In this months letter, Bishop Mike reflects on what our Olympic team might have to say to how we approach our church life.
As I write the Olympic Games are in full swing. Yesterday Team GB won our first gold medals. Fantastic!
Somewhere recently I was reading about the transformation in British Cycling. The article was basically saying that ten years ago British Cycling on the world scene was, comparatively speaking, nowhere.
Yet today Bradley Wiggins has not only won the Tour de France, but yesterday won the Olympic Time Trial gold medal. Speaking of the British triumph in the Tour (Brits first and second), a commentator on Radio 5 compared it to the French winning the Ashes!
The article I was reading went on to ask how the transformation had taken place. It listed several factors.
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I thought about that and then recalled that St Paul drew more than once (four times) on a metaphor from the Greek games to describe his approach to the Christian life.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. Acts 20:24
Recently a clergy colleague told me that he was in his local shopping mall looking at everyday people going about their everyday business. This thought struck him. How are we ever going to do anything that will reach people like this?
Thats a great question and one that we should all ponder. As a convert to the Christian faith, it is a question I have wrestled with for the whole of my Christian life. My defining question in local church ministry was always, What kind of church would I need to lead that would have a fighting chance of creating an environment where my old friends might at least stick around long enough to hear the Gospel? I have rarely been to churches that friends from my pre-conversion days would stay long enough to listen.
Well what would it take?
As I looked at those six transforming factors in the life cycle (sorry for the pun!) of British cycling, I began to imagine what the application of those same factors might mean for our churches?
Of course, British Cycling had a very clear aim: to win races. St Paul had a very clear aim: to testify to the gospel of God's grace. Such clarity is rare in churches. It would be difficult to read the New Testament however, and not conclude that there is an evangelistic task that seems to have been relegated. Recently looking at some informal research from CPAS on this very theme, the writer indicated that when he asked local church leaders about evangelism he met indifference and mild hostility.
Of course, these six factors dont exactly fit - analogies are never one hundred per cent analogous! But I wonder if we tried to take seriously the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations whether some of these things are not worth reflecting on.
We are mid way through our Diocesan Strategy 2010-2015. The Growth Programme certainly captured the imagination of many in our Diocese and even inspired some of you. Strategies famously require refreshment mid-term. Here is some food for thought