Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Lowering the Energy Barrier

Here at the Beaker Folk, we apply many models to the life of faith. Burton, for example, is incapable of understanding anything that cannot be modelled either through double-entry book-keeping or an entity relationship diagram. This has caused many problems in the area of human interactions, due to the "Optional" nature of his relationships.

Personally I always understand things better if I can express them in terms of chemical models. Let me take what is variously referred to in different communities as "evangelism", "mission", "outreach" or "jumble sales" as an example

The idea is that of the activation energy of a reaction. This gives us the amount of effort that has to be put in, in order for a chemical reaction to occur. In missional terms, we could view that as the difficulty for any given new person to go from "out" of the fellowship to "in" it - at least as a newbie.

Consider this - a personn is introduced to the Church of St Trendy-in-the-Wold. St Trendy-in-the-Wold is "cafe church" in the broadest sense. The Revd Riley Groovy-Geezer doesn't wear a dog-collar, and refers to everyone as "dude". The fellowship meets in the local Starbucks, and their meetings consist of "inspired chat". Since all things in this world are holy, the chat can range over many subjects, but mostly football or kids. Sometimes somebody mentions religion, but they're normally reminded to keep it light. St Trendy's congregation is easy to join - the activation energy is very low.

Now consider St Mytholmroyd with St Agnes, Great Frilling. A church in the Syriac Renewal / Post-Punk tradition, the services consist entirely of the clergy bashing dustbin lids and playing electronic music while screaming at the congregation in Aramaic. They meet in an old Anglican estate church in the Somerset countryside. There is no heating in the building. However they've introduced air-con, so they can make it really cold in winter.

Practically anyone entering St M and A's will be terrified, and run screaming. Which is a shame, as they have a deep understanding of community, a profound and moving Gospel. Which few ever really get to hear. The activation energy is too high.

The people at St Trendy's say that the St M+A's people are ineffective communicators of the Gospel. But every now and then, say the Syriac Renewalists, somebody is saved - and radically changed. The Trendys would call that a bit of a freak occurrence. Personally I would put it down to quantum tunnelling.

In return, the St Mytholmroyd people say that it may be fun and easy to join St Trendy's, but there's no substance. By being all things to all people, they might save none. Revd Groovy-Geezer points out that Norbert had a deeply moving experience the other week, but does accept this might be because of that seventh espresso.

So there you have it. The ideal Church attitude to mission would be to have a low energy of activation, but a strong exothermic reaction later on. I'd suggest a cafe church where, half an hour in, you start screaming at people in Aramaic. But what do I know?

1 comment :

  1. Clearly Trendy-in-the-Wold have discovered the catalytic effect of caramel macchiato and a hobnob...


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