A friend asked on Twitter today, “#21stCentury #church – how does it speak to those with sky tv but no dinner table?” and I’ve been chewing that question over all day – especially since I work at Sky TV, and rarely use our dinner table!
Steve’s question is hugely important, because The Church makes me (a Christian for twenty years) scared to admit that my family almost never eats together around a table with the telly switched off. It makes me ashamed that we aren’t the perfect Pleasantville, cereal-packet family. It makes me want to pretend that we are exactly that, and wearing the mask gets very tiring. The Church makes me feel a failure as a husband and father, and maybe that’s what I am; but I can tell you now that if I faced that attitude as a complete outsider, it would keep me away and give me another excuse to stay home and crack open another can of Stella.
Here’s the thing: change in society is inevitable, irrestible and mostly irreversible. If we insist that those who want to follow Jesus must return to a way of living that society has by and large abandoned, then we may as well beat our iPads into ploughshares and live just like the Amish.
The world has moved on. I remember reading Family and Kinship in East London back when I was doing A-Level Sociology (yes, I’ve got an Ology ). It described the rich networks of community and family support that connected the people of Bethnal Green in the Fifties. It seemed a million miles away from my own experience as a child of Eighties Britain. It’s even further away today. A group of people who follow Jesus will naturally develop some noble characteristics of a community like that, but if domestic perfection becomes a barrier for entry, we’re missing the point of Kingdom.
If we add extra rules, regulations, expectations and norms on top of what biblical Christianity really requires, then we’re just making it harder for people to turn to Christ. It’s great to eat with family and friends. Jesus did it, the early church did it, and I love to do it. But it’s not the basis of my salvation. I won’t go to Hell because we don’t have dinner-table Heaven.
The world has changed; the Good News hasn’t. The challenge for the 21st Century Church is to present the opportunity for salvation and all its positive change without insisting we live in the past. The Church does speak to those with Sky TV but no dinner table – it says “you’re not good enough to join us”. Let’s break out of time-warp pseudo-Christian subculture, and preach the Gospel of grace to the ragamuffin failures in our post-postmodern, post-Church, post-dining-table world.