Today is my 100th day in Crowborough, and I’m writing a list before it’s too late!
I have heard it said that whenever you join any organisation, you see it as an outsider sees it for about the first 100 days. After that, you start to become part of the furniture. So the things which initially struck you as real strengths – you now take them for granted. The things which were hard for you because you were a ‘foreigner’ – you’ve got used to them. The things which initially struck you as ripe for change – you’ve developed strategies for coping with them, and you no longer see them as a problem.
So today I’m planning (with God’s help) to write a list of the things that have made an impression on me over the past 100 days, in the hope that I don’t lose sight of them as I become ‘part of the furniture’. It certainly won’t tell me everything that’s important; but I hope it’ll be really useful ‘reality check’ for me to come back to in the months and years ahead.
But it struck me too that this kind of thing should be a required regular exercise for every church! It’s so crucial that we are able to see our meetings and facilities from the perspective of an outsider. That might be something practical, such as the lack of a door sign to the toilets in the meeting area. It might be an out of date page on the website. It might be a House Group that has gradually become a clique. Or it might be a liturgy led in a way that makes people feel stupid if they don’t know the correct hoop to jump through at the right time.
And surely, in fact, this ‘stock take’ should also be a regular exercise for me personally! How is my life open and accessible to the outside world? Do I require people to ‘become like me’ before I will relate to them? Or am I willing to sacrifice my own privileges and preferences for the sake of helping different people get to know Christ and come near to him?
As Paul the apostle said: “We put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ… I have not used any of [my] rights… Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law…I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9: 12, 15, 19-23)