People are very polite, but I often feel like I’ve walked into the wrong room. Like an astronaut in a fruit market, people haven’t a clue what I’m talking about. Assemblies, weddings, funerals, baptisms. I talk about Jesus, but there’s a radical disconnect between what I am saying and what people hear; and between what lies behind what I say, and what people hear.
Last weekend I spoke at a local Scouts District St George’s Day parade. I was asked to give an address that was ‘broadly Christian’. I understand why. I told a friend, who laughed and said,
“How can you be broadly Christian?! Surely you’re either Christian, or not?”
“You obviously don’t know much about the Church of England,” I replied.
I know why I was asked, though. I don’t do being ‘broadly Christian’, but I can do being a Christian sensitively. You get me, you get my Jesus-ness. Asking me to be broadly Christian is like asking me to be broadly human. I either am or I’m not. I just might choose not to flaunt my humanness to the goldfish, though it’s my humanness that keeps it alive.* [* hopefully this metaphor will be forgotten in 7 seconds]
How do you do speak in a ‘broadly Christian’ way? In the Scout context, I talked about working together for community and how this plays out for a follower of Jesus: servant leadership, like Jesus; caring for the unloved, like jesus; loving our neighbours, like Jesus.
I may have slipped from being ‘broadly Christian’, into being specifically Christian, because I am specifically Christian. But hopefully sensitively Christian. There’s no explicit evangelism, no altar-call, no telling people what they should or shouldn’t do. No points-scoring. Jesus was always publicly much harsher and much more challenging to the leaders within the faith than he was to the followers on the edges of it.
But I am not just a motivational speaker, a self-help guru, a comedian (!), a children’s entertainer – I am a church leader, one who represents the church – who represent Jesus – to the community. So what I say has to be specific. It can never be bland platitudes. Talking about following Jesus as if he’s real seems a good place to start, even if people don’t quite get it. Yet.
After reading this, one of my friends said Eddie Izzard summed up what she thought was ‘broadly Christian’ – only watch if you can handle a bit of mocking and some bad language. Consider yourself warned.