Two wee boys, three big questions
Even the youngest kids have deep questions about life and the afterlife. Today, I popped into the office and two boys from the estate called in to say hi (which in reality actually means they were dying for a drink of juice and a biscuit!).
They sat down and completely out of nowhere said, 'You believe in God don't you?'. 'Yes' I said. 'Why did God let himself die?'. Wow. Before I could try to respond to that question, the second lad said 'And how can there be a heaven when all there is in the sky are stars and planets......And why did God make Jesus live again after 3 days? Why not 1...or 5?'
So what does a highly educated, theologically trained, well experienced minister of religion say....'Um, well, what a great question...have you googled it?'!!
I think God used two ten year-olds with searching questions to convict me about how unprepared I am to share my faith and beliefs. We are told that we should always be prepared to give a reason for the HOPE that is within us.
I wasn't prepared.
Daily Bread and the Daily News
I remember reading about the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon. He gave some nuggets of wisdom about how to share your faith effectively.
He said something simple like, 'Each morning I have the Bible in one hand and the Daily Newspaper in the other.' In other words, he knew God's story and knew what was happening in the world around him.
We always need to know God's unchanging Word and understand how it applies to the changing world we live in.
Jesus calls us to be in the world and not of it. To be an effective witness for Christ I need to know both exactly what the Kingdom of God is like, what's happening in the world that I live in today- and live in such a way as to see the Kingdom can come, on earth, as it is in heaven.
I love culture. I love the news, current affairs, what's happening in the entertainment world and politics. I take time to check out articles in papers about these things, watch tv programmes and documentaries, browse the net. I ALWAYS make sure I'm informed about culture.
But I don't know my Bible very well.
Here I am, with a degree in theology and masters in Evangelism Studies, a Salvation Army 'Envoy' (new title whoohoo!) - yet I have to confess that I don't really know God's story as told in the Holy Scriptures all that well. I don't take enough time to read it, to study it; to learn from great teachers and to apply what I've learnt to the culture we are immersed in. I'd rather watch TV.
It's more difficult in my denomination to put the study of scriptures as a priority as this doesn't seem to be top of the list. Each week my headquarters sends out information on courses about manual handling, running a parent and toddler group, health and safety training or how to do a risk assessment. It appears that doing something 'practical' is more important than us knowing the word of God deeply.
Rarely is there help or information on how to understand the scriptures better, how to go deeper in the word and discover how it applies to our lives and the lives of others.
I plan services, I lead worship, I visit people, I preach, I run acitivies- but I don't know the Word of God as I should. Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormans know what they believe inside out, Muslims as young as 6 can memorize large portions of the Koran. I can just about get through Jeremiah 29:11 (which is so often used inappropriately by the way), Psalm 23 and John 3:16.
30 years of Churchianity and that's where I'm at.
This has been a real revelation. It's quite embarrassing really. What we believe to be the truth is SO important. Not just what we feel to be the truth. In Romans we are told to 'BE TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind'. What we study and learn affects what we choose to believe which affects how we live our lives.
Are ya still with me? :-)
People are crying out for answers. I'm not sure that the Church is fully prepared at large to season the world with good responses to their questions.
We need new apologetics for a new generation.
We need new stories to tell the old story. But first we need to know the old story!
I don't believe I have to have all the answers for every question but my response today with those lads was a dribbling mess. People of other faiths take their sacred texts so seriously, do we?
Do we know more about what Britney, Brangelina, the Beckhams or Ashley Cole are up to than what Jesus and the people of God got up to?
In recent years the Church has done better at having the Daily News in our hand; at knowing what's happening in the world around us.
But what about the Daily Bread?
Is the pendulum going to far the other way? Are we in danger as Christians of becoming cultural clones, looking no different to the world around us having nothing to season our culture with?
A Simple Faith
I had a good chat with my bro-in-law last night. We were talking about the longing by many for a simpler (but deeper) kind of church and a simpler (but deeper!) kind of faith. I think many people are longing for this. They're sick of the slickness; the entertainment and business culture in the Church.
So it's back to basics for me- goodbye for a while to the 'how to' Christian manuals, the 'ten easy steps to growing your church', the 'come and have a life-changing, instant experience' conferences, the 'WWJD' bracelets (not that I ever had one!) and the latest re-packaged greatest hits CD from Delirous? or Matt Redman.
For a while, I'm gonna go a bit mad and do something very 'un-postmoderny Christian-like (and yes, that is good grammar!).
I'm going to pray.
I'm going to read my Bible (with a few books to help me!).
I'm going to meet with other followers of Jesus regularly.
I'm going to try to understand the world I live and breathe in.
I'm going to try to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide me each day in whatever I'm doing.
Back to basics- the newspaper in one hand and The Bible in the other.
It's worked well for the generations before us. Let's see how it goes!