Most of us know the story of Alice in “Alice in Wonderland”, about the young girl who while sitting on a riverbank one summer’s day sees a white rabbit which she follows down a rabbit hole. This leads her into another weird world where everything is strange, especially the people who behave, think and speak in very peculiar ways compared to the ‘normal’ people she was used to.
I was reminded a while ago about that story when a number of colleagues gathered to have (what was called) a ‘Conversation’. This ‘Conversation’ was about the effectiveness of our churches in reaching the non-Christian community around us with the gospel of Jesus. Examination of the statistics over the last ten to fifteen years indicates the reality that we are not really being that effective at all. This fact being most noticeably demonstrated by the significant trend of decline in the number of converts in our congregations i.e. non-Christians turning to Christ. This trend is largely true across all denominations.
A major factor in this is how we ‘do church’. In times gone, by the church and society were almost the same thing. Most Australians used to go to church and had a view of the world largely shaped by the Bible even if they weren’t aware of it. This was the historical situation, but as time has gone by the fabric of that historical situation has become torn. In fact now the tear has become a hole, indeed a ‘wormhole’ which connects our (the church) sociological, spiritual universe with a parallel universe, the one where the church is not. It is as if most of ‘society’ has been sucked through the ‘wormhole’ into another universe with little connection to, in fact quite alien to, the church in terms of normal language, view of the world, values etc.
Most of what are usually called ‘outreach’ activities that churches carry out are actually ‘In-drag’ activities, that is attempts to drag non-Christians back through the ‘Wormhole’ into the alien church universe, where Christians live. However we are failing, and the ‘Conversation’ I referred to was about whether the time has come to reverse that flow, and rather than trying to drag non-Christian people into our universe, take the church into their universe, like a ‘Star Trek’ mission. The ‘Unbounded Church’ paper (found on this site) gives a theological and missiological argument for this.
Many church members will say “well that’s ok but it doesn’t really concern me”. If that is us we should think again! The church of the future, if it is to thrive, needs to become a completely ‘Missionary’ church. The days are long gone, indeed went before the end of the last century, when we could just do Sunday church and people would come.
The missionary task we face, indeed that of ‘pagan mission’, now more like evangelising a pagan Borneo, must increasingly shape the church of the future, as we do what needs to be done, which is to be-
“all things to all people that by all possible means (we) might save some”
-1 Corinthians 9: 22
This means to become a Church that will journey through the ‘Wormhole’ into that parallel universe, down the rabbit hole to the strange world where people are very different to those of us who live in the church/Christian universe. A world where they don’t speak bible-speak or church-speak, a ‘wonderland’ where words mean as Humpty Dumpty said, ‘what I want them to mean’, and where ‘Truth’ is what I want it to be.
Indeed, the future church will be ‘Church through the Wormhole’ where Alice would have felt right at home. It is an alien world to most western Christians, but one we all have to enter for the sake of the lost. Why? Because it is the world which Jesus entered via the ‘Wormhole’ between the universe of heaven and the parallel one of earth, in an act of love in order to save us.