Something to think about this summer!
It’s said of Martin Luther, the 16th century Reformer, that when he woke up every morning, he made the sign of the cross and said, “Remember Martin, you are baptised.” Not a bad way to begin the day. Luther’s point was, of course, that what ought to come first and foremost for Christian people is identity. At our baptism we receive our identity as Christians. With water and the power of God’s Spirit in prayer, we are marked as God’s own forever and are incorporated into the fellowship of God’s one, holy, catholic Church. If we know who we are and whose we are, then other matters, such as what we should do, and how we should behave, take on a clearer perspective. Our mission and our morality flow from our identity.
Sharing our faith
Like Martin Luther, we all need to be constantly reminded of this. After all, everybody out there has their own idea about who you really are and who, or what, you should become. So it easy to forget. However, as Christians, we all have a calling to be proud of our faith and a responsibility to share with others those deep things we believe. The technical term for this is evangelism; although that word has come to have all sorts of negative associations for many of us. Too often we may have experienced it as intrusive and unwelcome preaching at others. All the same, we have something special in our life and our tendency is to keep it hidden and secret. What a shame!
Reaching out to people and offering the vision of Christian faith we enjoy here at Bothwell Parish Church is not a way of filling the pews, adding numbers to our organisations or enhancing the church bank account. It is important to remember this, because it is really selfish and dehumanising to look at people who may be interested in our worship or outreach purely in terms of statistics. We are not after notches on our belts or accreditations to hang on the wall. As a congregation of the Christian Church we are about the business of mission. The question is not what can someone else do for us; the question that matters is whether their journey with God is leading them to our church and how we can help and support them on that journey.
A word on theology
Our common identity as Christians grows from a common bond most fully expressed in our worship – rather than by a shared doctrinal stance, overarching authority or particular religious experience. We really do show who we are, and whose we are, as Christians whenever we join together around the Communion Table. This does not necessarily mean that God is mainly around only when we worship – God is mainly around all the time. It is just that worship lies at the very heart of all we believe and is the heart-beat of all we are, and do.
So, what does all this say about what brings people to church ? Well: given who we are, it surely makes sense that an invitation to the Christian life as we understand it, begins with an invitation to worship. Which is just a theological way of saying what is both commonsense and common experience. Most people come to church because, at some time or another, someone has invited them. That’s how many of you who were not raised in the Church of Scotland first came along. Of course, there are always other factors that bring some people to church – these include changes in a person’s or a family’s life (birth, marriage, death), advertising on noticeboards, information on the internet, the clergy, music, first impressions of a beautiful building ….
All of these are important, all of them matter and in the coming months, we at Bothwell Parish are going to be paying a lot of attention of these other factors that may encourage people to take a closer look at us and try us out. But all of this will not make anything like the difference in our church life that simply inviting people, and making them feel welcome, will make. This is the magic bullet – the one thing that makes the most difference.
Why not invite someone along ?
So, consider inviting people to our church. Be proud to do so. Invite them to our Sunday worship anytime. It doesn’t matter who they are. Got people staying the weekend, bring them along. Why not ? Are you too embarrassed or ashamed to admit you come to church ? Consider inviting people to join our discussion group Living the Questions. There is no obligation attached and they (you) just might enjoy it ! Or invite their children (bring your children / grand-children!) to enjoy activities in our Sunday Clubs. Bring folks along to our annual Car Rally or the Family BBQ in August. If your friends/ neighbours are of a certain age, how about Allovus our lunch club for seniors – or, to whatever you think might interest the people you know. And show you mean it: bring them yourself, or offer a lift in the car! That’s neither intrusive nor rude; and it’s perfectly all right for people to say no. Perhaps some will. So what ? Our responsibility is to issue an invitation. The rest is up to God.
We have something very special here at our church.
We need to share it.
Enjoy a great summer !
Minister of Bothwell