Please diagnose the problem – why are we not an inviting church?
There is usually an immediate answer, none of these has any validity. We say:
They are too busy so we save them having to say no to an invitation we don’t give them.
They’ve been hurt by the church.
I have no friends.
What these really are is sins of omission – things we ought to do but don’t do. Sin is missing the mark – it is not quite where we ought to be at the moment. We make a song and dance about the sins of commission, the ones that are out in the open. But we ignore our own private sins.
Fear of rejection is the underlying root problem in the church today. We need to refurbish the minds of our congregations in the area of the fear of rejection. That is the main problem of the church today.
Fear – God says quite a lot, “Don’t be afraid.” Fear is the socially acceptable sin of the church today. But we never say, “I’m afraid.” We say “I’m anxious; I’m concerned.” If we could get this sorted out, we would have the most extraordinary message to our nation – “Don’t be afraid” is the solution to the problem.
How do you get a congregation over the problem of fear? You do the thing you fear and soon it will go away. But it will be replaced by another fear. If you can find the fear, you will find incredible potential behind the fear.
Become fear detectors – what is the potential behind that fear? The fear is just a shield. Fear is a discipleship path.
The real corker here is rejection. The fear just shields the fear of rejection.
How do you help a congregation get over the fear of rejection? Who do we know in the Christian faith who was rejected?
You are going to meet people who will rejected you, Jesus says, “Wipe the dust from your feet and move on.” We have never wiped the dust from the last time people said “No” to us. Why would we feel rejected if we were playing to an audience of One – God. What this really reveals is that we don’t know who we are. We have not translated our Sunday worship into the knowledge that we are so loved. Does it not say that “Perfect love casts out fear”? If there is fear there we have not allowed God’s perfect love to inhabit that part of us.
We have a wound. We are all walking wounded. We are all frankly incompetent. By asking the question it brings out into the open what the real problem is.
We need to turn this into teaching.
“What we speak becomes the house we live in” (Hafiz)
We speak these things and they become our prison. We are weeping what we have sown. This is the stuff that is there. Bring it out into the light.
I know we don’t want to talk about sin. But we have missed something if we don’t know that God is trying to conform us. The only way we can do that is to help each other with the bits of our character where, like an ingrown toenail, we have gone slightly in the wrong direction.
We cannot imagine a better future until we see an inadequate present. Until we so hate this stuff within us, it is difficult for us to move on.
Congregational culutre eats strategy for breakfast. Our culture is just group-think.
In our society we have post-modernism somewhere, where you are what you buy. If you are not buying you are the product. So, we’ve got more mortgages, people working for bricks again. We’re back to Egypt. Post-modernism is a load of rubbish. We’ve got church attendance going down and anti-depressants going up. We medicate fear. But we have a solution in the church. The solution is “Don’t be afraid”.
God gives a clue early on of what the ministry of an Anglican clergy is going to be about – it is about moving the font.
What happens with all of our initiatives is something called the dip. The priest announces a new initiative. The congregation gathers around and says, “That is one of the best initiatives you have ever announced.” But they do nothing and everything goes into a dip, and so soon we have to have a new initiative.
But in the biblical story, everything starts to happen in the dip. It is through rejection, through things going wrong, that we will find transformation. Discipleship is valley and hill. It is in the valley that there is the potential for us to be transformed into the likeness of who God intends us to be.
The problem that the Diocese of BC has is that we’re not hearing enough “No’s”. We are not getting enough rejections. What God is after is transformation. It’s when things go wrong that there is the potential of being conformed into the likeness of Christ.
In the zone of the unknown – run towards your fears.
If things go well, enjoy it. If things go badly, expect God. The only way God can get our attention is when things go wrong.
Peace – Let not your heart be troubled.
Wayne Gretzky – possible greatest ice hockey player ever. He scored 897 goals. Played 1,450 games. He scored a goal every 99 minutes.
I’m not saying it’s going to take 99 invitations to find a “yes” but we have given up. We have to cast a lot of seed invitation util it finally lands on good soil. If we keep going it will always find good soil.
The Chinese have a saying about identity – it is like a three part mirror – it is about how we see ourselves, how others see us, but the truth is how God sees us. we allow
“In the midst of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” (Albert Camus)
“The truth sets you free” unfortunately it makes you miserable before it sets you free.
It is impossible to treat a man or woman what they think they already know.
It is normally one small change in our lives, one small change of thinking that transforms and renews.
Who invited you? Around the world I hear: It was this gorgeous girl in the youth group. But for the vast majority, they were never invited.
God uses ordinary stuff. We have to re-remember our own invitation story.
Some research about Anglicans has been done that show that we are mostly neo-natal Christians. The first words out of the mouth of neo-natal Anglicans are “And also with you.”
Study invitation, practice it, and teach each other what happened.
How to overcome the wounds of the past?
All church leaders have wounds in this area, otherwise we would be doing more in the area of welcoming.
Excuses I have received for parishes not doing back to Church Sunday again:
“St. Paul’s has been part of this once before (before I came) and it wasn’t very ‘successful’ – probably because they’re dreadful at inviting people”
(God always gives an answer, but we don’t want to hear the answer.)
“Back to Church Sunday is not our preferred medium for mission.”
“We need to give this a rest as our people are a bit tired inviting once a year.”
“This will only work if someone spends 1000′s of pounds on national publicity.”
The antidote is to Embrace Failure.
When it looks like death it’s probably life. If you want to succeed more fail more.