We had a really excellent Later Service yesterday evening. There weren't many of us but the conversation was rich and stimulating. I guess the latter was very much the product of the former!
We were continuing our reflections on Nehemiah, looking at chapter 4 and Glenis, having set the scene really well, asked what opposition we feel we face from outside the church.
We got the usual stuff about people being too apathetic to oppose what we're doing providing it doesn't interfere with how they live their lives and the fact that certain elements in our culture, especially the liberal media, are mounting a concerted campaign against belief.
So far, so expected
I don't buy the second argument - though I think the first has a lot of merit - and said so. To which one our people said that it's alright for me because I used to be a journalist, I've studied a lot and I know how to answer people and so I'm not fazed by such attacks. She admitted that she found such attacks quite unsettling.
I was lost for words (momentarily!).
Part of the issue here is the end of Christendom, something we who've read missional church texts know all about. It's about how the Christian faith has been moved from the centre to the margins of our culture - quite rightly in my view; it's where we belong.
But the upshot of this is that all opinions are now equal and therefore are equally fair game. And this is still a relatively new experience for Christians, especially those of a certain age and those who grew up in Christian families. For them it feels personal; their faith is being attacked now in a way that would have been unthinkable 30 to 50 years ago. And that's uncomfortable.
So, it's made me think about how we help people in church to think about their faith.
People were talking last night about such opposition calling for spiritual warfare. And I guess that's true. But it depends on how you understand spiritual warfare. For me the idea is much more about how we live than how we battle unseen spiritual powers. I tried to sum my view up in these lines:
In the early hours
writing these lines
aware of unearthly powers
in unsettling times;
war rages on our TV screens, the front line’s in my soul:
your light and these neon dreams still wrestling for control.
cause I hanker for the good life that work and money brings,
seeking the products as advertised and clinging to these things…
I’m not looking for a way out, Lord,
just some high ground so I can see
this game and its many rich rewards
in the light of all you have for me…
So we overcome evil by doing good, according to Romans 12; and we take thinking captive so that we can demolish arguments, according to 2 Corinthians 10. This means that we know how to think and how that thinking works itself out into the way we live. And the church's 'teaching' programme should be addressing that in a variety of ways.
It's back to that issue I keep returning to in this blog, discipleship. There are two facets to it here: how we can be disciples in today's challenging environment and how does what we do in church help?
Lots to think about there...