From the horrendous allegations against priests in the Catholic Church, to pastors in evangelical Churches living in million dollar mansions, one might ask whether the Christian Church has had its day. In a modern-day, multi-cultural and secular society, do we really need the Church?
It only takes a minute when walking into Manchester to realise that this city needs help. You can give some change to a homeless person and get that warm feeling inside, only to turn the corner and see a whole row of people living on the street. There is addiction, prostitution, homelessness and trafficking in our city. Whilst not undermining individual help, it’s evident these people need structure and consistency; an organisation who are 100% committed to deliberate kindness and altruism.
Last week, the BBC reported that Audacious Church in Manchester took 100 homeless people out to the Red Hot World Buffet for an all-expenses paid meal. To even watch this on the news was heart-warming; people who had never been to a restaurant before were enjoying a fantastic evening. Perhaps more importantly, this wasn’t a single act or a publicity stunt. The Church opens its doors to the homeless every week for food and drinks. The Church has 1000 people every Sunday attend their 3 services, diverse in background, ethnicity and class. At Christmas, the Church even hired a limousine to take the homeless women for a spa day.
This portrays the Church in a light contrary to what we’ve been shown by the media. No brainwashing, no exclusivity, no ‘Christian bubble’ when it comes to helping people, but a genuine altruistic desire to make a difference. Francis Chan considered this in his book ‘Crazy Love’, discussing the many people who say ‘I don’t believe in organized religion’. He argues that people wouldn’t say this if the Church really lived how they are called to live by their values. The Audacious Church appears to be changing the face of religion in secular society, which evidently is well needed.
The vision of Audacious Church involves displaying the love of God to others. Its desire is to be a ‘Church which stops the traffic”. It has a culture of being-all inclusive, all-accepting and committed to helping others. When we attend on the odd occasion at Christmas or Easter, we have fears of being rejected or looked down upon for being different, for being ‘sinful’ or not truly believing. Audacious turns this ideology on its head with its radical 21st century style and its inclusive culture.
In fact, sometimes I wonder where it all went wrong. The bible shows that Jesus interacted with cheaters, liars, outcasts, the contagiously sick and even prostitutes. On one occasion he let a prostitute wash his feet and then wipe them dry with her hair. If that’s not outrageous, I don’t know what is. I sometimes wonder how that could have possibly turned into an exclusive club of religious people coming together every Sunday.
I for one am glad there are Churches like Audacious changing the perception of religion in the UK, ensuring they are inclusive, and committed to making a difference in the outside world. The Church is certainly alive and well, and is committed to doing its very valuable job.