The story of the last few days is the State Opening of Parliament and the Queen’s speech. The speech itself is written by the government of the day and yesterday’s speech is especially important as we’re only months away from the general election. It is according to most commentators a political speech, the fight is on for victory and power.
Political parties are searching for a narrative; they seek to label themselves and their rivals. Sometimes both in Parliament and during interviews, it’s possible to pick out the message that the Politician wants to leave in the mind. I’m sure you know the sort of thing; “They are the do nothing party, the party of cuts, the party out of touch with mainstream politics, wrong on the economy, a danger to the recovery etc” or. “He is dithering (he can’t make up his mind) in the bunker (out of touch) we need an election, they have run out of time, ideas and courage etc” or. “The two main parties are discredited and spending too much time squabbling etc” or. “The others are London based parties and out of touch with the needs of Wales etc”. If when you read these lines you think of an individual or a party, the politicians have achieved their objective. The lines are not primarily aimed at the party faithful they are aimed at the uncommitted, the elusive floating voter.
When we turn to the church, the question in my own mind is what is our narrative? What is our message? We know we have been commissioned to “make disciples of all nations” so what are we saying? To use a political analogy, are we aiming for a standing ovation at the party conference or are we seeking to connect with the voter? To put it another way, are we primarily focussed on those within the church or on those outside it? There must be a balance of course, to complete the earlier quotation;
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
“Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” the need for correct teaching is an integral part of the great commission, there is no room in the New Testament for vague and simplistic faith. Truth has been revealed and can be known.
There are however within bible believing churches certain catch phrases, touch stones or code words. We communicate using these phrases that reach out to those who think like us and share our particular brand of evangelicalism. In this we are preaching to the choir, going for the standing ovation at conference and trying to surround ourselves with like-minded people. The danger is that we become shut off from those who need to hear the good news.
When we look at the New Testament we see a narrative that reaches out to those who are normally excluded, to the outcast. What are the phrases that come to mind when we think about the words of the Lord Jesus?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38)
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10)
What is our narrative, what are we known for? Sadly many regard evangelicals as being opposed to things and having a negative outlook. The gospel is good news, good news about Jesus and really good news for us. Let us pray that we will share a clear and positive message, a message of hope, a message that reaches out to those who do not yet know our code words and stock phrases.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
As Max Lucado puts it in his book “3:16 The Numbers of Hope”
Now that is a narrative.
Hannah arrived home from a lecture in University this morning. The title of the lecture, “Searching for the Narrative”.