Keeping in Step with the World

Over the last year or so, the proposition that our post-Christian Australia has reached the cultural tipping point is beyond contradiction. The question of the moment is, how do we respond as the people of God and pastors of the people of God to that reality. The title of this piece, ‘Keeping in Step with the World’, is intentionally ambiguous, because our Christion calling is to keep in step with the Spirit of Christ but even so, we need, at times, to respond to the world appropriately. There are so many suggestions as to how we respond to our changed circumstances that are large and far more articulated. My contribution is truly modest in comparison; it is the addition of one more question asked of those seeking church membership, or adult or infant baptism. That one question would function like a ‘You Are Here’ on the new cultural map!

At Abbotsford PC, all the regular questions for those liturgical moments:

  • Who is your Lord and Saviour?
  • Is it your heart’s desire to love him with your whole life?
  • Do you acknowledge that without Jesus you are lost and without hope? Etc

Now, being a Presbyterian means that you don’t have a Prayer Book that mandates the questions you must ask; we have handbooks that provide a template. Adding a question doesn’t require a Doctrinal Commission or a ten-year process. I made a proposal to the Session (the body of elders) who agreed to it, and then we presented it to the congregation for adoption at the Annual General Meeting.

So, what was the new question that we agreed would shape our community?

Are you prepared to suffer for following Jesus?

I believe that question re-orients us to our new cultural reality. When it’s verbalised it not only jolts us out of easy assumptions of ‘business as usual’. It shapes our expectations. It takes us into the realty of discipleship, and what it means to follow Christ.

I wonder why such a question is missing from our liturgical traditions, or is it only missing from our more recent ‘Christendom’ liturgies? I don’t know the answer to that question but I know we need to be asking questions like this one of each other in the community of discipleship (church) because the world is also asking us, ‘Are you prepared to suffer for following Jesus?’ in all sorts of different ways, and it’s getting louder. We need to practice saying and living ‘Yes’ to that question!

Dave Thurston
Mentoring Consultant, Church2Church