We had an interesting experience at our church last night. In one room we had a meeting of Christian Bikers, in another we had a meeting for the team leading our interior renovations, in another there was a training session for youth and children’s leaders and in the hall lots of people were playing carpet bowls. There were not many free rooms. It’s such an eclectic mix!
I hope that it is reflective of the mixture of interests, activities and people at our church. I can remember at Vicar-Factory being told of the Homogenous Unit Principle, which could be summarised as ‘birds of a feather flock together’. The idea is that churches will grow fastest and best if they are aimed at one subculture. That may be true from a purely sociological point of view but, to put it simply, YUCK!
Church is not about monoculture but is a blend of ages, experience, faith levels, interests, ideas, preferences, talents, genders, ethnicity and so on. In short it is for all people. That makes it a bit messy and means that we all need to be willing to accept that our preferences may not be those of others. It is not about compromise, but about grace. It is about covenanted commitment to one another as a community of people who are trying to follow Jesus. It is about wanting God’s blessing for others rather than just for me. It is about recognising that we are blessed by one another.
I react badly to suggestions that church is about our preferences. That is not simply a knee-jerk reaction, but is based on my belief that first and foremost we should be seeking God’s kingdom, not trying to build something that we like. A church based on the preferences of some is also more likely to turn into a HUP church (heaven forbid!). I have been in situations that have not been my own personal preference and felt uncomfortable and found myself with a choice – disengage because I am disgruntled or engage and discover that God speaks through those experiences too. He is not limited to speaking to me only through my preferred songs, Bible translation, preachers…
One Sunday morning, the minister told the congregation that he was going to say a series of words, and he wanted them to sing the song that came to mind, when he said each word.
The first word he said was ‘rock’ They immediately started singing ‘Rock of Ages.’
The second word he said was ‘name’ and they sang ‘Lord, I lift your name on high.’
The third word was ‘cross’ and they began singing ‘The Old Rugged Cross.’
The fourth word he said was ‘eyes’ and they sang, ‘Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.’
Finally, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, the Minister said, “Sex”. Everyone gasped and then it got very quiet. Finally, way in the back of the church an 87 yr old lady stood up and started gently singing, “Memories.”