Twitter is mainly enraged at what appears to be a banner outside of a church building in Glasgow. It reads:
The World’s most urgent need is churches preaching Christ crucified not climate change
To be fair, some opponents have agreed with the exact statement, if not the sentiment. The world really does not need climate change!
If the banner is meant to enrage the masses, it’s a spectacular piece of trolling which is having the desired effect. But if you’re enraged by this message, don’t be, it’s probably not for you! I doubt that the church in question believe that President Biden is going to pass in his motorcade and ask the driver to pull over while he contemplates the possibility that his policies are flawed.
Instead, the banner is probably a comment on the poor state of the UK church. But again, I doubt they expect it to encourage errant christians and churches to return to a more conservative fold.
Most likely this communication is a form of virtue signalling, admittedly a charge more often made against liberals. The banner sends a clear message, to supporters, that they are standing fast in the face of the misguided woke church and climate alarmists.
And part of me gets it. I have been concerned about the environment for many years. But I am getting a little sick of churches trying to be ‘relevant’. It’s hard to get through a month without being told you need to dedicate the following Sunday to an issue, charity or campaign. And environmentalism constitutes the motherload for activist Christians.
For Christians, preaching Christ crucified is vital. So, instead of trying to argue the importance of mitigating climate change, I want to take the banner at face value.
The reason I wanted to respond is because the banner deals with preaching, one of the main topics of this blog. Sharing the Good News about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is a core activity for the Church. Many associated churches will take this statement as affirmation that they are on the right track. We preach Christ crucified at every service. But the question is, who is listening?
Many of us speak mainly to Christians each week. Sunday services are no longer the ‘shop window’ for sharing the Gospel, they are mainly the opportunity for teaching Christians God’s word. Care for God’s world is a Biblical imperative. In fact as Graeme McMeekin recently reminded us, God so loved the world* that he gave his only Son. God’s love for his world is central to the Good News! That’s why all creation is waiting in anticipation of Christ’s return; the world seeks redemption. Therefore, to meaningfully preach Christ crucified to disciples requires us to speak about climate change. And I’m sure the church in question do just that.
But if it’s true that most of us predominantly speak to Christians in our services. How well are we communicating with those who are not part of our churches? How are we engaging outside of our eco chamber (excuse the pun)? And what impact might our external communication have on those outside the Church? This is where the banner becomes interesting. As internal dialogue it is effective.
But will it really encourage unbelievers to take the Gospel seriously? It’s possible some will understand the banner to be promoting the importance of Christ over everything else. But how many will read it as confirmation that Christians don’t care about the planet? How many will see it as underlining that Christians don’t care about matters close to their heart.
The intention of the banner may not be trolling or virtue signalling. Perhaps they are simply trying to remind people of the greatness of Jesus Christ and his Gospel. That may be the intent, but the particular delivery may actually dissuade people from listening the very message the banner seeks to promote.
* I’m indebted to a colleague for the caution that John is talking about ‘humanity’ when he writes ‘world’. It’s probably wishful thinking on my part that the use of cosmos instead of anthropoi might hint at something bigger than just human beings. If I have engaged in eisegesis on this point, I trust it doesn’t detract from all the other biblical evidence for God’s love for all creation.