Alan Scott is the founder and lead pastor of the Causeway Coast Vineyard Church [in Northern Ireland]. Since its beginning the church has grown through scattered servants who bring life to the city. The church has planted several other churches and is the originator and catalyst for the Healing on the Streets movement. I arrived slightly late but Alan Scott’s mid-week seminar on ‘Creating Culture’ wasn’t full, so I found a chair at the side, left my phone to charge, and tried to take notes on what I saw/heard/understood…
1. Church should not be a competing strand of culture, but the underpinning of all strands of society.
We, as churches, are constantly battling against the world for attention, resources, and time. Instead of competing against health, government, media, family, business, and education, we should be investing in these departments in order to create a culture of church-focus. Commissioning NHS staff in our church services to go out and heal in the name of Jesus, publicly praying for our teachers and council employees, investing in local businesses through financial, time-related, or human resources, creating a strong atmosphere of family-friendliness and encouraging young people to be on the frontline of culture change.
2. Our first priority should be to love Harrow.
Alan asked an interesting question; if our church ceased to exist, apart from the people who use your building, would your city notice? Initially, I thought “Of course!”, but upon closer analysis I began to question whether we as a church are doing enough to really love Harrow. Are we loving the poor? Are we housing the homeless? Are we healing the sick? Are we known as a place to come if you’re weary, suffering, in pain, or lost? If we are not reaching the least, the last, and the lost in Harrow, our church is pointless.
Don’t get me wrong, we have a lot of great things going on outside of ‘normal church life'; I Am Second, the medical centre, Street Pastors, Saturday Football, and of course, Spear. But does Harrow know that we love them? I was really challenged by this question, and newly enthused to get out there and love Harrow whole-heartedly because it is where I live, have grown up, and I know needs Jesus.
3. It starts with changing the mindset of the church, which in turn will change the atmosphere, people’s perception of church, and eventually the culture of the entire city.
People are comfortable – they like coming on a Sunday, singing some songs, enjoying the preach and then sharing coffee with their friends. But, if we get stuck in this comfortable place, it is extremely hard to unstick yourself. Dr. Seuss said it very well in my favourite bedtime story…
You can get all hung up
in a prickle-ly perch.
And your gang will fly on.
You’ll be left in a Lurch.You’ll come down from the Lurch
with an unpleasant bump.
And the chances are, then,
that you’ll be in a Slump.And when you’re in a Slump,
you’re not in for much fun.
is not easily done.
In order to change people’s mindsets we must affirm their identity in Christ. Telling them “You are resourcers, you are great, you are God’s gift to this city.” Once we start seeing a change in people’s attitudes, we will begin to see a shift in atmosphere. I have always understood church to be a place where the lost find a home, the hungry get fed, and the naked get clothed – if we want to make that a reality in our churches we must be ready to be uncomfortable. The example I always use is that if your church is doing ‘church’ properly, you shouldn’t be able to leave your smartphone on your chair whilst you grab a coffee and a chat, our churches should be full of people who would see that as an opportunity. If we are all beautiful, holy, gracious, and clean, then where are the least, the last, and the lost going to sit?
4. The size of your church is immaterial, the authority of your church is inconceivable.
Someone listening asked a question during the Q&A session at the end about church numbers, and how they affect your ability to shape culture in your city. Alan Scott responded by saying…
“Of course, it helps to be bigger because you have more impact, but there are no rules that say you can’t change the world on your own, many have before and many will in the future.”
He suggested a banding together of smaller local congregations to represent a wider ‘church’ in your local area. Could we join with some other local churches to do mission, social action, and social change projects in Harrow? I think we could.
So, how do we make it happen?
First, we must reach the church. No one should be comfortable seeing homelessness, no one should be okay with prostitution, no one should accept our current situation. We want change, and Jesus is what Harrow needs. This is hardest bit, changing our thinking, shifting our processes to enable this to happen.
Next, we must release the church. Not everyone is called to work for the church. You may be called to be a teacher, a doctor, a musician, a designer, a photographer. We must commission these people to do God’s work 40+ hours per week, come back to church to breathe on a Sunday, and then go back out, bringing change and culture shifts through their lives, attitudes, reactions to adversity, and prayers. Alan Scott said that doing your job as a surgeon, removing that tumor with a scalpel, teaching that maths lesson, shooting that photograph is just as important to God as singing “Christ Alone, Cornerstone” on a Sunday morning. The church is the half-time team talk, this is the plan for the week, this is where we are struggling, this is what we’re doing well… right, go again.
Then, we begin to reach the city. Only through our actions, our physical presence, and our shift in attitude will change come to our city. A church stuck in their building praying for the poor is great, but a church praying for the poor and then going out and meeting them, feeding them, clothing them, and housing them, is better. If a new local business pops up in Harrow, we should be intentional about connecting with them, offering to help in any way we can, and using the local business ourselves – not always sharing Jesus with them, but just by loving them, believing in their endeavours and creating a culture of ‘church-in-everything’.
Only then, will we begin to release the city. Alan Scott said he believes that there is enough in every city to sustain that city, let’s enable our people. Who are the best pastors in Harrow? Teachers, Doctors, Councillors, etc. Let’s permeate those high-impact people and release them into the world for God’s glory.