The Heineken Factor

Friday, 18 September, 2009

Graham Cray's monthly e-xpressions column.

Some of us view our churches unfairly. We want them to be more hospitable, more outward looking and to draw more people to Christ. So we should, but the unfairness comes when we assume that anyone should be welcome in our church, and any and everyone be able to fit in.

The first part is right – whoever turns up or is invited should be made welcome. But the second part – anyone could fit – needs more careful attention. Yes local churches should comprise of a wide variety of people - God never intended them to be 'homogeneous units' – collections of the like minded. But we too often assume that people should come to us, and be expected to fit into church as we have established it and like it.

But Christ commissioned his church to go, not to tell people to come. If we limit ourselves to those who might come we probably cut out whole sectors of the population. And these are people for whom Christ died and to whom we owe the gospel. So the challenge is to go where they are and plant different kinds of congregations – fresh expressions of church – which are not as we like church, but which, rather, are appropriate to help them to discover Jesus.

The way to increase diversity in the church is not to try and create single congregations where anyone can come: because many types of people won't come. Rather plant a variety of congregations which act together as one church. That way you can enlarge the range of people whom your church reaches and serves. It has been said before, but fresh expressions are meant to be a Holy Spirit anointed Heineken factor – reaching the parts which church as we like it doesn't reach. In the end, which is the more important – only having church as we like it, or also planting fresh expressions of church, so that far more of our society can believe in Christ?

+Graham Cray


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