Over the last week, I have encountered a number of people exploring spirituality, who have used that well known mantra, “I am spiritual, not religious”. I have had some quite profound conversations with a number of people that had relgious experience in their youth. Words that keep appearing in these conversations are GUILT and SHAMING. It seems that these foundational experiences often in more convervative catholic and protestant forms of church, centred on a strong narrative of guilt and shame. One guy talked to me of his Sunday school being about filling people with fear. In such a climate it is not surprising that people reject such forms of church as irrelevant and dehumanising. I have been reflecting that such an approach to church devoid of love, envisioning and the power of God’s grace, is certainly not Good News, and most definately needs to be avoided.
It is therefore imperative that the emerging church be a real welcoming place, of hope, of envisionment and rest, and not attempt to control people emotionally in any form. This must be a mission strategy in all that we do, if we are really to engage with contemporary culture, where, whether we like it or not, some of the church has retreated into fundamentalist and fanaticism, and often appears very angry to ordinary people. We need to live another way of being church and being a follower of Christ, who are not obsessed with who is in and who is out, and about human sexuality….