going around in (magic) circles

Last night I went to the prestigious Magic Circle in London. I am in the process of applying to join and last night was the first phase of this: an interview. I am pleased to say that I have passed that phase (it was not a ‘thumbscrews interrogation’) and will be having my examination (audition) at the end of July.

cardsThis was my first visit to the Magic Circle premises and I was impressed by the hospitality and welcome I received. People were friendly and inclusive and the interviewer was encouraging and helpful. But it did help that I met a friend there so I did not feel such an ‘outsider’ on my first visit.

And that made me reflect on how it must be for people who don’t normally attend church. No matter how friendly, inclusive and welcoming we are, no matter how encouraging and helpful we are, what will make a real difference is having someone we know who can show us around, help us understand what’s happening and sit with us. And that places the onus on the people who attend church actually getting around to bringing someone with them.

Read these two statistics alongside each other if you are a churchgoer.

  • “Only two percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church. Ninety-eighty percent of church-goers never extend an invitation in a given year.” –Dr Thom Rainer, The Unchurched Next Door
  • “Eighty-two percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.” –Dr. Thom Rainer, The Unchurched Next Door

Hmmm.

In addition to the welcome, the excellent lecture, and the positive interview my friend showed me around and took me to the museum. There we met the curator who was so knowledgeable and showed us around. He showed us the actual ‘Marauder’s Map’ from the Harry Potter films and I learnt that the automatic opening and closing was not a computer animation but happened in real time thanks to some clever stuff. He showed us props and costumes from historical magicians (including Sooty). I have read some books about the history of magic but there are some things that really come to life when you actually see them and are told about them by someone who knows what they are talking about.

Another lesson for churches?

Be blessed, be a blessing

status updates

I have some posh invitation cards on my desk at the moment. One is to attend a Military Operational Presentation with the 16 Air Assault Brigade in Colchester. I’m not sure what one of those is, but I am going to go and find out.

The second is an invitation for me (and a plus one) to attend the Vice Chancellor’s Summer Reception at Essex University. I am planning to go to that too. I am not open to bids for my ‘plus one’.

Both of this invitations have come to me by virtue of my status. It’s nothing to do with me as an individual or my personalityOne is because I am a Minister at Colchester Baptist Church and ‘community leaders’ have been invited to watch the soldiers do their thing. The other is because I am the Baptist Chaplain at Essex University

It’s nice to be invited to these special events, but I reckon that personal invitations to parties, meals, watching films and so on are much better because you have been invited because of who you are not what you are.

Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom of God make the same point. We are all invited to participate because of who we are – people loved by God. The moment we start to make it about what we are we have lost it.

Unspoken (or worse spoken rules) about what you should wear, how you should look, how much you should earn, where you should sit, how you should sing, what language you should (or shouldn’t) use, what you have done in the past, how much you know about Jesus, where you can park, and so on are all about what you are, not who you are.

There is no place for them in the Kingdom of God.

The rules, that is, not the people!

A new soldier was on sentry duty at the main gate. His orders were clear. No car was to enter unless it had a special sticker on the windscreen. A big Army staff car came up with a general seated in the back. The sentry said, “Halt, who goes there?”

The chauffeur, a corporal, says, “General Wheeler.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t let you through. You’ve got to have a sticker on the windscreen.”

The general said, “Drive on!”

The sentry said, “Hold it! You really can’t come through. I have orders to shoot if you try driving in without a sticker.”

The general repeated, “I’m telling you, son, drive on!”

The sentry walked up to the rear window and said, “General, I’m new at this. Do I shoot you or the the driver?”