A scene from my novel A Sense of Mission follows an unsuccessful attempt to find a church home by three Christians. The main character, a young woman named Kaitlin, begins the scene:
We headed to a nearby Greek restaurant and took a table in the back to avoid standing out in our good clothes.
“So?” Ethan said, after we had ordered.
Matilda sighed and unfolded her napkin.
I said, “It’s amazing. All these high rises around. Lots more people, probably, than when the church was in the middle of a suburb, but the church seems to be dying.”
Matilda moved to one side to allow the server to fill her water glass. “I guess they’re doing their best to meet the needs of a changing neighborhood. Did you see the signs for two other groups that meet in the church? One Spanish, I think, not sure about the other.”
“Vietnamese,” said Ethan. “But one group seems almost totally absent, even though it’s probably the largest one in the neighborhood.”
“You mean the middle-class professionals enjoying a leisurely Sunday morning in their apartments and condos?” I asked.
“Right. How come Christians can’t seem to reach this group?”
I shrugged. “Look at the building. It fit fine with the architecture of the single-family suburb. Now it reminds me of those European cathedrals—kind of a dinosaur as far as relevance to the way people live today.”
“But why isn’t it relevant anymore?” Ethan asked. “That’s why the people don’t come now—the church doesn’t seem relevant to them. For the most part, they aren’t atheists or hostile to the church. They’re just indifferent to it. How did our exciting story become so irrelevant to so many?”
Eventually, Ethan answers his own question: “Christ isn’t tame, is he? He doesn’t wait in a box for us to open it on Sunday mornings. If you find where that Christ is, let me know. It’ll be scary, but I want that.”
Where does that Christ dwell, personified as Aslan in the Narnia tales as “not a tame lion”? What are the characteristics of a Christian gathering, or a Christian life, with that Christ at its center?
Ann Gaylia O'Barr, author of Singing in Babylon, Searching for Home, Quiet Deception, Distant Thunder and A Sense of Mission (all OakTara), was a Foreign Service Officer in the United States Department of State from 1990 to 2004. Assignments included tours in U.S. embassies and consulates in Saudi Arabia (Jeddah and Dhahran), Algeria, Canada, Tunisia, and Washington, D.C. (Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and Bureau of Intelligence and Research).