I’ve just finished the longest rest I’ve had in a long time: sitting on a plane for 23 hours flying to London. I’m looking forward to Greenbelt this weekend!
For two days last week I attended the annual Baptist Pastor’s Conference for the South Island (NZ) ministers. It was pretty good. It was mostly sitting listening to people talk, and I listened with my usual filter looking for signs of engagement with communication issues.
The highlight of this was during an interview panel of pastors facilitated by Murray Robertson from the Leadership Network. To the panel of three pastors he asked them why their churches were part of a small minority of (I think about ten) Baptist churches in New Zealand that have increased in size over the last five years. The comment I thought was the most revealing in terns of considering communication, was along the lines of:
“Stop the weird people from being the dominant ones talking up being Christian and your church.”
This pastor was pointing out how many people in his church, including himself, find it very difficult to share their Christian faith with normal people in normal ways. Which meant they generally weren’t sharing their Christian faith with normal people in normal ways.
In the absence of this normality, some of the most actively visible promotors of the Christian faith and church were what he called “weird” people.
Who are the weird people?
Regardless of how you feel about a pastor calling some people weird, I suspect we all know what he means. These weird people might have an exuberant confidence, perhaps caused by a lack of self awareness. They might be weird because of extreme theological views – or simply incorrect theology. They might have eight children, or not own a television. They might just be… weird!
I would be surprised it you can’t think of a few weird people in your church or from your past. One in my experience is very admirable in his willingness to talk to new people at Sunday church services. The problem is he chews on their ear for as long as he has their attention about the latest date he’s figured out for when Jesus is coming back, who the lucky 144,000 are, who the antichrist is, and how evil technology is. He also stands quite close, you know, that invading-personal-space thing.
The pastor being interviewed wasn’t saying get rid of weird people. He was pointing out that there were a lot of other people in his church who weren’t active in presenting (communicating) faith and community in ways normal people could positivly engage with. He wasn’t just talking about Sunday church services.
This is what he has been trying to address in his church.
He told us how simple yet difficult this was.
He told stories of friendship and hospitality and service. He didn’t describe it as such, but I would say what he’s doing is changing the culture of the Christian-faith-community he leads.
So, what do you think about this:
1) Stop the weird people from dominating (damaging) how the church and Christian faith are communicated.
2) Encourage the rest of the faith-community to do “normal” yet in twentyfirst century New Zealand seemingly radical things (friendship, hospitality, service…).
Image “Crazy Girl Cross Eyed And Pulling Her Ears” courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net