February 2008

In the second week of February we embarked on a mission we called The God Confusion. The main foil for the week was the recent, popular and influential atheistic book by Richard Dawkins entitled The God Delusion. In assessing our mission these are my three concluding observations.

1. it was a bit of a stretch

When we last ran a mission we had a series of three talks on two Sundays and midweek on a Wednesday. That was two years ago. It would be fair to say that the schedule of events this time around was a little more ambitious!! Behind the scenes many people were ‘flat to the boards’ making things happen. Lots of people made the mission a priority and invited their friends. Many others turned up at events to express their support and provide the all important ‘rent a crowd’! And many were occupied with that essential unseen work of asking the Lord to do His work of bringing people to faith in Christ.

2. it was a qualified success

Although we may have stretched ourselves a little more than we have done before, we achieved the following things. The quality of the events was high, the range of events was varied, the number of guests was encouraging, the level of participation was high and the idolatry of unbelief was exposed. The main talks sought to prosecute unbelief. Our intention was to identify, evaluate and critique the case for atheism. The other events sought to engage with culture from a Christian perspective. That’s a legitimate exercise for a church and a relatively new thing for us. It doesn’t mean that we’ve given up preaching the gospel. We do that frequently throughout the year and in Christianity Explored. It means that we took a step back to engage the culture and expose the futility of idolatry. This assessment prompts the question ‘why then consider the mission only to be a qualified success?’

3. it was just a start

This was not the mission we wanted to run. The mission we wanted to run would have been a series of Bible talks where the gospel was clearly expounded and applied to a heaving mass of unbelieving friends. But the culture is not where we’d like it to be; Christianity is regarded as irrelevant. The events we ran provided alternative ways to connect with an otherwise sceptical and dismissive culture. Our church is not where we’d like it to be; when we planned the mission we were aware of our track record. How can I put this? We’ve not set the world alight with our evangelistic prowess! We’re not where we’d like to be; a number of people have realised that we’re disconnected from non-Christian friends. Some have begun to address this in characteristically adventurous ways. Even though this wasn’t the mission we didn’t want to run it was the mission we felt we could run.

But we’re not too disheartened; we’ve remembered that though we’re not where we should be, we’re not where we were. And that’s a good thing. God has enabled us to make significant strides forward since our last mission two years ago. This mission was just the latest in a long line of events that we seek to provide to bring unbelievers under the sound of the gospel. It’s just a start which means that there’s more to come. And we’ll get better. But we’re going in the right direction.

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