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Micro church, macro love

April 19, 2012

Last summer, I had the pleasure of spending an hour with Shane Claiborne of The Simple Way. In the course of our conversation about community, simplicity and radical Christianity (see a write up here), I asked him about the difference between Christianity in the US and the UK. His answers were interesting and I thought I’d share them here.

Shane: “Oh surely, there are things that are fundamentally different. For better or worse, you don’t have some of the political baggage that we have. I guess you have some of your own but you certainly don’t have the culture wars, the religious right, and those things that have had such a heavy footprint on evangelical Christians in our country. There is a sense, a deep sense I think, in the UK of the culture being ‘post Christian’. It means the end of Christian triumphalism –there’s less of a try to ‘take America (or Britain) back for God’ there’s a little bit more of ‘God’s kind of had his heyday’.”

“Do you think that means that Christians in this country are less confident – or more humble?” I asked.

Shane: “I would celebrate the end of Christian triumphalism – not the end of God’s reign, obviously, but the end of a culture in which because everything’s ‘Christian’ nothing’s Christian. Where you have a Christian empire, Christianity loses its distinctiveness, its peculiarity, you know what I mean? I think communal expressions of Christianity have deep relevance and probably offer more than the mega church. It’s the day of the micro church and the house church and the idea that the gospel is lived out of homes and dinner tables and doesn’t need paid staff…

“Another challenge for you in the UK is that you have a really good social infrastructure. That’s a good thing, but it raises questions of the relevancy of the Church. So, I’m a part of a collective of 20,000 Christians in the States that pool our money together to meet each other’s medical bills. We cover 15 million dollars a year in medical bills. And that’s fantastic – but you don’t need that in the same way if you have an NHS. But you can have a really great social infrastructure and still have deeply lonely people, or have a house but not have a home. When you see the statistics on loneliness, depression and suicide over here, it’s clear that there are things for the Church to do!”

One of Shane’s more famous quotations is “Everyone wants a revolution, but no-one wants to do the washing up”. After talking with him, I was left reflecting that the “micro-church”, the “communal” church, the church of the grassroots, practising love and justice in the small contexts of neighbourhood, street corner and kitchen sink – this is the church I want to be and to build.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 20, 2012 10:57 am

    I take it’s OK to interact in the form of making comments here. I agree with Shane that the end of Christian triumphalism is to be celebrated. Faith, when in majority or ruling through State, often ends up moving away from God and towards man followed by labelling groups of people as desirable/undesirable, etc. It turns into religion with no life- a set of rules to abide by. Christianity thrives when in minority, as history has proved for centuries.

    Great quote about washing up and revolution. I think true disciples raise from the kitchen sink.

  2. September 12, 2012 12:31 pm

    I heard Shane at GB 2012 and he made many of the same comments. I agree with many of them and the ones made by Farhad. In this there is an opportunity as well as a challenge.

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