Pastor’s Thoughts – September 2019

Dear friends, 

I seem to be writing a lot about change at the moment. One of the reasons that change is difficult is because it touches us in many different ways. New buildings in the town don’t just mean wiping away what was there before. Sometimes it means a new perspective on the town – a new way of viewing it or navigating it. 

This is also true for cultural changes. The effect of changes in attitude and values can be even more far-reaching. One of the most important issues for us as Christians is to understand what Jesus tells us what the world should look like, and the difference between that and what the world thinks it should look like. 

These different worldviews are very important to understand. We need to know what we are seeking to build and how this clashes with the worldview of our society. If we do not understand the differences, we cannot really communicate the gospel message. Often Christians complain that people don’t do things God’s way without thinking about the way that their thinking is shaped. 

For example, let’s think about the use of drugs in society. We see this as a bad thing. As Christians we value sobriety because it enables us to stay alert to God’s voice speaking to us, and renders us able to respond to people’s needs. That’s not the worldview of most other people. Some will agree with us that they are bad, but not for the same reason. They might take a different view based on the danger to the health of drug users. They might think it’s not a problem because it makes them feel better for a while. 

This reminds us that while Paul speaks of the world or the flesh as being opposed to the gospel, it is too simplistic to say that there is only one alternative view of the world to ours. Every religion has a different view of the world and there are many subcultures in secular life that see things differently. We can get caught up in several of these views and this can be very confusing. We will agree with bits of some and disagree with bits of others and we need to understand the big picture to see how best to explain what we believe. 

So, over the autumn Sunday mornings, we are going to explore the Christian worldview and the worldviews that we commonly experience from other people. We’re going to look at some key issues that we face as we seek to share the good news of Jesus. They are issues where we often feel under attack because the world sees things so differently from us. The reason that we are going to do this, is not so that we can learn to defend our corner better, but so that we can move into the world and share God’s love and grace. Our job is not to defend Jesus but to make disciples for Jesus. He doesn’t need our defence, he needs our commitment to love our neighbours, so that’s what this series will seek to help us to do. 

This series won’t just be about theological reasoning but about pastoral and evangelistic concern. I recognise the difficulty of the times in which we live but I believe that the gospel speaks to people in every generation. We simply need to understand the language in which we must communicate it. In a recent newsletter from church growth consultant Thom S Rainer, he writes about seven changes in culture that have affected the Church: ‘These seven massive shifts continue to impact churches in the United States and beyond. And I truly believe God has placed us here for such a time as this.’

Now that’s what I’ve been saying for a while. Life in 21st-century Britain is scary at times for Christians, but it looks a lot like the first and second centuries did. The church did okay then because of the power of the Holy Spirit and Christians’ ability to behave with love and grace. As Paul says:

‘Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’

Colossians 4:5–6

Yours in Christ
John