Sunday, August 4, 2013

Brave New World

Our table at church yesterday contained people whose Mother tongues were Mandarin, Cantonese, German, Japanese, Korean and English - out of 9, two were Kiwis! That is the reality of life in Auckland, a reality we ignore at our peril. We will soon be a majority/minority city - where the majority of people come from minority groups.

It provides us with an enormous opportunity of course - as people settling in a new country and culture often have a genuine openness to new ideas, and to exploring the local religion - perceived in NZ as being Christianity. Forget overseas mission, we can fulfil the Great Commission in our own communities!

But we need to practice two things. The first is that we need to go! Our local community contains an Islamic Centre, a massive Hindu Temple, a Sikh temple, a Tibetan Buddhist centre...and probably many more! But to the majority of people in Avondale, these buildings are as irrelevant as local churches - if we are waiting for people to come knocking on our (usually locked) doors, we may as well give up now.

Monika helps at an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) class, and in order to recruit some new members they went out door-knocking! They met plenty of interested people, so hosted an end of term meal, to which 6 new people came. Last week the new term started, 6 new people came to the established ESOL class, and 17 new people came to the beginners class! My assumption is that on any given day,there will be people in my community hungry to meet with God - I just need to go and find them.

The second thing we need to practice is simplicity, or KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!). Read the Gospels - for every great discourse Jesus told many stories. This is not an anti-intellectual argument, but there is a time and a place...I have intentionally focussed on expressing myself in fairly basic language when I speak, but sometimes it seems preachers try to impress with their extensive vocabulary and beautifully crafted sermons, and forget that the aim of speaking is to effectively communicate to minds and hearts. For ESOL folk, and to be honest, for many Kiwis who only speak English, a simple communication of the Gospel works best.

Go...and be simple. Most of us can manage that!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

#ChristiansBeingSaltandLight

I am writing from a New Zealand perspective, but I am pretty sure that what I say will apply to other "Western" nations also.

I have been extremely saddened to see the way that religion, and Christianity in particular, has been heavily criticised, ridiculed and written off as way past its sell-by date in the national press. Social media has been largely the same - I have rarely seen such an aggressive and consistent display of bigotry and hatred directed to those who sincerely seek to follow Jesus as best they can - ironic really, as the usual accusation is that we are the hate filled bigots when it comes to homosexuals!

So how do we respond - defensively, by withdrawing back into our (Church) shells?  Do we go on the attack and seek to re-impose our Christian values on a largely secular nation? How does Jesus want to us to engage with the people around us?

Well here's my proposal - we need to love them into the Kingdom. We need to be salt and light, as Jesus said we would be - not arsenic and wet blankets! We need to live out love-filled lives, and then shout about the reason we do so - not because we are "good people", but because being followers of Jesus compels us to do so.

It is a great discipline, at the end of each day, to ask - what have I done today to bless my neighbours as a result of being a follower of Jesus? In doing so, we are not saying we are better than anybody else - but we are better people, and the world is a better place, because we have Jesus in our lives.

To take it further - the world needs to hear the practical ways in which our faith informs and transforms our daily lives. So if you are involved with social media - facebook or twitter, then I challenge you to publicly complete this sentence each day - "today, because I am a follower of Jesus, I..."

Imagine facebook and twitter being swamped day after day with Christians being salt and light - living it and showing it. If you understand hastags - how about #ChristiansBeingSaltandLight