I don’t know about you, but the church that I pastor is a very small church. It probably has an average age of 60 years in the congregation, and all have different preferences when it comes to choice of Bible.
Now I know that many things can be fractious in church, things like hymns v choruses, traditional (whatever that means) v contemporary, sprinkling v immersing… and many other things as well. One of the topics of discussion in our housegroup has been about how little people write with a pen these days, we have had discussions on how much time youngsters spend on the computer communicating, and an especially interesting topic has been how the English language is almost non-existent amongst those same youngsters when they seem to be continually texting each other in this strange text language…..
Language….. So often I have heard the comment ‘they don’t read or speak proper English like we do’….. an interesting sentence in itself I think, but there you go! There seems to be the view that the English language is currently impoverished – and I have to agree, but the difficulty I have with this what seems to me to be a perfectly good question.. ‘Where is this idea of when the English language was complete, and used by all?’
I am currently reading a book by Ranulph Fiennes (full name and title – Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet). In his book ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen: An Expedition Round My Family (2010), Hodder and Stoughton, ISBN 978-0-340-92504-1’, he gives the history of his family through a combination of war and politics. It challenges many things, but the interesting thing for me is that when you look backwards through time, we are very parochial in our language. The notion of English hasn’t largely existed until very recently. Nordic, Latin and French have dominated much of what we say.
What sparked this little bit of writing from myself Well, it was a powerpoint slide I was thinking of using on Easter Sunday. The picture was excellent for what I wanted, and the words described what I wanted to portray. The words were these:
‘And he saith unto them, Be not affrightened: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen: he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. Mark 12:6(KJV)’
Now for those who know me, to use such a language is a rarity. I have been a Christian since Jan 2001 and pretty much brought up with the NIV Bible. I have strong views on the Bible being available to people in a form that the language isn’t a barrier…… but I was surprised at some responses to the language quoted above. The people in their 60’s to 80’ didn’t like it and were quite confused by it!
I joked that it was probably from some out-dated and outmoded Bible version like the King James version (which it is) and the response was essentially ‘no. it’s not even proper English’!
So here we have a dilemma. We also have a very good example of what many later generations are criticized for. We have a culture of pick and mix, and so often it is only attributed to the 40 years of age and younger…. the nuclear family culture that is driven by consumerism. They are the ones who are spoken and thought harshly as being the ones who have little or no commitment to anything anymore eg church and church membership. They are accused of rejecting the past and only living for the now. But I think otherwise. I equally applies to the previous generations who have also been selective in what they value as right and proper.
The missing generations are the fruit of previous generations of pick and mix. They have gone to church for various reasons, many questionable. Because it is expected, we have always done it, I am comfortable there….
The reality is, they have also been selective. They have been selective in deciding what is a good sermon and what isn’t (but can never adequately explain why), they have sat in the same pew for endless years, and just like all the generations before them they have looked down upon the next generations that have followed them but ‘never do things properly’.
Church is never mean’t to remain static. The people who gather are not mean’t to have a life that has remained static. Language and culture has never remained static, but with this we also have the ability to look back because our past has formed us in some way. There are some benefits in looking to the past to inform our futures. God gives us a future hope, not a past hope – but how much of church is formed in our own image? How much of being a Christian is restricted by a lack of desire and practice of being changed and transformed?
If the people are the body of Christ gathered together as church, if we are truly to reflect resurrected lives here and now, then surely this can only be done by knowing the living God is with us and that we have the gift of the Holy Spirit that empowers us to be like Him? Yes, those chains may need shaking off properly before we are truly in Christ.