I have just come back from a visit to the International Christian Resources Exhibition at Sandown Park Racecourse (!) in Esher. I am in two minds about it. I went with our Church Secretary as there were several things we wanted to look at from different suppliers and it is easier to see them face to face as well as compare different products. That was very useful. I also met up with a few old friends, which was great.
It is helpful to know that there are companies that can supply our needs as a church that will be sympathetic to our needs and experienced in dealing with churches in similar circumstances. It is useful to be able to see different suppliers and agencies in one place to save having to travel long distances in order to see them or, more likely, buy products and services sight unseen.
But I am uncomfortable (at best) that we are creating a Christian sub-culture. Whenever I have attended (and is that hypocrisy?) I leave the CRE with the nagging feeling that if Jesus turned up in person he may be turning over a few tables. Why do we need specifically Christian socks? How come we need Christian suppliers of pens for our churches?
I see twin dangers that we need to avoid. One is that we as Christians so disengage with mainstream society by having our own subculture that we become increasingly marginalised. The other is that we spend more money and energy on the subculture (with the odious idea of ‘Christian celebrity’ added into the mix) than we do one missional activity – the main thing the church is there for.
Did I hear a voice shouting angrily in the background as a whip was being fashioned from the ropes marking off the queues: “My church should be a place of mission but you have turned it into a marketplace?!”
In a small town there was a Catholic priest, Anglican vicar and Baptist minister.
One day the priest went to get a hair cut. After the barber cut his hair the priest wanted to pay him. The barber said, “Oh no, I will not accept any money from a man of God.” So the next day when the barber went to open his shop he saw a bottle of whisky with a thank you note.
That day the vicar came for a hair cut. Again the barber said, “Oh no, I will not accept any money from a man of God.” So the next day the barber went to open his shop and found a bottle of claret and a thank you note.
That day the Baptist minister came for his hair cut. Again the barber said, “Oh no, I will not accept any money from a man of God.”
The next day when the barber went to open his shop he found 10 other Baptist ministers.