From the vicarage – June 2012

We live in a community with lots and lots of people from different cultures and classes. It is also one of the most deprived parishes in England. What should church look and feel like in a place like West Bromwich? In a multi-cultural community which culture should we adopt as a church?

One of the most helpful illustrations I have heard about church culture and the gospel of Jesus Christ involves two hands, one a closed first and the other an open palm.

In one hand we hold the message and good news of Jesus Christ. This is the what we have been working through on Sunday mornings as we study the things the Apostle John had seen seen and heard from Jesus. We have also been studying and sharing some wonderful things about Christ from the Old Testament in our small groups.

In the other hand we hold church culture: the style of music, what we wear at church, the flow of the service, the number and rhythm of our Sunday meetings, what we do during the week together, the sort of language we use in our prayers and so on.

Open handed with church culture and closed fisted on the gospel.

We have been learning from the Apostle John that we must have our fist closed tightly over the message, work and person of Jesus Christ.

See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us— even eternal life. 1 John 2:24-25

At the same time, we must hold an open hand to church culture. Musical style, dress sense, or lack of it, the way our services flow, how many times we meet on Sundays and what we do when we do, the sort of language we use and so on are all flexible. All these things must work together to help us grow in that knowledge of Jesus which transforms lives and gives eternal hope.

We do not want to become like many dead or dying churches, where the leaders of those churches close their first over church culture but open it with the gospel of Jesus. Some churches are more like museums, having not changed the culture but having lost the message of the real Jesus years ago. People at these churches go to church out of habit rather than being mission focused with Jesus. Then there are some fresh expressions of church which go open handed on culture but are also open handed with Jesus. These churches end up being no different to a hip-hop party, because the real Jesus is not there.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:13

May God bless us, Neil

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