Over the next few weeks at Union we are honored to have Nigel Goodwin as our Scholar-in-Residence. Nigel is founder and director of Genesis Arts Trust based on the Isle of Wight in the UK. Nigel was mentored by Francis Schaeffer, and he is passionate about the place of the arts in the faith.
In his opening lecture today Nigel stated that the ultimate questions people have today are two:
1. Does anyone love me?
2. Is it safe? (meaning is it safe here to show my fears, troubles, etc.)
Then he said, “Everyone is looking for a safe place where they can be and become whom they were created to be and become.” I immediately thought, “This is what the church is supposed to be.” The gospel, and the church birthed by that gospel, are the answer to these key questions people are asking. Only too often the church fails to be this. We miss this important aspect in our programmatic machines. This can also be lost even when profound truths are emphasized but there is no intentional effort made to connect us as people. We as pastors must lead our churches to becoming real communities of faith, where truth is both proclaimed and lived, where we know the Word and we know each other.
There are various ways we can move toward building real community where people can feel safe to admit their failings and seek help. At our church one main thing we have done is to set up our Sunday evening prayer meeting as a time for people to share. We gather in chairs turned to face one another with no other agenda than to hear from one another and to pray for one another. This is risky in a number of ways, not least in our typical church culture, the risk that it might be a bit mundane. But then life is mundane at times. Sometimes the meeting is fairly simple- no huge requests, etc. Some may consider it dull. At other times great suffering is made known, sin is confessed, joy is shared, etc. The feel of the meeting varies as does life, but over time a culture has developed so that people are often willing to share their needs and struggles. In this way we come to really know one another and are enabled to pray for and minister to one another.
This maybe done in various ways, but it must be done. I offer our practice not as the ultimate answer but the reflections of a fellow laborer.