I’ve recently come across two innovations in which secular society is ‘trespassing’ on ‘our turf’.
Sunday Assembly ( http://sundayassembly.com/ Mystery worshipper report at http://www.ship-of-fools.com/mystery/2014/2666.html ) describes itself as, ‘all the best bits of church but with no religion, and awesome pop songs.’ It claims to be what Christians do on a Sunday but with all the definitively Christian aspects removed. In some places it seems to be popular but it’s too soon to know whether or not it will become a permanent fixture. A local assembly has met a few times in Belfast (Black Box, 3pm – 5pm) but I don’t know if it’s on every Sunday or even if it still meets.
Where do I begin to offer some comments? At the minute I’ll make do with a few fairly random thoughts:
1. There is something of a backhanded compliment here; they see that we have something special and they want to imitate it.
2. Christian Sunday worship is both the core and shop window of the church; Sunday Assembly is neither of these. Its core philosophy is trite and consequently there is nothing of substance on display.
3. Christian Sunday worship is an expression of Christian community, which is also expressed in many other ways, throughout the week. Sunday Assembly is not or, at least, not yet.
4. Christian Sunday worship is not primarily for enjoyment. Sometimes it can and ought to be disturbing and painful. I could be wrong, but Sunday Assembly shows no sign of being able to retain folk who don’t enjoy it.
Christians are criticised for things like cliqueishness, considering themselves better than others and unthinking fundamentalism. There is not the remotest chance of Sunday Assembly avoiding the very same things.
Death Cafes (http://deathcafe.com/ ) are not therapy or counselling groups. They are not necessarily for people who have been bereaved although this is by far the largest constituency and they are certainly not for freaky people who want to be morbidly punk. The aim of Death Cafe is ‘to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’.
Christians have always done more than talk about death, we even ‘celebrate’ the death of Jesus, by drinking ersatz blood, which must sound pretty morbid to outsiders. We have good reason to look forward to death and it is that which lies beyond death that gives direction and, to some degree, form to our lives. Death Cafe is well meaning and I have no doubt that folk may benefit from going along. If the movement does take off, what about a Christian Death Cafe? It would need to be handled with extreme sensitivity but might be worthwhile.
Both of these endeavours remind me of an article, possibly by Matthew Parris, that claimed that everyone should act as if Christianity was true. Romans 1:20ff says, For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.Although they claimed to be wise, they became foolsand exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
Glimpses of truth remain but they are overlain with much sinful folly. Are glimpses such as the Sunday Assembly and Death Cafe the best places to start our evangelism?