I’m pretty sure that as the church is made up of humans that there will be plenty of times when the church here has been judgemental and negative. Street preachers still tend to give us a bad name. And no doubt that Christians could stand out more by being the generous, warm-hearted, compassionate people we’re supposed to be. So if I disagree it certainly isn’t because the church here has it altogether, what we’re assessing is whether that’s the perception the emerging generation has of the church.
Our Alpha course has just finished and everyone kindly filled in an evaluation form for us and we ask the question ‘before Alpha, what was your experience and impression of church?’ So I have on my desk right now a dozen answers to that question, two thirds of which come from the same group as Dan’s. Those responses are uniform – they were either utterly clueless about church (they really had no idea at all) or it was simply ‘boring’.
The perception is not that we’re angry, not that we’re negative but that we’re dull, irrelevant and confusingly old fashioned. Because Christians have no substantial media presence we are easily stereotyped as being stuck in the past.
Against has been the fact that churches here have been doing some hugely impressive things in demonstrating what we stand for. Just look at Hope 08 or Greenbelt or churches taking a lead role in the Jubilee 2000 and Make Poverty History campaigns or organisations like Faithworks. Don’t get me wrong, most people have no idea the church is involved in these things, because we have no effective means of getting good news out to the majority of people in the UK. And mainstream media focuses on the church on all the negatives (sexual abuse, homosexuality splitting the church or whatever) so I’m not setting out to be contrary, it’s just I’m not seeing the same picture here.