by Neil Richardson
- A Church grounded in its life in the Holy Trinity: lives conformed to Christ, prayers renewed and deepened by the Holy Spirit and all offered to the glory of the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Experience of the Trinity came first, the doctrine and doctrinal orthodoxy later.
- A Church freed from anxiety and fear: anxiety about its own future and fear of the world.
Not forgetting Thomas Merton’s question: ‘Where am I going to look for the world first of all if not in myself?’.
- A Church living St Paul’s ‘one another’ agenda: encouraging, loving, forgiving, accepting, supporting, praying for …….. each other.
Saying the Lord’s Prayer from the heart – and living that Prayer – is an important first step.
- A Church committed to worship which transforms,
and so helps us see each other, the Church, the world differently – through a deepening vision of and encounter with God.
- A Church of disciples embracing gladly the difficulties and hardship we would not have if we were not disciples.
That may mean sometimes distinguishing what God is asking of us from what the Church is expecting of us!
- A Church which lives in Christ and speaks of Christ – loving God and everyone and everything in God.
‘Christian’ (3 times in the NT) is the outward label; life ‘in Christ’ (everywhere in John, Paul and other NT letters) is the inward reality.
- A prophetic Church committed to justice and speaking truth to power.
How will the poor hear the gospel otherwise – and the Bible speaks even more about justice than about love.
- A Church re-discovering the heights and depths of prayer, including silence and contemplation.
Does our praying sometimes betray the anxiety which Jesus condemns in the Sermon on the Mount: ‘(they) imagine that the more they say the more likely they are to be heard’?
- A Church which looks in hope for the renewing of creation and the final revelation of Christ.
‘The Last Things’, even if interpreted differently today, remain an integral part of our faith.
- And all this in the closest possible fellowship with our brothers and sisters of other Christian traditions.
Can we draw closer to God unless we draw closer also to them?
Omitted from this list! References to
- Membership figures and evangelism
Linking membership figures with evangelism risks turning evangelism into proselytizing. Evangelism is not so much trying to make new Christians as unselfconsciously living and speaking Christ, and letting the Holy Spirit do (much of?) the rest.
- Kingdom values
A vague, slippery concept – hardly a scriptural idea. The Gospel is about truth (i.e. reality) not values (E. Jungel).
The relevance of God, of worship, of the Gospel itself is axiomatic, (as Bonhoeffer said of the Bible), like the air we breathe or the bread we eat. Attend to the fundamentals… (Matthew 6:33).
- Human Resources, whether money or people.
Scripture is noteworthy for what it omits and includes. Omitted: references to ‘supporting’ the Church, keeping the Church going, etc, etc. Included: a miracle story, narrated in different versions six times, of overwhelmed disciples enabled by the Jesus who multiplied their meagre resources to feed a great crowd.
The Inescapable Reality of God. That is where the Bible starts and finishes – from the Garden of Eden to the heavenly Jerusalem, including the destruction of ‘Babylon’. Instead of church-centred thinking, we need God-centred thinking, living, praying and mission. Church-centred evangelism becomes recruiting, self-centred praying talking to ourselves and each other, rather than waiting upon God.
The inescapable reality of God may yet be the destruction of us all. If we do not breathe this air and eat this bread, how can it be otherwise? Think of climate change, the nuclear threat, the obscene expenditure on armaments, the iniquitous suffering of the poor in bloated, unequal societies. The inescapable reality of God means we reap what we sow.
But this isn’t where we start in preaching the Gospel. Yet – as a great American Wesleyan scholar, Albert Outler, said – ‘the Gospel hasn’t been preached until it’s been heard’. Can we, with God’s help, searching the Scriptures, waiting on God, and sharing ‘the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings’, re-discover the Gospel for our generation?
 T. Merton, ‘Is the World a Problem?’ in Contemplation in a World of Action (Unwin Paperbacks 1981), p.145.
 Eberhard Jungel, Theological Essays II, (T&T Clark 1995), pp.191-215.