Monday, 22 March 2010

Change without decay

Well the bee has been busily buzzing in my bonnet since that Dispatches programme. But it has made my brain tick in a way that I hadn't quite expected.

My point for so far is that Britain is changing in ways that pose a challenge to the church and that neither fight - attacking our perceived or real ideological opponents - or flight - retreating into "safety behaviours" is an adequate way to respond.

Change in any area of life can hit us at an emotional level in a way that we sometimes find hard to articulate. I think that to some extent explains the sometimes fearful and angry reactions of Christians to what is happening in Britain today. But as the apostle James says anger does not produce righteousness (James 1.20) and we all know that the apostles Paul and John saw no place for a spirit of fear within Christians and as something that was driven out by love.

The truth is that the changes we are experiencing in the makeup of our society are not going to go away. Immigration and emigration are part of life. And immigrants and emigres bring / take their cultural values with them. Islamic mullahs in full Middle Eastern garb who have some very politically incorrect ideas are at home in London or Blackburn or many another town or city in the UK. At the same time, expat Brits have made a life for themsleves in France or Spain, sometimes creating a corner of some foreign field that is, at least for the time being, England.

Something that we don't always factor into our discussions of the future of the church in Britain is the fact that population in Europe is in decline. The result is that the indigenous population is greying - the number of elderly people is increasing whilst the number of younger people is declining. This, obviously has far reaching consequences that are both economic and social. In the long run, it can be argued, Europe needs people from other countries and cultures across the world to come and settle in Europe.

We can either recognise and embrace this change and see it as an opportunity from God. Or we can pretend that it is not happening or can be stopped and find ourselves lost in a soup of emotions that are fuelled by values that really are not those of the kingdom of God.

It does have some real implications for the church. We will have to give reasons for our faith. We will have to think more carefully about how we reach out to people whose values and beliefs are sometimes hostile to Christianity (But hasn't that been the case from the earliest days of the church?)

And it might also mean more churches like KICC and Jesus House. And perhaps we will have to learn some evangelistic strategies from the church in places like China or Iran. Perhaps Christians should have more children! One way to increase the faith.

What an exciting time to be alive!

For more on Europe's declining population:

A BBC report. A couple of articles from the Washington Post after The New York Times. And some research from the UN .


Stephen F said...

I like this one Jamie-boy. You raise some serious issues that British Christianity fails address properly.

In the 1st chapter of your book ;) you rightly point to the fact that anger does not produce righteousness. Unfortunately, it is this reaction that reaches the headlines, not the compassion shown by church groups the length and breadth of the UK toward asylum seekers et al.

Demographic change has been with us since Christianity began on these islands. The one factor that has now changed is that the majority of immigrants no longer believe in a representation of Christian faith.

Is this the ultimate opportunity? No longer do we have to take the gospel to all nations - the nations are coming to us. The Great Commission is right on our doorstep, so to speak.

James said...

Thanks for your comments Stephen. I think the whole issue of public perception and media presentation (misrepresentation?) of Christianity only exacerbates the frustration of the Christian community and the feeling of being under siege. Perhaps since a Judaeo-Christian paradigm was dominant for so long there is still something of an automatic reaction against anything with those roots, whether by ignoring its virtues or highlighting its shortcomings. And we might just have to live with that for a while.

I think you have rightly highlighted the difference between the current wave of immigration as opposed to that of the 1950's-60's when we had God-fearing Christians from the old colonies and people of other faiths whose faith allowed them to live at peace with the values of their new country. People forget too that much earlier in history we had Anglo-Saxons,Vikings and Normans arriving in Britain to start a new life, most of the time through conquest. And even the most pagan invaders failed to snuff out the flame of Christianity.

I think this is an opportunity on our doorstep. The nations certainly are soming to us. And as Acts 17.26-27 reminds us God plans where people will live so that they might seek His face.