Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Adding Up

Maths is not my strong point.

But here is a sum I’ve been thinking about today: 69 – 3 = ?

69 is the percentage of people in Sheffield and the surrounding area that chose to identify themselves as ‘Christian’ in the most recent population census. That may be a pretty low bar definition of ‘Christian’, but they did have other options, including ‘No religion’ (about 14%).

3 is the percentage of people in Sheffield and the surrounding area that attend church. And as above, we’re dealing with a low bar: not ‘people who attend a worship service every Sunday and a midweek group each week’, or any other particular measure of commitment (usually identified in terms of time, money, or effort); but people who would identify themselves as part of a local church. So, the 69 and the 3 are comparable numbers.

69 – 3 = 66

66 is the percentage of people in Sheffield and the surrounding area that chose to identify themselves as ‘Christian’ but do not attend church. Who consider the church to be either irrelevant, or inaccessible, to them. Either because they have experienced the church as irrelevant and left, or inaccessible and not come back; or because no-one has demonstrated the relevance of being in covenant relationship with God to them, in a way that they can understand.

My point is not to beat myself, or anyone else, on the back for failing. That would achieve nothing, other than great delight to satan. Rather, this sum, which does not add up, causes me to repent – and believe, for the Kingdom of God is near at hand…

Repentance is concerned with a change of mind; belief with the active out-working of the new mindset:
Repentance begins when we Observe something that breaks into our lives in a disruptive way [66%]; causing us to Reflect on what we have observed [relevance and accessibility]; and Discuss our observation and reflection with others in community [how can I be more relevant and accessible? What mindsets do I need to be set free from? What mindsets do I need to take up?].
Belief moves us on with renewed hope as together we form a Plan out of our discussion [simple, practical, concrete steps or actions]; and allow the community to hold us to Account in regards to the plan [am I being an usher of Good News, or not?]; before we Act [be, do].

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  1. Mmmmm,

    That's a very depressing set of statistics. Do you think that part of the problem with the Church in general (I'm not referring specifically to Sheffield) is that having got into a consumer society mode we now are stuck in consumer Church mode, ie. we need to constantly present ourselves as being relevant *enough* to people, we need to make it clear that they will get *enough* out of it - and then we fail and they get disillusioned. Rather than showing that Christianity is the most relevant thing in the world, and that it is at it's most fulfilling and glorious when it involves commitment to the Church? Not really sure, just thinkign out loud I guess!

  2. Si - that's a very interesting thought, and one that I want to reflect on further before answering fully.

    But my initial thoughts are that the church (in general, in England) has invested a lot in being relevant *enough* in relation to style(s) of worship, but very little in terms of being relevant to people's everyday experience of life.

    I'd also say that the pursuit of culturally relevant worship is at its worst consumerism, but at its best is in part a pursuit of integrity on our part (that we are offering worship from ourselves, rather than the worship of some previous generation) and in part a pursuit of missionary self-sacrifice (that we lay down a style of worship that has value to us because we recognise that it is a stumbling block rather than an aid for those around us to approach God).

    More thoughts later...