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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

12 September 2018: Rev'd Chris Williams, St Mary, Liss

Does the Church make a positive contribution to the world?

The church has a PR problem: only 19% of non-Christians think the church makes a positive contribution to the world. These statistics from a recent survey are shocking to me because I know the church is alive and well and making a positive difference to the lives of countless people. The same survey shows that 70% of Anglican churches run three or more regular activities for the benefit of their local communities and calculated that the value of time given by church and faith groups to society is £3 billion a year. A recent article in the Guardian said, ‘more than 3,500 churches and 200,000 church members are working on health and social care initiatives that are “plugging the gap” left by funding cuts and limited resources’.

The top two adjectives used by respondents to define the church were “Hypocritical” and “Judgemental”. My personal experience is that church people are no more those things than any other group in society. However, if we preach a message of unconditional love and forgiveness and yet are seen to act in ways that contradict those values, then the criticism is deserved. But (and this is important), the whole point of the church is that we know we are flawed, failing, sinful people – yet know that we are loved and accepted by God regardless. Fortunately, it’s God’s love and forgiveness that counts – not ours. We call it ‘grace’. Do I hear a “Hallelujah”?

Nevertheless, as apprentices of Jesus Christ, it is the Christian’s task to be like Jesus and do what he did. So, apologies to the 81% on non-Christian people who have not seen the benefit Jesus makes both in our personal lives, in our institutional life and in the life of our communities. We will try and do better. If you are one of those people, you are entitled to your opinion – but why not discover first-hand what the church is - or isn’t. There are plenty of us in the area.

 

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