Yesterday Garry and I attended a training day in Barnsley led by Neil Hudson from the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity, otherwise known as LICC. This organisation, founded by John Stott, seeks to ‘equip Christians and churches for whole-life discipleship in the world’, trying to debunk the myth that God is only interested in ‘spiritual’ things and showing how our whole lives, including work, are part of God’s story, rather than trying to make God fit into our stories.

Churches can sometimes present the Gospel as a ‘quick fix’ solution to our problems, and there is no doubt that the plan of salvation is God’s solution to the monumental problem of human sin. However, God calls us to His cause, rather than us calling Him to ours. Christ calls people to come and follow Him; the goal of God is for each one of us to be transformed into the image of His beloved Son (Rom 8:29 TNIV).

Statistically, we will always spend more time away from ‘gathered meetings’ (commonly known as ‘going to church’) than we will at them. There are 168 hours in every week. If we assume we sleep for about 48 hours of those (roughly 7 hours most nights), that leaves 120 hours of living. The most even the most zealous of us is likely to spend in a church building or at church meetings is about 10 hours per week, which leaves 110 hours of ‘ordinary’ life. Pictorially, our church life may look a little like the picture below, with the red dots (sorry, Dave, the ones forming a small triangle in the bottom right hand corner) representing Christians and the grey dots the rest of the world:

We need to be aware that God is interested in how we live all the time, not just when we’re in an ‘official’ gathering and that the world of work may look vastly different in terms of the jobs we all do, but is nonetheless the place where most of us spend the most time and therefore has to be of enormous importance to both us and to God.

When we are not gathered together, we are scattered. That can feel quite lonely and scary at times, especially if our ordinary, everyday environments do not involve many other Christians. But at the same time, that gives us contact with a whole host of people whose lives can be touched by God through us. (The red people are scattered throughout the picture for those who are colour-blind.)

Many of us feel we are only living ‘effectively’ for God in this wider context if we are doing something overtly Christian: actually telling someone how to become a Christian, for example. But we need to understand that our whole lives are living letters which involve the ‘6Ms’:

1. Making good work (doing a job well and to the best of our ability is itself a witness: work is not of itself evil, but is part of God’s creation)
2. Modelling godly character (allowing Christ’s character to flow through us in the fruit of the Spirit makes an impact, whether we realise it or not)
3. Ministering grace and love (always a daily challenge!)
4. Moulding culture (maybe you’re the only Christian in your work environment who doesn’t swear, for example, but that example can influence and mould the environment you’re in)
5. Being a Mouthpiece for truth and justice (speaking out in the little things as well as the big ones)
6. Being a Messenger for the Gospel (the bit we usually think of as being ‘an effective Christian’!)

Today, as we gather together, let’s think about how God can work in and through us when we’re scattered as well! After all, as the picture demonstrates, we can actually touch far more people when we’re scattered than when we’re gathered…