Is it me, or does it feel like not a week goes past, especially in the Christian circles on twitter and facebook, or at a conference where someone acclaims the state of the world in one of those general terms. You know the ones I mean.. if not I am about to bombard you with them…
Secularism, post secularism
I could go on with a few others – but have you ever though about not what these words mean, but why it is, and what effect these words have on the way the church views the world, especially in regard to mission?
Yesterday I was sitting in a conference centre type church building, and listening to a speaker talk about the state of the UK, using some of those terms, and I thought to myself, I’m better not go out there into (cue top gear impression..) the world cos i might just get eaten alive with all those relativism monsters, or post moderns, or millenials waiting for me, I am best just staying in this lovely conference centre, on these lovely seats, padded, singing the lovely songs, and just paying someone else to do that stuff. And on another thought, the soft padded comfortable seats make it far difficult to not get too comfortable just staying inside anyway.
See, the thing is, none of the words really help do they?
Its not inspiring to do mission, or plant churches, or have conversations with people if we’re already afraid of them, or pre-assessed them, or tried to pre-figure the state of the world.
Whenever i meet young people out on the streets, my first thought is, are you secular? or post modern? or were your parents were born post ’78 or ’92 ?
One effect of these views of the world is how they effect all the mission organisations in the UK, from the churches, to youth organisations, to the material thats produced for people to go and do, as well as every other ‘christian’ type thing for the current culture, made for you to buy.
However, going back to those mission words.. If only there was a better way to view the world than in general terms, sweeping terms, and maybe not just using sociological terms.
Maybe if in churches and mission organisations we thought local, resourced local, became local, and listened only to local. Where people are people who live, who talk, who have gifts, abilities, dreams, and ambitions. what if we know people and thought about them specifically?
In his work on Mission David Bosch talks about the difference between mission that has tried to observe the world from a distance- a theoria, and that that has acts in poiesis. (Bosch 1991:524) Poiesis means to imaginatively create, by means of evocative images.
If we’re waiting for the observations of the world to create the programmes and resources to save the world, then we might be waiting a while, and they might not even be that useful to you in your context anyway, given that they were created not only elsewhere but also in the past.
So, as we act in the spaces where people are also, lets hear the voices and stories of the world by those who are travelling through it, rather than those who suggest how their journey should be taken. The world is far more complexed than the generalised theories, but its also more beautiful as its a place where God can be discovered at work, lets go find him in the world already, or create the artistic dramatic places that imagine the gospel, where once there was an empty space.