The Great Divide

Challenging the Sacred/Secular Mindset

Intro - Leisure-time Christianity

Norman Fraser, formerly a senior executive with Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF), the UK’s largest student ministry, lamented:
‘I could practically guarantee that you could go into any Christian Union in Britain and not find a single student who could give you a biblical perspective on the subject they are studying to degree level.’
That’s the sacred-secular divide - not expecting Christians to think Christianly about what they’re doing in the world.
The  S.S.D. (sacred-secular divide) has promoted a leisure-time Christianity, not a 24/7, whole-life Christianity.
Evenings and Sundays are God’s,  9-to-5 is the world’s.
So the  S.S.D.  leads adults to believe that really holy people become missionaries, moderately holy people become ministers, and people who are not much use to God look for a job. Bah humbug.!

1. God is the God of all of life

Christ claims all of our lives - our life at work and our life in the neighbourhood. If we want to see the UK won for Christ, the S.S.D. must be expunged from every thought and prayer.
After all, most of our interactions with the 90 per cent of people who don’t know Jesus occur on the ‘secular’ side of the great divide - the side that we and our communities rarely pray for, or consider vital to God.
The S.S.D. is pervasive and has contributed to flawed theologies of the Church, of the role of the minister, and of outreach.

2. Flawed view of the Church

In Matthew 5, Jesus gives the disciples two similes to describe the people of God, the Church:  the light on a hill, and salt.
Here light is primarily an image of the Church gathered together.
What does the community of Christ look like to the watching world?
John records that Jesus said

‘All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another ‘

The loving relationships between Christians are a testimony to the world of the transforming power of the One we follow.
Second, the people of God are compared to salt scattered in the world.
This is a call to individual Christians to work out their faithfulness in the world. Does the individual Christian cease to be a member of the Church when they are out in the world? Not according to the Bible.
In reality, however, the average Christian does not feel that they go to work as the individual representative of the body of Christ, supported in prayer and fellowship by other Christians.
No, the average Christian believes they go to work alone.
The impact of the S.S.D. has been to see the ‘church gathered’ as more important to mission than the ‘church scattered’.
Indeed, the vast majority of church evangelistic initiatives have tended to be domestically focused and pastor centred.
The goal becomes to get nonbelievers into a domestic or church context to listen to a pastor, live or on video, as opposed to get the nonbeliever into relationship with Christ through a relationship with a Christian.
We spend an enormous amount of energy trying to work out how to make the church a place people will want to come to, and little energy working out how we can train Christians to make the most of the places where they already go.

3. Flawed view of the pastor’s role

The  S.S.D. also manifests itself in a flawed understanding of the role of the pastor. In Ephesians 4:11-12, Paul writes:

‘It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.’

The job of the pastor is to prepare his or her people for their ministry - which is likely to involve contexts outside a one-mile, or even three-mile, radius of the local church.  Indeed, if we think not so much about where people are at 11 o’clock on Sunday morning, but where they are at 11 o’clock on Monday morning, then we will, in almost every case, get a much clearer picture of their potential for mission.
The question is not ‘How can I use this person in the local church?’ but
‘How does God want to use this person?’
Unfortunately, very few pastors see their role in this way - otherwise they would have been equipping their people to be effective for Christ in work and school.
The S.S.D. has, therefore, profoundly affected who does evangelism, in what contexts and in what ways.

4. The Great Resource

Every generation tends to focus on particular metaphors for the Christian life. In the 20th century, there was much emphasis on ‘salt and light’ from the Matthew 5 passage. Salt was popularly understood as an agent of preservation, as arresting decay and adding savour. Light was popularly understood as modelling a different way and exposing evil.
But in Matthew 13 there is another pair of parables:  - the mustard seed
and  the yeast.
The parable of the mustard seed shows us that little things can make a huge difference over time, and can become welcome signs to the world of a different way.
The parable of the yeast adds another vital dimension:

‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all the way through the dough.’

Yeast not only pervades the dough, yeast transforms it into something much tastier and much more satisfying - into bread. It takes just 10 grams of yeast to turn a kilo of flour into bread. It’s not quantity that counts but impact.

The Christian is intended to be an agent of transformation in the world.
We are not simply there to arrest decay, to add savour, to expose sin; not simply there to show a different way.
We are there to radically transform the society in which God places us. Imagine that.
Is that how you feel?
Is that what your local Christian community is helping you to become?

The  S.S.D., however, has led to a situation where the bulk of British outreach activity has ignored where many people spend most of their time -
at work, at school, at college - and focused instead on where they spend less time and have fewer relationships.

For too long, we have allowed the location of the church building and the expertise of the pastor to determine the scope of outreach activity, rather than the location of God’s people and their potential. The key to mission and social transformation in the UK - and also globally - is to equip Christians for where they are, not where they are not;
for where they have relationships, not where they don’t.

5. Let my people go

The moment you stop asking, ‘How will the UK be won?’ and start asking the question, ‘Who will win the UK?’ the whole picture begins to change. Suddenly the 7.5 per cent of the population who go to church represents an enormous resource.
Never mind the Church’s ageing profile.
Never mind that we are primarily middle class.
That’s still one person in 13 in the population.
(Even presuming that as many as half of those people aren’t converted or committed, that’s still in 1 in 25).

  • the fact that a Christian in work or school spends 40 hours a week or so with on average  50 people represents a huge opportunity.
  • the fact that a 23-year-old who likes dancing can spend eight hours a week in clubs represents a superb opportunity for relationship building.
  • the fact that a housewife with a child at a primary school has the scope to interact with up to 30 or so sets of parents for seven years suddenly looks like an enormous opportunity to build relationships.
  • the fact that a 70-year-old in a retirement home gets to mix 12 hours a day with 30 or 40 or 50 other people of similar age is a significant opportunity.

There is no one model for creating the whole-life apprentice church.
But there is a small, yet growing number of people who are determined to work out how to live day-by-day as whole life disciples of Christ.
May God give you wisdom and grace and joy as you work together to be his apprentices and as you learn together how to live Christ and share Christ  in the power of the Spirit with the people you meet day by day.

taken from : ‘Imagine’ by Mark Greene,

Document Actions