Rewilding The Church Pt 4

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:12-14

I have always been a Christian. I was baptised early on, my family have always been involved in church in one way or another, from being Sunday School helpers, Church Warden, or being in the choir for the best part of 14 years. I even made sure that while away at university, I attended church, granted I never made it to a morning service, but evening services were a great way for me to connect with church still. Then work happened and my local church only did morning services and all of a sudden I fell out of the rhythm.

On reflection, church, at least my parent’s church, was mainly attended by the same types of people: the older generation and young families who’s kids were up at the crack of dawn. There wasn’t really many people who fell in between that. Mainly because if you weren’t up in time for the 8am or 10am services, then church wasn’t accessible for you.

A lot of my friends wouldn’t call themselves Christians due to the negative connotations they seem to have about the faith; old school, judgemental and no clear way of being able to openly discuss and explore the faith. Instead they consider themselves spiritual. They know there is a higher power, occasionally pray (when they want or need something) and try to be a good person. When asked if they would ever go to church, it’s usually met with the notion that they somehow wouldn’t fit in, either because the environment doesn’t feel fluid enough for them to explore the faith or because the existing congregation doesn’t look like them (age and/or ethnicity).

On Sunday just gone, we managed to have family hub face to face at the Pollards who put on a brunch for us all. While there one of the ladies with us mentioned she had been quite ill over the last couple of years and had been quite low during that time. We prayed over her for healing and wellbeing and afterwards she felt as if a weight had been lifted off her shoulders. She had forgotten that through her low periods, God was always with her. She had felt shame in the fact that she hadn’t reached out to Him for strength and support. All it took was for a family member to mention our Family Hubs to her (and for lockdown to ease of course) and she was back interacting with church, and Him, once more.

It is clear then, that there are many people who seem to lose touch with, or don’t even bother with church because it doesn’t always feel welcoming. As Steve Aisthorpe explores in Rewilding Church, research of churches and Christians living outside of them, should challenge us to rethink what the Christian habitat should be for all to thrive, and also challenge us to look for who is missing within congregations/habitats we think of as full. It is clear that Christians can thrive in habitats beyond congregation and that churches are often dominated by certain types of people. It is therefore then up to us in the church community to make sure we look out for the missing. Those who feel as though they don’t belong for whatever reason, because the fact of the matter is, we are all welcome in God’s house. He is there for us all every step of the way. Regardless of questions, doubts and shame, He is here.

“I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Luke 15:7

We need to be more like the shepherds in the Lost Sheep parable. Ancient shepherds really did know their sheep, and cared for relatively small groups, often together so able to leave flock in the care of a friend to go and seek the lost one. We need to seek the lost who are missing from church and provide a space for them to share their doubts, fears and questions, in order to help them get closer to God. In turn we may just strengthen our faith in Him in the process.

Personally, that’s what I love about Church at Barking Riverside; the rhythm means there is something for everyone to get involved in. No matter your age, ethnicity, schedule or journey in faith. Whether it is just the daily pause for the Lords Prayer, Hubs throughout the week, the community events that are for everyone at Barking Riverside, not just Christians. We will endeavour to cultivate a welcoming, open church, so I encourage you to join in with us at any point, regardless of where you are on your journey with God. And why not bring a friend.

If you have any questions about faith or would like to explore further, or have any prayer requests feel free to email us here.

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