What should church be like? Mystery and clarity.

In our ‘market research evening’ last week one of the participants answered the question “What should happen in church?” with this:

Church should give a sense of ‘being wowed’ to those who come. There should be some mystery, colour and excitement.

everyone else’s religion seems to be more colourful and exciting, whereas we get a chocolate egg in a wet garden.

This has set off a number of different thoughts swimming around my brain. What this quote indicates is that there is a desire for the transcendent – for something that points and reached beyond ourselves. This desire doesn’t seem to be any less among the three non-church-goers that I met than among many regular attendees. How do we get beyond church and into a place where God is sought and experienced, where there is excitement and desire to ‘be wowed’ by what he is doing and what the world is like?

Often we in church try to be relevant by being clear about what we are doing, explaining everything and sometimes dumbing down. Explaining things is really important – this also came out of our market research evening. We need to engage what is happening with real life, include people and explain well. However, we, maybe particularly evangelicals who have a propensity to make Christianity a religion of the head, often do it at the expense of mystery and colour.

On the other hand, those that do have sense of mystery and drama and use sight, sound, and smell (for example, the Anglo-Catholic and Orthodox) usually do not explain things very well. How do we remain understood, culturally relevant and keep a sense of excitement and mystery in what is actually a hugely mysterious story? – God became man – he was incarnate, born a messy birth, lived a working class life and yet still remained the perfect image of God and redeemed humanity! This is mysterious. The fact that he ascended to God and sent his Spirit as God’s presence in the world is also hugely mysterious!

I wonder if we need to be more open to the work of the Spirit in our corporate experiences? In essence, does the question become, how can we help people to engage with God’s Spirit?


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One Response to What should church be like? Mystery and clarity.

  1. Pingback: What can we imagine? | diary of a pioneer minister

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