Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tim's Back To Church Sunday message

What is church and why do we go to church ?


When I was growing up, it was culturally expected your family went to church. On Monday, you did not want to hear “We missed you in church yesterday”.

In our little town of 5,000 souls in Quebec we had Anglican, Presbyterian, United churches. Baptists met in a hall, rejecting the pomp and circumstance and trappings of the “established” denominations. 

At the other end of the spectrum, were the Roman Catholics. If you were English, and Roman Catholic you went to a French Roman Catholic church. No problem, the services were in Latin.

We each had separate communities. When I met a new friend at school and told my father about him, my father said “oh, the Hawker boy eh? They are Baptists”. I didn’t know what he meant. Later, while attending a Baptist church our pastor preached about Jesus’ first miracle where he turned the water into grape juice. (done in humour).

Here is a story of cultural differences among churches.

There were three Canadian Anglican ministers doing mission work among the homeless in New York city. There was an altercation where their money was stolen, and a bottle of Bourbon was smashed drenching their robes. They went to Evensong at the local Episcopalian church. After the service the Episcopalian minister talking to the servers asked about the three visiting ministers. One said “Well, they looked Anglican”. The other piped up “But they gave like Presbyterians”. And then the third said “But, they smelled like Catholics”.

Today, the “established” churches have gone the way of film photography, or music recorded on LP’s or tape.

Today, if you use a film camera, you are quaint and old fashioned.

Likewise, if you go to church you are also considered quaint, old fashioned and mis-guided. Going to church is no longer culturally acceptable.

What does church mean in the “post Kodachrome world”?

In this century, church is a source of community, and opportunity for moral guidance to deal with issues of broken relationships, addictions, strife, fear, confusion. Church is a place to learn and experience the fruits of the spirit,  joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Perhaps today, the desire for church is more internal, more truth based, and inclusive and all-welcoming. The barriers of denominations are dissolving.

In our church in Port Alberni,  Anglicans and Lutherans pray and work together in a single church.

We had a funeral last month at Trinity Anglican/Lutheran church. The deceased was a parishioner who was born in Germany, and who bore 3 children in Germany between 1938 and 1945. In her eulogy, we were reminded of her time hiding in bomb shelters with her infant children.

After the service, I was talking to another of our parishioners who attended the funeral.  He said he related to her story, for at the same time he was hiding in bomb shelters in England.

Today, Anglicans and Lutherans pray together.

So what is church in the “post Kodachrome” era?

It is authentic, it is inclusive. The true message of Jesus that “ALL OF US ARE CHILDREN OF GOD AND RECEIVE GOD’S GRACE” is evident and practiced.

We may revere and remember each of our historical roots, but they will not be impediments to receiving the Good News.

[ I then played a two minute video from the “Back to Church” US national website which claimed

“Our church welcomes Pentecostal, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Presbyterian, Church of God, Mennonite, etc. etc. etc.” ]

Friday, September 14, 2012


Back to Church September 30

Back to church Sunday is approaching, and The Holy Spirit has likely put the names of some people on your heart. They are friends and/or neighbours struggling with challenges, perhaps alone, or in difficult relationships, and you know they need the Love of Jesus and the community of church.

As George said last Sunday, “we are God’s hands and feet”. A simple invitation may be all that is needed to change one person’s life.

God calls us to make the invitation. Our job is to invite someone. Their acceptance or refusal is left to the Holy Spirit.

We have some excellent resources to support you. Please pick them up at the front desk, or ask me for them.

“A shy person’s guide to the practice of Evangelism” is a little pamphlet that puts your heart and head in the right space for making the invitation. For example:

“Evangelism, then, really isn’t about telling people what they ought to believe. Evangelism is the sharing a precious gift.”

The second pamphlet we have is “reDiscover Church”. This is a great short read for someone curious but cautious about God.

Some examples of the issues addressed ‘ReDiscover Church” are:

1)      I don’t believe in organized religion

2)      I have my own way of connecting with God.

3)      Christians are judgmental and hypocritical.

If you have the opportunity to discuss church or God, this is a good resource to keep in your hip pocket to share.

Of the course the last item is the invitation. Please pick up one or more invitations.

And pray for guidance and for the person you plan to invite to church.


Tim McNeil