Read this today…
‘Surely an active follower is one who puts Christ’s teachings at the heart of their life. Sometimes they wake up thinking about him, while prayer, reading the Bible and acts of social justice are part of the everyday, as is telling their friends about him. They might not attend church, but they’re almost certainly supported by some kind of community of faith. That’s what active Christ-followership generally looks like.”
You may have seen the article that 1 in 5 teens have an active Christian faith. This is an extract casting doubt on the statistic. And I do agree. What caught my attention though was how the writer defined faith, and I love it! Working with our fresh expression sometimes it feels hard to actually call ourselves a church.
Not everyone gathers in United Network at the same time, as the c of e would like us to. Every couple of weeks 20+ of us wriggle into my large kitchen around the table. We have Bible, activities, teaching, read the communion passage from Corinthians, eat together. But at that gathering on a Sunday afternoon we are, in the main, Christians with prior experience. Half of us don’t go anywhere else, this is our corporate expression of church. But in my head, as an evangelist and wanting people to see Jesus, where are those who are coming to faith? Why aren’t they at the gathering?
I have an answer. Thing is, the people we connect with have messy, complicated lives. Many are affected in their families by ill health and autism. To come to a fixed gathering is nigh on impossible, yet they want to explore faith. We use every means possible, from WhatsApp to Facebook, and as those who meet on a Sunday gathering, we try to connect with the others in twos and threes at other times throughout the month face to face.
In activity, it is more than what the article goes on to say….
‘If a young person can be an active follower of Jesus by liking a few of his quotes on Instagram, and feeling a bit reflective when they walk around an old church, then we’ve got even bigger problems than we thought.’ Our people don’t just like, they share, they interact….they post their own thoughts.
But still, there are those who say this isn’t church.
Then I read the definition above, and it gave me a real sense of….yes. Actually yes. If this is what it means to be a follower of `Jesus then yes! Because our people do wake up in the morning thinking about Jesus. They are reading their Bibles and praying. And we all support one another. They support me as much as I support them, and I don’t just mean financially.
Which then leads to more thinking on discipleship. If what we have is a church, and that definition really fits, how does it shape what we call discipleship? Very simply, how do I get people to wake up and think of Jesus? Read their Bibles more (we use youversion reading plans operated by one of our number, but I don’t know what the take up is). How do they know how to pray? Do they get involved in acts of social justice? This is something I need to think about.
it’s religiosity and Churchianity which outs people off, maybe the more flexible definition would help us to have the confidence to explore faith with young people, knowing that the objective isn’t to get them to come together in one place at one particular time (which includes ‘the youth group’ night). And maybe we need to support our youth and children’s workers to create that flexible approach. Especially the employed ones when the paying members don’t see the results on a Sunday. I know some churches do, but it’s not the norm.