evangelism workshop

unfortunately, due to circumstances out of my control, i’ve had to pull out of the CFM evangelism forum next Tuesday. I was going to be part of the presenting panel.

i thought it was quite lovely – and a little bemusing – that i was invited. i was a bit nervous that people would leave wanting to evangelise me, but i was looking forward to the conversation.

these are the things that i’ve been thinking about in anticipation…

– the story i keep hearing from people who have intentionally and deliberately not chosen Christianity is that they are treated with disdain by some who have, being spouted lines like ‘you just haven’t heard about the christianity / god / faith that i know’. some people actually know about christianity and choose not to go there. how arrogant and smug of christians to assume that they know better…

– i’ve said this before here, but my primary contact is with people who have been part of the church and have now left christianity. not because they’re pissed off with it, or they disagree with it, but they’ve gone another step on from it, to a place that the church can’t follow. they’re not in a bad place there, and don’t want to be talked into going back [squeezing who they are now back into a place they have chosen to leave]… but they wouldn’t mind some company where they are now.

– the only faith that makes sense to many people is one that offers a story to resonate with. belonging to a community, and any promise of life after death [or even of a god who loves even you, you dirty rotten scoundrel], are no longer drawcards.

– i work with a tiny subsection of the community, and these things may not be true in general…

there’s much more too, but i need to get back to the basement.

update: someone reminded me of another favourite line: ‘we’re all searching for the same thing, i’m just a little further along the way / it’s just that i have a roadmap for the search’. [well, actually, no.]

[i still can’t leave comments on the site, apologies…]

7 Comments

  1. I used to be in a bible study group that included an Athiest. No motives of conversion (on either side), we just learnt a lot from each other.

    When I was on council, a fellow councillor once told me her only reason for coming to church was for the cuppa and social contact.

    I have four buddhas in my house (all gifts), five dragons (in the corners to protect me) and no crucifixes (hate ’em, except the celtic ones).

    The day I believe I have to fit in a box to be, or grow from an understanding of, Christianity is the day I stop being a Christian!

  2. Hmmm… got to thinking on the way home that might sound as if I’m saying people don’t need to move on from Christianity, which is of course a personal and valid choice and not what I meant.

    Thanks for the shout out re: Lacuna

  3. Good post Cheryl, I believe you’re right – people “move on” from church to a place the church doesn’t seem able to follow. Perhaps it’s the nature of an organised church; perhaps it’s our inability to express what we need from church; I don’t know. But we see it all the time, particularly among the youth who are so alive and faith-driven and then they hit university or their first serious job and they leave the church (but not necessarily their faith).

    Many years ago a UCA minister admitted to me that he had “no understanding” of modern society or the people in it at all. The only job he’d ever had before following his call to become a minister was as a farmer “talking to tractors”. Ironically, he was a fabulous preacher, largely because being an academic type, he made sure to put the scriptures into their histroical context. Sadly he could not place them in a modern context, but eventually found his niche as a teacher in a theological college.

    As you say, we all need a story to resonate with. Most suburban churches for me seem to fail the resonance test from the moment I stop in the car park. After all, if I’m “still looking”, then I’m hardly going to get excited by another brick building that looks like a suburban house with a creche and a handicapped toilet. I need to experience that mystery that still eludes me. If the building looks like a glorified kindergarten (as many churches do IMHO) it hardly gets us off to a good start. That’s why I in fact love cathedrals – give me bells and gargoyles and strange little nooks with weird names that I don’t understand. That’s the story I resonate with, simply because I *don’t* understand it, but therein rings a bell of truth for me. Give me mystery – who doesn’t love a good mystery?

    Or maybe it’s just the Celt in me…?

    Speaking of mysteries, how is it Peter, that you’ve been given so many Buddhas?

  4. That’s a long story! The short version is that I haven’t always been a Christian. I was Buddhist (Theravada) for a long time and used to go to a community in the Perth (WA) foothills. I’m not into deity type objects of worship, but friends have given me Buddha’s over the years and I must admit, they’re all quite nice (they match the my decore!).

    I agree with you about the resonance in churches. Ours is very much the square suburban building with creche!! Personally, I think the difference is in how we treat the space: if we treat it as sacred, blessed space that is dedicated to communion with God, for me it usually resonates. But you can’t resonate in a place that has a sink, noisy fridge, office equipment etc etc. Cathedrals demand that we treat the space as sacred (mostly).

    I’ve tried a couple of time to raise the idea of building another sacred space on our land but, while it’s been met with enthusiasm, finances have always been an issue.

  5. I think what Cheryl and others have proven is that any space can be turned into a sacred, mysterious, and evocative worship place. I suppose what I sohuld have said was that too many churches begin with a ulding that looks Like a kindergarten and follow up with the concept inside! Certainly my home church does – and while it has other compensating good points, I still cringe at the thought of inviting any of my non-Christian friends there. But I have far less trouble inviting them to an alternative woship space set up in an old shed, for example.

    A worship space must have intrigue (mystery) I reckon, and many churches just aren’t intriguing anymore. In fact quite the opposite – they seem to have a large dose of cringe value. Carpetted, air-conditioned churches with cozy seats seem to have replaced mystery with comfortable seating and decent coffee afterwards. It’s OK for a while (especially if the worship band is half decent) but it isn’t sustainable. As Douglas Adams put it, we need “rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty” if it’s to be sustainable. There’s no enigma in a three point sermon – let’s get the intrigue back into worship! That’s what I’m seeing in Cheryl’s work. Great stuff…!

  6. I really like the connection of mystery and intrigue between the two types of space Graham – makes a lot of sense to me. I agree Cheryls work is great stuff! I love the grungy/edgy feel – God in the Gutter. It reveals a sacredness that’s raw and real.

    Another aspsect (maybe?): While I think it’s important to be able to create sacred space (I spend a lot of energy trying!), it’s equally important to have sacred space that’s preserved and always available. Sometimes it’s not enough to know God is always there and you need something familiar, unchanging, solid and sacred to open the channels of communication – or at least I do! I think that’s where places that are held sacred – like cathedrals (or really old forests!) – are so important.

    I know in our church, if congregation member number 37 meets some troubled times and needs to find some sacred space, the church building is the least likely place they’ll find it. “Oh sorry, there’s a local choir using it for practice at the moment and after that it’s the book club. But there’s a two hour slot on Tuesday at 4pm after gentle gym if you can come back then.”. That wouldn’t really happen, but sometimes it feels like it.

    More food for thought:

  7. Yeah we definitely still need cathedrals just as we need old growth forest, as you say. But just as you won’t turn a logger into a greenie by showing him the forest, neither will an atheist be converted by a cathedral (there are always exceptions of course). Just as the Vikings saw only the gold in the cathedrals they plundered, so the sacred is overlooked by a society unable to relate to the story we tell them. We need the sacred places, and we also need to show that anywhere can be sacred.

    Something like that, anyway!

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