Christmas Fails

To my Anglican friends who ran church services this year in Sydney, here is some feedback you might want to look at. The feedback comes from people who were taking their friends and families to your churches at Christmas.  Needless to say, Christmas is a great opportunity to do this and one we should not miss.

I don’t know which churches were being talked about, in fact I made sure I didn’t know.  Was this your church?  Whether it was or not, you should be asking the question, “did we get things right this year?”.  The people who are inviting their friends and family are the best evangelists we have and so it is important to listen to them.  I should also point out that I did not ask for this feedback, it was frustrations that that people shared with me because they were frustrated.  Here are three points:

  1. The church service was so focused on kids, that there was no gospel presented.
  2. The talk made me feel guilty, even as a Christian.  I thought Christmas was about good news.
  3. The church seemed to me more concerned about connecting with Star Wars than telling me about Jesus.
Firstly, I can understand all these mistakes.  I am sure I have made them all multiple times and lets also acknowledge that that there were probably good intentions behind these events.  But lets call them for what they are: mistakes.
  1. Sure kids are important, especially if you are trying to reach families. But if you are so focussed on them that you don’t get to the gospel, then really what’s the point?  Or worse, you end up communicating that Jesus is for kids but when you grow up, you grow out of Christianity.  I have seen some great kids talks that manage to get the gospel across to both kids and parents.
  2. This is not a mistake that is isolated to Christmas.  There is a mistake we make in evangelism of helping people see the good news of the gospel without the need.  But there is also a mistake of making sure that people know the need that they don’t hear the good news.  It may well be that we could say “but I did say it” but we need to make sure that it is so clear that people can unmistakably hear it.  This is because in Australia, like most of the Western world, people mistake Christianity for moralism.  So hearing “you are bad people and you need to be good” is continuing that myth.
  3. I am big proponent of contextualisation, but when we are trying to be more clever than faithful, we are making a mistake.  I know that this is trying to bridge a cultural gap of picking up on themes that we share between the gospel meta-narrative and the cultural narrative.  But does it at a marketing level?  At worse I wonder if this is implicitly communicating that the church really wants to be like society but we aren’t cool enough.  Nevertheless, my point of being clever above faithful still stands.
The point with all of these things is not that they are bad things in themselves.  It is that they have replaced the gospel as the priority.

Should we be doing these things?  Yes.  But we should not be doing them at the cost of proclaiming the gospel.  Next year when Christmas comes around, ask yourself this.  Do you really believe that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes because there are people in your churches who think this and you should be seeking to support them.



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