Songs of Innocence.
I have journeyed with U2 as far back as the War album. I have seen them in small venues and I have been to stadiums. I have ventured out at midnight to buy a new album at the time of release and I have defended them against numerous Christians when it was popular to dismiss all rock that didn’t mention the name Jesus a hundred times. I have read book after book after book about them, and even been a part of their fan club at times. So the news of a new album arriving in my i-tunes for free was an unexpected high over this past couple of weeks. I never asked or it, it just arrived, unannounced, no build up campaign, just there you have it. I have been pouring over the music and lyrics ever since. What was there not to like, a new album for free from one of the biggest bands on the planet. Well not everyone was so excited. Apple received enough complaints from their users to justify creating an App that would delete the album from those who did not want it. People were offended to have something forced upon them they never asked for, or ever wanted. They were miffed that Apple took away the choice to download it onto their own playlists and computers. An invasion of privacy some were saying. Both Apple and U2 were maybe not prepared for the backlash from a free gift. But the problem was it was not a gift all people wanted, needed or asked for. They did not think of asking what people really wanted. A bit like our efforts of evangelism and outreach and offers of the free gift of salvation really.
AS the church we love to give the people what we think they want. From seeker friendly services to Gospel services, from evangelistic crusades to free DVD’s, we have the tools, the imagination, the creativity, the music, that will really communicate with people and attract them to listen to the message and go to church. Or at least that is how we justify to ourselves spending extra time, money and resources on doing stuff for the people. But do they give a hoot if we have laid back services or traditional services? Do they want to hear so called relevant messages or contemporary music? Well music that was contemporary thirty years ago? Do they give a shig if the musician plays an electric guitar or an old church organ? Do they want to listen to music at all? Do they love our amateur dramatic sketch about accepting Jesus or burn in hell? Do they want a free book telling them about the steps of salvation or even a Bible to take home? Do they want a raised platform, lights, a PA system, electronic projection of words up on a screen and small sound bite messages? Is what we give them truly a seeker friendly service or what we think a seeker wants? Have we ever asked people what they really want? They may actually not want anything. But surely they want and need to hear the Good news? But what is the Good news and what are we portraying? Is the message that going to church solves it all (as most people do not introduce Jesus or the Divine but try to sell their church) or saying a certain type of prayer will make it okay for eternity? Are the majority of people trying to work eternity out or just trying to make sense of the presence? Like U2 we end up giving people something we think they want, something free and yet can end up being totally offensive as it is forced on people with no choice. That woman on the bus did not want to be told accept Jesus or burn in hell. That friend with cancer does not want a promise of healing if you pray for them. They do want a healing, who would not, but the gamble of false promises and forcing faith stuff down people in vulnerable situations is out of order. Show concern, yes, listen, yes, maybe even pray with them, but using that as an opportunistic moment to corner them into a book of life is wrong on so many levels. What do people want?
I hate cold callers and sellers who just ring me thinking I want free windows, loft insulation, PPI payments etc. If I need a quote for a car insurance I will find one. If I want a new boiler I will search the internet. A phone call used to be a great way of keeping in touch, now it is an intrusion into our own space. I would say 80% plus of our calls are cold callers wanting to sell or give me something they think I need or want. It is an invasion of my privacy. How do we think we can get away with this in Christendom? Door to door, street work, books through the door, tools that we know people will find useful in becoming saved. We are really just a nuisance. We are not here to try to sell Jesus but to reveal the sort of life Jesus lived, one of full Divinity in a body that is fully human. The only way this can be done is to live, share, relate, love, give of ourselves. This takes years of investment of ourselves and time and being. We are not here to sell a product called Jesus or Christianity, we are here to be ourselves and reveal the true self to be Divine in character and origin. This is not to be forced on anybody but discovered by those who want to look further. Life is a journey and today is the best day to start discovering it. Not finding out something we are not or haven’t got that we need to accept, receive or find, but discovering what we are and have is enough already. For those who seek, fine, for those uninterested, fine, let us just stop this cold selling activity before we put even ourselves off for life. Apple and U2 have learned a lesson, we need to as well. Choice is a part of who we are and what we were made to be, we may make good choices, we may make bad ones, but whatever the choice we never stop being completely Divine.