On blowing trumpets
Earlier this week, the Church and Media Network Conference took place in Manchester. Unable to attend, I followed the Twitter stream on #cmn12. As ever, this ‘remote participation’ is as frustrating as it is enlightening, since you can only participate so much. However, ever since Giles Fraser’s keynote address on Monday I have been troubled by his phrase that the church should ‘preach what it practises’. Clearly, this must be taken with the context of a conference on broadcast and media. However…
For me, preaching is not about trumpeting the church’s success nor calling from the rooftops to demand a hearing. Preaching is the charcoal stick which outlines God’s possibilities on the canvas of the soul. Preaching is the place where timeless truth and temporal limitation collide, showering the faithful with sparks of God’s illuminating brilliance. In short, it is motivation for the church more than PR for the world.
Having said that, we should be constantly on the look-out for creative ways to tell the story of what the church is doing to push back the darkness and usher in hope. Where there are good stories, we should all allow them to be told, especially at a local level. We should never forget, though, that the people best equipped to tell them may be those who benefit from them rather than those who initiated them.
Most of you who hold church AGMs will know that they are not the most captivating event in the church’s calendar. Last year I decided to go out on a limb and ask a consumer, rather than a staff member, to write about one of our activities. Simon, who is not a Christian, attended our regular dads and toddlers group ‘who let the dads out’. I asked him to write down his impression, without any editorial input or oversight. I cite below from his report:
“Who let the dads out?” gave me community. It gave me a break. It gave my wife a break. It introduced me to men in the same boat. It introduced my children to other children. It showed me the meaning of ‘open to all’ community efforts. It introduced me to neighbours, future friends, an inspiring preacher. I bought the mugs (no, really). We all looked forward to the saturdays. It brought hope, sharing, help, tea, conversation, biscuits and wonderful occasional bacon sandwiches. I’m genuinely not sure where this little message will end up. If you are a cynical dad reading this – give it a go! If you’re a Teddington resident – be proud of your Baptist church! Otherwise give the volunteers, dads and kids a big “well done” for really making a difference through simple friendship, openness, love and plastic toys.
Preaching what we practise? I’m not sure. If there are other ways to tell it, though – let’s find them!