Monthly Archives: September 2012


The world is tired with words of the Church.

I think I may be too.

Words without actions are dead, I’m tempted to say. Cruel, possibly, too, if it comes to us arrogantly, without humility, a declaration of truth as a statement of power to which others must submit. This can be the case even when the truth being enunciated is ostensibly one of God’s grace in Christ.

But all we have are words. Is this not the case? The words of the Bible, the message of the Gospel. Is not God’s forgiveness a word.

But equally, I’m frightened of the alternative. If the communication of God’s grace in Christ is dependent on my ability to live a saint’s life, then this is all hopeless.

We can’t rightly talk about evangelism independently of the nature, character, attitude of those who witness to Christ and how this is formed by the Gospel.

Christians, and the Church, do not possess a truth that they are responsible for communicating to the world. (Yes, it can be seen that way, but it may not be helpful in this day.) Instead, we are those who have heard the Word of God and so found themselves to be guilty, proud, arrogant, possessive, fearful. In Christ we find ourselves to be both judged and acquitted at one and the next moment.

All we can do, all we should do, is live in the light of this, in humility and quietness and faithfulness. Our words as the church are empty. We have nothing to say, no position of power from which to argue and convince. On that basis we will realise our position is hopeless and we will be driven to prayer.

Does this mean we will say nothing? No, it just means that we must experience the knowledge of our state before Christ, judged and loved, before we can adequately witness to him before others.

Anything else will just be propaganda.

Where will they come from?

At this stage in the project, some questions haunt me.

Concerning the elderly, we’re probably wrongly complacent although I’m not going to fret about it unnecessarily.

No, the question that haunts is the one about the young, or even just those who aren’t elderly. Where will they come from? How will we attract them?

It’s part of the basis of the project, that we recognise that the elderly can find themselves segregated from the rest of society, from the rest of the church. But, why do we think our church will be different? If a handful of us locate a church in the context of the elderly, why would anyone join us, from the rest of society or from the rest of the church. We’re asking people to do something that is, apparently, unattractive to the majority of us.

One response might be to come up with lots of the schemes and plans to attract people,  to organise a grans, parents and toddlers morning, to try to bring in the local school. We could try to make our church attractive, enjoyable, surprisingly so. Things like this could prove useful, but not yet.

The primary problem with responding in this way is that it’s back to front. We need to attract people, not primarily because we’ve created something attractive (doubly difficult for us) but because there is an authenticity to what we do, who we are, who we understand ourselves to be. If we are the Church, if God is present amongst us, if we are connect by the Spirit to Christ we will therefore offer something that is unexpected, strange, weird, a genuine alternative to what is available in this world. If this proves to be the case, people will join us because they find Christ here and therefore the challenge of a church that is – in some respects – unappealing can be overcome.

In other words, the Word of God needs to be heard in this place, in this time, amongst these people. We need to be a community of witnesses to God’s Word and a community that this a witness to God’s Word.

Privilege or Patronize?

NYNO aims to privilege the elderly. We do this for two reasons.

Firstly, many of the elderly are segregated in society and the church. We could talk about this more, discuss the extent to which it is the case or not, and the reasons for it but perhaps not here and now. We’ll take it as a given.

Secondly, in the Kingdom of God, the poor, the oppressed, the underprivileged are to be blessed. In this time and in the place, because of our first point, some of the elderly should surely also find themselves blessed by the kingdom.

However, it’s the not Church’s job simply to serve or bless the underprivileged. To see things this way can lead to us patronizing others. It presupposes that we have something that others need, that we are in the position of power and that others need what we have. In the body of Christ, however, all have something to give.

It’s essential therefore, for NYNO, that while we seek to privilege the elderly in that we create congregations that are accessible to them, we don’t patronize them. These churches are not acts of service for the young and acts of reception for the elderly. They are places where all are equal.

The Church, Discipleship and Mission

It is the very nature of reconciled human community to become conformed to the image of Christ, to become his witness in the definite form of the church’s missionary service to the world. This determination of the human act is one in active correspondence to God’s very being …

The Witness of God, John G. Flett, Eerdmans, 2010, p. 195

The act of reconciliation makes humanity a witness. This is what it means to be a disciple. It is to be a witness. To be a disciple and learn from Christ is to mirror him, though without doubt in a cracked and distorted manner. Humanity witnesses to Christ in word and action individually and as follow him and so learn to as community.

Again, to be conformed to Christ’s image is to witness to him. In its nature, an image points to the original.

And how does this happen, this conformity, this mirroring, this reconciliation. It comes about through the work of the Holy Spirit. When? When the Father wills, yes, but perhaps the Father wills that our own witness, reconciliation, conformity to Christ, might be used by him to redirect others to God found in Christ?

But again, is there a key to the successful church, to the missionary church. Only that she should be herself, and not something else. There you have it. The problem was ecclesiology (enmeshed in a coherent theological whole of which one part can hardly simply be considered before another) all along. I told you so.