“Can’t hear you!”
“Your mic is off!”
If you’ve had to use Zoom over these past 15 months, even occasionally, you’ll have heard one of those phrases (or some variation) many times. In fact, as the proverbial saying goes, “If I had a dollar for everytime…..” Anyway, most of the time the response is a bit of scrambling, a sheepish, smiling apology, and then the conversation carries on. Imagine, though, how silly the whole scene would look if the “speaker” continued without solving the audio problem. Moving lips but, even if what they are saying is vitally important, there’s nothing being heard… and the meeting goes ahead effectively ‘without’ them.
I wonder if this is in any way analogous to where many of us in the Church have gotten to in our efforts to proclaim gospel? The importance of our message has, arguably, never been more important than now, but we find ourselves muted? At any rate, it does feel like we’re scarcely being heard. So, assuming the analogy is in some measure suitable, the question then becomes, How do we go about ‘unmuting’ our mics??
A different phrase you’ll begin to hear me use with regularity in the days ahead is this one:
“Going where the Church isn’t (yet).”
This is a theme that we will be using to call and guide our efforts to expand the reach of the Church of the Nazarene in the Canada Pacific District. Within this phrase you can certainly hear undertones of new church starts. At a more basic level, though, it’s inviting us to imagine the near countless scenarios and contexts where we know and want the message of Jesus to be heard but, just now, our voices seem to be muted. Perhaps “muted” because we’ve never seriously moved into these imaginative forums or, maybe, “muted” because we stubbornly hold to language and patterns that have been metaphorically turn-off by our hoped-for listeners; a ‘broken mic, if you would. Whatever the reason, we cannot afford to remain muted any longer…. We have to find ways to speak again into the conversations of life that are happening all around us, every-day and every-where.
And so I’d like to invite you to step back and have a good look around you. Look at family, at friends, at workmates, at neighbours…. Anywhere the gospel of Jesus hasn’t become freed to affect its transformative power. Now ask (and, indeed, ask the Lord!), What might I/we need to do to “unmute” the message in such a way that these precious people in your circles will hear the gospel of Jesus? Can the old faithful mic still be effective? If, for some in our circles the answer is, Yes, fantastic! Let’s figure a way to get it unmuted. But for others is the old mic unlikely to give our voice a fresh hearing? If the honest answer (the HONEST answer) is, No, then what might a new, unmuted “mic” look like?
From my own imagination may I offer a few scenarios where I’m not sure the Church (at least, the Church of the Nazarene) is strongly/intentionally present: “Self-sustained” high-density housing centres where it’s unlikely we could ever have permanent meeting space. LGBTQ+ communities who struggle to hear the love of Jesus in our prevailing messaging. More and more ‘new Canadian’ neighbours who’ve arrived from very different lands and cultures. Canada’s First Nations people. The largest measure of every Canadian under the age of 40(!).
How might we unmute the message into these circles?
Perhaps the language of “Going where the Church isn’t” can become a resolute posture for Nazarenes in British Columbia and the Yukon….
A resolution that acknowledges that we may have a problem with our microphones.
A resolution that is wide open to the imaginative directing of God’s Holy Spirit, the One who must ultimately speak through our efforts.