The imperfect church

How people can become a community by overcoming their differences and worshipping together

No matter how much Christians might wish it were otherwise, all Christian communities are imperfect. All over the world, hundreds of denominations carry out their collective faith in Jesus Christ in good conscience, but in ways which draw varying degrees of scorn from the outside world, from rest of the worldwide church and even from their own members.

Some churches are highly ritualised and steeped in tradition, offering a reliable format for worshippers to follow whenever and wherever. Some prefer to exist on the other end of the spectrum where meetings are highly informal and unstructured. Some focus heavily on the incredible love of the Father, some more on Scripture and Christ and the sinfulness of man and some emphasise the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sadly, networks or denominations of churches occasionally fracture, divisions occur within single congregations or individuals become dissatisfied with a particular aspect of one congregation, and leave in search of another church that does things differently.

The question of how to “do” church has been around since the resurrected Jesus told his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” [Mat 28:19; NIV]. This command stood out for me as a teenager attending Mass. It was one I found hard to dismiss as anything other than a straight-up call for the whole congregation to become missionaries. Perhaps as a toned down answer to this call, I eventually joined a group of people within City Gates Church, Soho, who had a vision to plant a church on an estate in Islington and to serve and to share the Gospel with the community there.

Not a splinter from CGC, New River Church is more like a cutting from her. After four years, we resemble her and remain united with her, accountable and receiving her full support and encouragement. A small, non-denominational cell church, we are a body of believers who meet together in a hall on Sunday mornings. Smaller groups, cells, meet up in homes during the week to encourage one another as we live out our faith. I like to call cell groups mini-church where you can ask questions.

Each of us has come from a different background, either within the worldwide church or outside of it. As individuals, we have each repented, put our faith in Jesus Christ as our Saviour and committed ourselves to living our lives according to his will rather than our own. We also share a desire to see new people find out about Jesus and begin to follow him. We are not perfect.

At the heart of the Christian message is the response Jesus gave to Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish ruling council, who visited him one night to question him about his teaching and healing ministry. Talking about himself, Jesus answered: “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; NIV] He answered that God hadn’t sent his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save it through him.

Christianity is a response to this offer of salvation – it revolves around Jesus. It hinges on what we think about him, on whether or not we believe in him, know him, obey him, love him. And so, I will not claim any high ground on the basis of the particular flavour of church that I go to. But while I continue to pray for greater unity between all churches, and for us all to “do” church better and better, I am comforted that those who believe in Jesus shall not perish.

Adam is a worship leader at New River Church, Islington, a non-denominational, charismatic Christian church of about 40 people. He has a degree in physics, a PhD in neuroimaging and is a member of the electro-indie rock band Personal Space Invaders.
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It's Gary Lineker 1, the Sun 0

The football hero has found himself at the heart of a Twitter storm over the refugee children debate.

The Mole wonders what sort of topsy-turvy universe we now live in where Gary Lineker is suddenly being called a “political activist” by a Conservative MP? Our favourite big-eared football pundit has found himself in a war of words with the Sun newspaper after wading into the controversy over the age of the refugee children granted entry into Britain from Calais.

Pictures published earlier this week in the right-wing press prompted speculation over the migrants' “true age”, and a Tory MP even went as far as suggesting that these children should have their age verified by dental X-rays. All of which leaves your poor Mole with a deeply furrowed brow. But luckily the British Dental Association was on hand to condemn the idea as unethical, inaccurate and inappropriate. Phew. Thank God for dentists.

Back to old Big Ears, sorry, Saint Gary, who on Wednesday tweeted his outrage over the Murdoch-owned newspaper’s scaremongering coverage of the story. He smacked down the ex-English Defence League leader, Tommy Robinson, in a single tweet, calling him a “racist idiot”, and went on to defend his right to express his opinions freely on his feed.

The Sun hit back in traditional form, calling for Lineker to be ousted from his job as host of the BBC’s Match of the Day. The headline they chose? “Out on his ears”, of course, referring to the sporting hero’s most notable assets. In the article, the tabloid lays into Lineker, branding him a “leftie luvvie” and “jug-eared”. The article attacked him for describing those querying the age of the young migrants as “hideously racist” and suggested he had breached BBC guidelines on impartiality.

All of which has prompted calls for a boycott of the Sun and an outpouring of support for Lineker on Twitter. His fellow football hero Stan Collymore waded in, tweeting that he was on “Team Lineker”. Leading the charge against the Murdoch-owned title was the close ally of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and former Channel 4 News economics editor, Paul Mason, who tweeted:

Lineker, who is not accustomed to finding himself at the centre of such highly politicised arguments on social media, responded with typical good humour, saying he had received a bit of a “spanking”.

All of which leaves the Mole with renewed respect for Lineker and an uncharacteristic desire to watch this weekend’s Match of the Day to see if any trace of his new activist persona might surface.


I'm a mole, innit.