see with and Ears to listen with”
“The Customer always complains the price is too high, but then goes off and brags about the bargain he got” (both in Proverbs 20)
Be the first bible people meet.
So that they know a Christian, and respect that example and can ask you for a way into a culture ever more distant from us, ever more needing us, but like me a long time ago, arguing with him, labeling him,
It’s not enough that we think that being a “good person” is enough of an example because, if they don’t know who you are?
It should also be that they know you’re behaving in a certain way to glorify and follow Jesus.
If you are doing these things I apologise, but really its beholden on all of us to find a little of our inner Jehovah’s witness
Evangelism can be as a result of direct action, as a result of being a special human being.
But to make a real impact to change the tide?
We have lost a little bit through fear of being exposed or ridiculed or by not being a natural extrovert like me it’s just stating it, in conversation, at work, in the pub, at the football, on social media.
I think also we have a thing that makes us not want to “show off”.
I struggle with this too, because we are told not to show off our good works, because we are supposed to be servants, and not raise our profile.
But we must spread the good news, and by being simply “visible” we can enable others to ask, to come in, to see what we are like and what we can offer, what living with Jesus does to us, and what living with Jesus can offer the world, as a voice.
We can explode myths, and open up, and destroy parodies, and stereotypes.
We can be the first bible people meet, and speak openly about it, with love for and too everyone and make ourselves the sign on the church door, and be gods mouth and heart.
The end result of by doing so is to open the door before they come to the door.
Make the world want share in his real loving care
My experience of this, is that at first when you speak into a place where his voice is less often heard you meet anger, and angry atheists.
“He” doesn’t want you there.
However after a while you find other voices, curious, accepting, loving, and helpful.
But we do live a little in fear of being the first voice, Christianity teaches you last first, don’t pray in the open etc. etc. We think faith without deeds is nothing and all those things are true.
But in simple terms how in today’s world where I once was, HOW would we the body of the church find ME three years ago?
I didn’t know a single Christian, or so I thought, I found them after, and the first openly Christian voice I met brought me home.
I don’t think I am alone or special in a secular world.
The question is how can we move that voice back into relevance and fill our pews again?
Only by moving our voice into plain view everywhere.
Not only in events, or on our good deeds, but in casual, but fearless conversation with our fellow man.
What we do now in some respects is like “quality time” that idea that when we spend less time with people and our kids that we can achieve just as much because we are focussed.
But truth be told we can’t and our families and friends and kids blurt things out over dinner, over the coffee machine, a pint, before the first goal whenever.
Because that’s when it hits them?
As peter said
1 Peter 3:15
“always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect”
If we can be visible and open we can be around when it does.
Then because we can open the bible, simply by our words given by grace, clinging to the foot of the cross and open to him.
We can be the first bible people meet.
As they may not meet another.