I visited my mother today. It’s only 2 hours drive, but there are times that it seems like a huge distance, and a major task to get there.
It was really great to see her again. She's got Myasthenia Gravis, which is a nasty auto-immune disease that causes the neuro-muscular junction of nerves to degenerate. The effect is increasing weakness and breathlessness. Treatment to slow the disease is possible, but there's no cure. As a result of the drugs she takes her immune system is quite compromised, and she's very susceptible to infection. We had to leave Sarah behind because of her cold, which was a shame, but it did mean Chris and I got a couple of hours talking time on the way down.
Anyway, she’s just moved churches for a variety of practical reasons to do with age and frailty. The church she felt God join her to is an Anglican congregation – something she struggled with as a lifetime evangelical. Actually she’s been impressed and surprised - they appear to be a non-traditional group, enjoying free worship, trying to reach out to people around them and preaching a need for personal belief in Jesus and repentance. They even practice believer’s baptism. :-)
As part of our conversation we discussed what it means to be evangelical (weird phrase – not being what it sounds like it should mean). The conclusion was that evangelicals place an emphasis on Christians knowing God for themselves, non-evangelicals having a more general belief that having the appropriate behaviour patterns and reciting the correct words is what God wants, the personal aspect being unimportant.
Maybe this isn’t really the true distinguishing sign, but I’m starting to think that it’s the reality of the situation. More and more I seem to hear people ‘discussing’ the meaning of the word of God, as if it were a subject for intellectual interpretation. It’s an easy trap to fall in, as I’ve found. But I quite seriously wonder if this is what’s at the root of the stagnation of so many of God’s moves throughout the years. Focussing on what we know, rather than what God’s saying and doing next. I wonder if this the cause of the resurgence in ‘traditional’ forms of worship. And also the increasingly clear polarisation between a ‘liberal’ church and one which values God’s feelings, whether Anglican or otherwise.
It’s very hard to have a good relationship with one you love if you keep offending or hurting them.