About two thousand years ago the Apostle Peter wrote, Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1 Peter 3:15) Right from the get go, Christians were instructed to speak about their faith with respect.
We are considering what it means for us to Get Real about our local church, Greyfriars, and our place in the local community. One of the biggest barriers people face when considering the church is that "Christians make them feel they have to be perfect" to come to church. When people are tentatively taking a step towards church, it doesn’t take much to put them off: perhaps I’m not good enough? What if I don’t fit in? Or I might not know what to do and embarrass myself.
If a person in the community were thinking about Christianity and looking at the church to see if it authentically followed Jesus, would they see in us a church that practices what it preaches? Do our meetings, events and programmes reflect the values, priorities and activities of the early church as we find them in Acts 2.42-47 & 4.32-35?
For those at church today I have printed over thirty highlights from the beginning of the year through to today. Among these: we meet for meals and friendship, we learn about the bible and pray, we gather to worship God, we serve the people of our community and we reach out with the good news about Jesus.
How we do things is as important as what we do. The Apostle Paul said, If I give all I possess to the poor … but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3) Not only do we try to do the right thing as a church, we try to do it the right way, motivated by good values, with love, in peace, to show kindness, with gentleness and with joy. (Galatians 5:22–23)
This week we have a children’s holiday programme, next week we are collecting cans of food for the local food bank, a week later a team will go into Mt Eden prison to take church services, then at the end of the month we have a special service to celebrate the cultures of people in our church and enjoy a meal together. Helping children, the hungry, the prisoner and immigrants reminds me of Jesus saying, I was hungry, and you fed me, a prisoner and you visited me. When people asked, but when did we see you and do these things for you. he replied, Anything you did for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did for me. (Matthew 25:40)
Today I want to encourage us as we consider what God has achieved through us in the last six months. I encourage us to always aim that what we do and how we do it are consistent with the values and priorities Jesus gave to the early church.
For your reflection:
How can I help my church be a church reflects biblical values and principles?
Rev John Malcolm
*Faith and Belief in New Zealand. A national research study exploring attitudes towards religion, spirituality and Christianity in Aotearoa New Zealand.