Move over Top Gear, Kenny did it first…
There’s a debate going on at the moment about the noise that electric cars make, or rather the lack of noise. In fact with an electric car the sound of the wheels turning on the road surface tends to be louder than the sound of the engine itself. There’s no roar of a traditional super-car here; no VROooOM for the lads from Top Gear to salivate about.
The trouble is, a silent car is a dangerous car. Without the familiar sound of a petrol engine turning over, or the deep grumble of a diesel, how can you tell if one is rapidly approaching you from behind? How many pedestrians could get caught out stepping out from the pavement, the lack of sound suggesting their way is clear?
So what to do about this silent menace? The obvious answer is to give it a sound, an audible warning of its approach. But what sound? One answer is to make it sound just like a petrol engine so that it is immediately obvious what it is. Whilst the petrol-heads out there might approve, not all are so quick to give this suggestion the thumbs up. Perhaps now is the chance to do something about the noise pollution in our cities caused by the convoys of combustion engines blocking our streets each day? All sorts of alternatives are being tested and it will be interesting to see what is adopted.
So what is such automobile talk doing in a church newsletter? There is a similar debate going on regarding how Christians (electric engines) interact with non-Christians (petrol engines).
Broadly speaking there are two responses. The first is that of accentuating the differences, ‘look what we’ve got that you haven’t’, in the hope of attracting people to switch from one camp to the other – a bit like putting a new sound on an electric engine. Much of traditional evangelism has taken this proclamatory tack. This has the advantage of apparent clarity of who we are and what we believe in, but can come across as condescending (I’m better than you) or judgmental (you’re damned). The other approach seeks to downplay the differences, and instead encourages us to find points of commonality with others or ways of engaging with them in the hope that we can then bridge the gap between us and enable them to cross – this would be like making an electric car sound like a petrol one. This incarnational approach meets people where they’re at rather than demanding they listen to us on our terms, but can risk the blurring our distinctiveness or having ulterior motives for showing concern rather than caring because it is in itself a good thing.
I believe that both have their place, they have both been used with success in the past. My suspicion, however, is that today a lot more VROoOM is needed and maybe too many Christians are too quiet to be heard or noticed.
Article for church newsletter, 22nd May 2011
Looks like one of my favourite TV programmes is returning just as I’m going away for a couple of weekends. Where’s the recorder remote?…
Definitely looking forward to this…
…does this mean I’m stupid?
This week the BBC lost a legal battle to prevent the publication of the auto-biography of the man claiming to be ‘The Stig’. For those who don’t know who The Stig is, he is the mysterious racing driver who dresses permanently in his white racing suit with white helmet, the blackened visor of which is never lifted. His identity is thereby kept secret. He never speaks, just stands menacingly in the background, or drives with silent efficiency in their vehicle test drives. Why did the BBC take this legal action? Their feeling was that the power of the Stig is in his anonymity. If he is revealed as simply A. N. Other racing driver, he is no longer as potent a figure.
Reading this reminded me of the following passage in Ephesians, Eph. 1:15-23:
‘For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.’
Here Paul extols the greatness of God the Father as demonstrated in his ability to raise Jesus from the dead – which of us could achieve such a task? Who else has such power over life and death? He also extols the power of Jesus, God’s Son – he is the one to whom God the Father has and will give all authority and power. But there’s more! In the last verse, we are let into a breath-taking secret. If we’re honest, the Church is a motley bunch at the best of times. We’re not the most glamorous or fashionable bunch. We have more than our fair share of failures, scandals and misfits, but what does Paul say about who we really are? Paul says that in his Church is the fullness of God! In and through us, God is known and made known, his character and power is revealed. The Stig may be a powerful figure, with an ordinary secret identity, but we’re an ordinary people, with a most powerful secret identity. Perhaps its time we are prepared to let the secret out!
Church Newsletter article for Sunday 5th September 2010