Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The curse of the 'nice' church

Guest blog with Tim Childs

I have a confession to make… Although I’ve been a Christian for more than 30 years, I’ve never been to church as a believing Christian!

Some people might ask how I can be a Christian then, while others I’ve met (largely online) in the past have shared the view that you can be a Christian without going to church. 

Yes, I have a relationship with God; but I feel that I am missing out somewhat. The problem?  I’m a bloke – quite a private and shy bloke in some respects – and the idea of singing hymns and listening to someone waffle off a sermon about such and such a thing doesn’t appeal to me greatly. 
You could ask how I know until I’ve tried; that would be a good question. My answer is quite simply that organised churches do not seem to be reaching out to ordinary people, and they don’t seem to be reaching out to toughened streetwise city boys like me. It’s all a bit, dare-I-say-it, middle class. It’s rather nice people going to rather nice suburban churches being nice, usually on a Sunday; and I hate Sundays!

How do we solve the problem of so many Christians not going to church, especially men? Do we change the churches to make them more relevant (whatever that means), or do we ask Christian men what sort of church and what sort of worship they want?

That might be a start. I believe that, like the big established political parties, the big established denominations like the Catholic Church and the Church of England have a veneer of grassroots participation as long as those people do as they’re told and don’t rock the boat; and for me, as an outsider but very much a working-class Christian, this just isn’t good enough anymore.

Societies and nations progress when people challenge dominantly held views. They progress when ordinary people demand a bigger say in how their lives are run, how governments are run, how business is conducted and how different groups relate to each other and work together. In short, I believe we all thrive when there is a concerted effort to introduce fair play and equality into all of modern societies’ many institutions. That includes established churches.

For the first time in centuries, organised denominations such as Catholicism, the Church of England and maybe many others have the chance to be more relevant to ordinary people and to come kicking and screaming into the 21st century. At the time of writing this, the Association of Catholic Priests is backing a call for the end of compulsory celibacy as a prerequisite for becoming a Catholic Priest. I personally think this idea is not before its time, quite frankly.

The guys on the frontline, so to speak; those who deal with largely ordinary people out in the world, surely know what they are talking about and I have no doubt that this is not a knee-jerk reaction against Catholicism and the Vatican, but a considered and well-thought-out answer to the problem of celibacy.

You only have to witness the sex scandals involving supposedly celibate priests throughout the world in the last twenty years or so, and those that have come to light years after, to know celibacy is a problem. Unfortunately, it appears that the Vatican are going to fight this appeal to modernity and commonsense tooth and claw, which I think is a shame.

What is religion about; what is Christianity about, after all? Is it really about huge, wealthy and powerful churches dominating people from one end of the world to the other, or is it about love, concern and compassion; true brotherly and sisterly love where we regard other people as important and as valuable as we are? 

I believe the latter. It seems that love and the best of ideals can get lost in vast impersonal organisations, and the best of issues can get sidelined in the clamour for the important business of religion. Aren’t we missing something, aren’t we missing something vital: the personal touch, the smaller picture, the love and mercy of simple people believing in hope, faith, peace, joy and happiness? Is the business of religion, just like every other established power, the controlling of people, making them do as they are told for no real good reason other than to exercise power? 

Sadly, I believe it is. We need to ask ourselves what sort of Christianity Jesus wants us to have, and just what sort of message Jesus preached and lived. It was a radical message, and often He was in conflict with the very people that represented religion; it was the religious authorities in part who condemned Jesus and had Him put to death! We should all remember that from time to time.

Check out Tim's blog here and discover more hot topics for Christians in the upcoming edition of Sorted magazine.


  1. Yes a lot of churches aren't man friendly, yes a lot of worship songs aren't man friendly and yes a lot of churches are "middle class" but get in there and rock the bloody boat. Jesus wasn't concerned with being popular and if you want a church where men or youth or families or 1 legged goat herders are welcome join a church and make it happen. Things change through prayer and action and we are God's weapons to make his will happen.

    1. Wow, thanks Peter! I think you are absolutely right; we DO need to rock the boat and shake things up, just like Jesus did!

      I'll have to keep my eye out for a church with 1 legged goat herders!!!