think on, pray on, act on this
From the pen of
Archdeacon James Ridge
As the worldwide Church (and particularly our friends in Mount Bures) recently celebrated the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist (on the 24th June) I found myself pondering the passage in Mark’s Gospel chapter 6 where John is beheaded on the orders of King Herod (you can find it in Matthew Chapter 14 as well, but not quite such a detailed account). It came up as the Sunday morning Gospel recently too, which got me thinking again. We are told in Mark’s account that Herod was perplexed by what John had to say and yet he liked to listen to him.
Very often we come to the conclusion that no-one is interested in what the Church has to say – we look at diminishing numbers of Church attenders, at the shocking abuse that senior Christian Leaders receive on social media and the aggressive secularist agenda played out in so many of our public arenas and we assume that no-one cares what Christians think, no-one has time for the Church’s contribution. But I’d suggest that this is not necessarily the case.
I remember some years ago being sent out as part of my Church youth group (which shows you just how many years ago it was!) to do some door to door visiting. The idea was that we were sent to a particular street, knocked on doors and introduced ourselves as part of the local Church and then asked if there was anything we could do for them. I expected a pretty frosty reception but in general the welcome was warm, and people were intrigued and asked us lots of questions. I remember one house where a party was taking place and we were invited in, fed, watered and given seats in the centre of the room as guests of honour as people asked us questions about the Church’s view on a whole range of issues and listened respectfully to the answers.
The experience has stayed with me ever since and it has been borne out by other encounters I have had, not least when getting on and off trains whilst wearing a dog collar. Quite often, Christian teaching has things to say which are not immediately palatable, which go against the prevailing culture of the time. We often seem to be vocal on issues around morality but recently I’ve seen the Church speaking out more on issues of social justice – the recent cuts in the overseas aid budget being a classic example.
But it strikes me that sometimes we send out mixed messages, so it’s important to be honest. There are a number of issues on which Christians disagree so I often use the formula “I believe this, but there are other Christians who believe…” It also helps if we can talk about our own personal experience – “This is why I’m a Christian, this is the difference that being a follower of Jesus has made to me…” That way we don’t need to be an expert on the Bible, or Theology or anything really, we can just speak from the heart about our own experience.
We all have a story to tell and there are plenty of people who are interested in hearing it.
May God bless you as you tell the story of his work in your life.