As you go door to door, it is a great chance to hear what people really think about the Christian faith and about the church. If today’s sample is anything to go back, then there’s a great openness to talk about God – something that certainly surprised my timid self. But there’s far less openness towards the church and all that it represents.
Twice in fifteen minutes, on two separate occasions, people described the church as cliquey. And of course we all know what a clique is – a tight group of people who think of themselves as insiders and who exclude anyone who doesn’t fit in. The trouble is, we think of cliques as groups of people in other churches. Other churches have cliques. Not us.
That may be true – I certainly hope it is. But if there’s one thing the Everyone Welcome course taught us a few years back is that every church thinks of itself as open and warm and welcoming. No church puts up a sign saying, “Newcomers not welcome”. Yet even if we are the most welcoming and most friendly church, there’s always more we can do to welcome the outsider, the newcomer, and particularly those who have been unchurched by their past experience of cliques.
That’s why tonight as I reflect on the past day, I want to think about how we as a church show in a real, tangible way that we are radically different, and change the perceptions those outside may have about us, and perhaps with good reason.
Jesus said: By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35).
So are we going to have the inward looking love of the clique? Or the outward looking, generous love of Jesus? It is really so important we do not confuse the two. One is the genuine article that is precious and real, the other a fake that it is cheap and easy, but in the end worthless. What kind of love do we show? That’s something we all need to ponder.