Can you remember having a chance encounter or conversation that turned out to be a life defining moment? Meeting our new neighbour for the first time one Saturday morning was one such moment for me. Talking on the path outside our two properties, our conversation turned to our respective occupations. Hearing that I was a local pastor, he, not being a church-goer, spoke quietly and sincerely of how he saw the church as an outsider looking on. He said that when he drove through our city and witnessed the wide range of church titles and somewhat similar programs being promoted it spoke to him of rivalry and competition. He saw nothing that he wanted to be part of. As I listened I was momentarily stunned. I felt like I had taken a punch in the stomach. I was saddened as I recalled Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17.
Following this discussion I wondered how long it would be before the cities in which we lived saw a visible expression of Christ’s love through His body in each place. Today I think back to what Charles Colson (the founder of Prison Fellowship) said:
‘Non-christians aren’t looking so much at our tracts and rallies and telecasts and books as they are looking at us and how we behave. When they fail to see the unity of Jesus’ followers – the church – they fail to see the validation that Christ is indeed the son of the living God.’
That conversation with our then neighbour took place twenty years ago. What would people around me see now if I were to have a similar discussion with them? Has there been any change? From my perspective – “yes, change is taking place”. I thank God that in a number of places, in a variety of ways, churches are working together to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of the wider community.
I need to only look to at some cities and towns in NZ to see that change is occurring. Here are a few examples:
- In one city 50 churches joined together for one week to bless their city through acts of kindness under the banner of ‘Servolution’.
- In another churches combined to launch a ‘Neighbourhood Project’. Christians across the city were encouraged to share post earthquake stories and offer support to their neighbours. All with a piece of cake!
- In another Christians combined for a day to ‘Bless the City’.
- In another ten churches combined to offer a series of messages entitled ‘Ten Proven Ways to Live life Well’.
The list goes on. The rivalry and competition that my neighbour saw are being replaced with camaraderie and cooperation. All signs that God is at work causing His Church, as The Message puts it in Matthew 5:14 ‘…to be the light, bringing out the God-colors in the world’.
Until next time. God Bless.