The church is in an interesting position in the UK at the moment. People are spiritually seeking, they are beginning to understand there has to be more to things then we live, we die, we are dust, but they have no connections in many cases to any existing spiritual belief. On one hand it means they are unlikely to wander into church but on the other it means they are going to be willing to listen to the Good News.
There is a lot of talk in Christian circles about making God more relevant. Making the Gospel easier to swallow by removing crosses and offering good coffee and other silly phrases get bandied around. I think we are getting it wrong on that front. To paraphrase one of my favourite books and films, The Princess Bride, “Relevant! ” “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
The Gospels are always relevant, a God of love who sacrifices himself for us is a story that will always be relevant because don’t we all want to be loved like that. I think, I hope, that we are confusing relevant with accessible. We need to take the Gospel where people will hear it and share it in a form that can be understood. Think of it in terms of translating the Bible from Latin to English. That may mean through bite size messages in Messy Church, through holding a service in a pub, making key services at Christmas and Easter, (when people are more likely to enter a church) more accessible or discipling a couple of people by meeting with them regularly and “doing” life with them. This all makes the Bible accessible and is a stepping stone to all the things that support growth as a Christian.
The other thing we have to do is behave in a way that won’t scare people off before they’ve heard the good news. Lead with love.
And that’s our choice, take the Word to the people or fade away.
One of the key things about Elemental is the use of hooks. We use crafts, tea, coffee and cake and sofas. Do not under estimate the power of a sofa in a Festival setting. It is not wrong to use tools to get people to a place where they can hear. Feed them, entertain their kids, give them coffee. They’re hooks and we are fishers of men. Choose the right hooks and they can make the perfect introduction to conversations about faith. One of our congregation makes nets for rabbiting with ferrets. The nets are made by hand by a method that hasn’t changed in several thousand years. Simon Peter would have made nets by the same method. Powerful conversations followed as he showed people how to make nets.
Training is important. It is one of the keys to the success of Elemental Tent. Many people find talking about their faith difficult. Mission is pointless if God isn’t part of the conversation. Ideally it will be something everyone in the team involved can do, with encouragement and training. So training is important. Simple pointers on how to start conversations, how to work with someone who is a spiritual seeker, offer an honest view of Christianity that grows from love. Look at the items for sale at any festival and it becomes clear that many people are spiritual and interested to find a deeper meaning to life which, in many ways, makes a festival one of the safest locations for mission. A great place to find your feet in sharing your faith.
So what is Elemental Tent?
Elemental Tent is intended to be an Oasis of Calm and creativity, somewhere away from the commercial elements of a festival. Somewhere where the world is open enough and heaven is close enough that conversations about faith can take place.