I first encountered Steve Chalke in Birmingham at the Baptist World Alliance Centenary Congress in July 2005. I remember sitting spellbound as this master storyteller shared his tale about how the church is having a powerful effect in the most hostile and disadvantaged areas in Britain, winning the approval and support of both national and local government, and Islamic and Hindu communities, and all of this without a moment’s compromise of the Gospel of Jesus.
I remember thinking then that Australian Christians really need to hear this man.
So it was with delight that I discovered a couple of Steve’s books at Koorong the other day. I bought his Intelligent Church: A Journey Towards Christ-Centred Community.
I’ve only just begun to read it, but what I want to share now is something that Brian Mclaren says in his foreword to Steve’s book:
… too often our churches have become human warehouses, where people are
gathered and stored so that they can be delivered after death to heaven with
minimum loss, spoilage, rust, rot, or breakage. These air-conditioned warehouses
are equiped with every comfort – from padded seats to a kind of religious muzak
– so that those who enter will be happy and never want to leave until they are
shipped to their final destination.
Steve Chalke’s message and mission is to get us out into the streets. Often those involved in what is now called emerging church profess this aim, but my experience of it has not been too encouraging so far – the danger of just creating a different warehouse looms large. As Steve says in his introduction to the book:
Much has been said of late about the concept of ’emerging church’ – the
phrase itself speaks the language of change and transistion. But the truth is,
of course, that the church has been emerging for two thousand years.
We at Beth Tephillah are certainly conscious of the need to take a fresh look at ourselves through the eyes of Jesus, and not just because we are beginning a new year!