I was at college on Tuesday and sitting over lunch a few of us began discussing the nature of Church and how church exists in our nation.
We were talking yet again about the need to try new and radical ways of church to reach the increasingly spiritually hungry people in our nation who are not interested in coming to 'inherited church' or to put it another way, the standard model of church in this country (Meeting on a Sunday, singing songs together, listening to a half hour sermon, meeting mid-week for Bible study etc etc).
Someone mentioned Alpha and how the format of meeting together and having a meal is a really good way of creating an atmosphere whereby people can relax, get to know each other and discuss issues of spirituality and faith. There is much about Alpha I have concerns with, but I agree that sitting down and having a meal together is a great biblical model. What I did say though was the problem with this is that people go through Alpha and then are expected to start coming to Church, but what they then experience from Church is something a million times removed from what they experienced in Alpha. Gone are the meals together, the times of discussion and fellowship, instead they have to somehow learn to become a part of a very different and alien culture.
One of the group spoke up and said how in their church, after people have gone through Alpha they then invite them to come for a few weeks to a mid-week meeting round someones home where they again eat together and then during the evening will introduce them to worship songs and other things that happen on a Sunday morning. He said that this way they learn how Church operates and then when they start coming on a Sunday morning it is no longer such a culture shock.
I said to him how this sat really uncomfortably with me. To me it is like slowly injecting people with 'Church culture' to somehow clone them into what we want them to be. I don't think that's right. Yet again it's a way of making people conform t what we think they should be like and getting them to become a part of our culture rather than seeking to go to them and their culture and allowing Jesus to become real to them in their culture.
This affirms yet again to me my calling and desire to GO and seek to ask God to create a Jesus movement within whatever settings I am placed.
Imagine a bottle with a tiny bit of ink in it. The ink represents the Gospel and the bottle the Church. Beside it is a bowl of water. This represents our culture. You want to see our culture transformed by the Gospel. The way we currently do it is to try and get the water into the bottle and then it will mix with the ink and be changed. What I think would be better though is to pour the ink out of the bottle into the bowl of water and let the permeate the water. This is the model of Church that I want to explore. Now I know all analogies will ultimately fail, but do you get the picture?