Sunday, July 27, 2008

Church in Vancouver: a view from the inside

There should probably be a disclaimer before I begin to type these words. I know I'm not the first person to type these thoughts, and certainly there are many many of us that think them. Instead of a disclaimer, let me share my context for those that don't know me so well.

Liz and I have been members of two churches in our 16 years of marriage: Highgrove church, Bristol, UK (1992-2003) and Point Grey Community Church, Vancouver, Canada (2003-present). We have not simply been members, but fully-stuck-in serving ones that often found ourselves in positions of leadership of various church groups and activities. We have also been involved in two major ministries that run summer camps and events: Scripture Union (1987-1994) and Soul Survivor (1994-2004). Currently we are entering membership of our 5th Christian community ever: Youth for Christ, and are still members of PGCC, church number 2 in 16 years (in case you didn't catch that the first time round).

I give you this autobiography to help distance us a little from a particular breed of Christian that you will see all over North American cities, and throughout much of the western world: the consumer christian. Consumer christians in Vancouver can be recognised by their ability to commit to one church for betwen 6 months and 3 years, and then leave, even though they are still in the city and call it home. Their reasons for moving away from a church tend to be self-focussed ("I'm no longer being fed" is one of the ugliest religious phrases I can imagine and tends to get my blood boiling), rather than other-focussed (how many times have you ACTUALLY heard "I can serve Jesus and others more effectively there than here"). Of course it's very easy to dress up the self as the other (e.g. "The vision of the leadership meant I couldn't stay there any longer", "Things have changed so much in the last n months").

Church in Vancouver: same product different packaging? Here's what I'm seeing ...

Wow, the disclaimer was so long, you won't read the meat of the post. Perhaps I'll just let these thoughts sink in for a while, and then post what I was building up to separately. My hope (and indeed prayer) is that you will not read the next post as a rant from a consumer Christian, but a view from the inside with a level of credibility. I am passionate to see some changes to church, in order that Jesus becomes famous, and that the activities of the Kingdom of God are seen more clearly by those on the inside, and on the outside, of church.

2 comments:

Stewart and Sarah North said...

Amen!
blood boils at same stuff.
its a sad state of affairs.
(i could do a whole blog on what people say and what they mean - same lines all the time)
look forward to next post

MattCrossman said...

Just on a side point, I now regard "I'm not being fed" as a illegitimate reason for leaving any church. When one considers the podcasting phenomena and the existence of sites such as http://www.zoecarnate.com , you can be under the teaching of the best pastors in the WORLD, SIMULTANEOUSLY.

Last night we had our refreshing meeting and God used an experience I'd had in London to remind us of this. I had walked under a very pretty hanging basket near Hyde Park, and it dripped on me as all the baskets had been watered. Hanging baskets look pretty, but they are not fruitful and they rely on some body else to feed them because they have no roots.

God then directed my gaze to a whopping great oak tree which dominated the skyline, and said "which kind of Christian would you rather be? Then put down roots and make sure you're fed, in a private, unseen life with me"