A couple of weeks ago, I recieved a ‘hearty’ invitation through the door, printed in black 11 point text on an A6 piece of cream paper. The occession for such oppulent extravegance you wonder? It was to attend a series of ‘Christian Meetings’ at Corfe Mullen Village Hall (Well in the small funtion room at the back at any rate.)
Obviously I was underwhelemed by such an offer, I pondered the words of those great theologians, The Clash, ‘Should I stay or should I go?’
. . . Eventually.
I arrived at the village hall a few minutes before and was promptly ignored by the ten or so people who were obviously belonging to the group. Other than me, there were four other people who were obviously not part of this group. I say obviously as the other men had gone with the suit, tie and floppy King James Version of the Bible rather than the traditional jeans, hoodie, body-warmer and beenie with an ESV on the iPhone that I had opted for (I know, call me a stickler for tradition!)
The other ladies I recognised from another local church, but they too had not opted for the ankle length skirts and long grey hair put up into buns. They even wore colour.
Apart from the young man in his late twenties who sprint-walked from the front to furnish me with a copy of a small, maroon, plastic backed hymn book entitled ‘Hymns Old & New’ (‘new’ in this instance meaning circa 1874) all the rest of the group were in their sixties and seventies.
It was obvious that this was a solemn occasion because to a man, every last one of them looked like they had been delivered some news of a terminal illness or worse. I am not exagerating when I say that I have been to happier funerals. One of the other ladies that I knew from another church is called Joy, but other than her, there was a complete absence of any joy or rejoicing in the place.
During the first twenty minutes of the meeting, we managed to crank out four of the hymns from ‘Hymns Old & even Older’, all of which would have tested the vocal chords of any opera singer. We sat to sing . . . perhaps standing was too jovial . . . and the young man in his twenties came to the front to share some verses of the Bible in a way that was a cross between Darth Vader’s heavy breathing and a police officer coming to tell you that your entire family has been wiped out in a freak meteor storm.
I managed to contain my inappropriate giggles that I get in such moments.
Another hymn and we were into the main focus of the evening the ‘gospel’ message.
I put gospel in inverted comma’s, because the Gospel is ‘Good News’.
It’s good news about Jesus Christ and it is good because it starts by telling me that I am wretched, helpless and headed for eternal judgement that I have no power to stop, but then tells me that I don’t need to because God Himself has intervened and paid the price for me through the cross of Jesus Christ.
This man however, talked not of Christ, but about what they believed and how like Christ they were.
He then turned us to Luke 6, a complementary passage to the Matthew 5 passage that he was speaking from and underscored their miserableness from that passage. There’s really was a message of “Let Jesus make you miserable!”
One more hymn and the ordeal was over. I was looking forward to a cup of tea and a chat with these people, but was bitterly disappointed. I can honestly say they only people I have seen leave a church service quicker than these people are people under grave conviction of their sins.
Not one of them acknowledged me or the other four people there, let alone attempting to say hello.
Apart from two of the guys that stayed on to stack the chairs, the others fled and left the rest of us to be cleared up around.
Eventually, and perhaps because I was still sitting on a chair he wanted to stack, the speaker came and spoke to me.
“What’s your vision for Corfe Mullen?” I enquired mischievously.
“To see people come to faith in Jesus Christ.” Was the somewhat surprised reply.
“Brilliant! And other than this one hour meeting where you all fly off at the end, what are you doing to help see that happen?”
“Erm . . . we’re putting these leaflets through peoples doors!”
I looked around the room. There had been ten of them, four other believers and a guywho I would probabley want to keep away from my kids.
“Well that didn’t work did it?”
“It’s the Lord’s work . . . . ”
Well no, it wasn’t. Jesus came and dwelt among us, felt our pain, saw our bondage and had compassion upon us. Star Trek Christianity is not Biblical. Beam down from the mother-ship for an hour a week and then beam back up without even caring enough to find out my name. Come on! And there was I expecting a cup of tea and a soggy biscuit, minimum!
It’s a challenge to me. In four weeks, I am running an Alpha Course with the guys from the crowd in the west of the conurbation. We have booked Costa in Broadstone and we are hoping and praying that we fill the place with people we know, love and care about. We want to love them enough to to them the truth about their eternal future and what they can do about it.
Our Gospel isn’t that Jesus makes you happy. It is that Jesus brings you JOY beyond anything you have or can ever know.