My Christmas Day epiphany
Throughout this year Andrew Nixon, Executive Director of Connect 09, will reflect on his joys and struggles as he prepares churches for this once-in-a-generation crusade. This month he reflects on one key moment during his first weeks in the Mission’s hottest seat.
I had an epiphany during church on Christmas Day.
Well, I wasn't actually in church at the time, I was outside supervising my youngest son who had wriggled his way through the children's talk, some prayers and a couple of carols, and couldn't
hold it together any longer.
It was a country church and there were ample lawns and trees for my four-year-old to explore. As I watched him burn some Christmas morning energy, I noticed two young blokes sitting in a car right out front. The windows were down, but it must have been getting pretty warm in the full sun. It was obvious they had driven into town with their family but having come so far, they couldn't actually bring themselves to cover the last 20 metres to go in. Why? It got me wondering.
I looked closer. They were early twenties I guessed " probably brothers. Generation Y, but through the rebellious teens. They looked like nice young country fellas " clean-shaven, well presented " thoughtful enough and family-spirited enough to have driven into town with the extended family for church. They were probably about to spend the day at a homely Christmas lunch with the aunts and uncles " sitting round the tree and opening a few pressies" But church? No thanks! Not even on Christmas Day " and not even with the rest of the clan inside. We'll sit out in the car and wait "til it's over.
My epiphany was a glimpse at church through their eyes. Quaint historic building; 18th-century hymns accompanied by a pipe organ; a bloke with his shirt on backwards shaking hands with nicely dressed people at the door. I wondered when, if ever, they had last set foot inside. A place probably as foreign to them as the local Masonic Lodge would be to me.
The question suddenly changed from why didn't they go in, to why would they go in.
Don't get me wrong " this was/is a great little church. An excellent ministry team; friendly Christian people. Personally I thoroughly enjoyed church that morning (albeit only the first half!). But then, I am completely inculcated into this strange subculture " I have been immersed in it since birth. I know what to expect, what to say, what to do. The cultural trappings (both ancient and recent) have become invisible to me, so I can see past them to the incredible message that God became man to rescue me!
But what did those two guys see? And how will they hear that message? That last 20 metres… so near, but yet, so far.
Father, help us to see ourselves as the lost see us. Help us to be prepared to change the things we need to change and do the things we need to do, that nothing may hinder people coming to know you.
Photo courtesy Bruce Melendy