Christians: let’s stop pretending

Jul 022014

This past weekend I was part of the leadership team for the youth track of a Christian mission festival called GOfest. I’ve blogged about it before. One of the major thrusts of what we did was try to help young people discover the part God has created them for in His mission and purposes for the world.

One thing the New Testament is pretty clear on is this. All Christians have gifts, and we should use them.

Spiritual gifts

Gifts in action!

I get very excited when I see people discovering their gifts and using them. There is such potential to be released!

At last year’s GOfest, one of our young people (she was 16) discovered gifts of mercy and a passion to see justice for those who are oppressed. Since then, she’s started a youth justice movement that runs campaigns and gets petitions signed around areas of injustice in the world. (Check out the group on Twitter, . She’s also hopefully going to write something on here for me, too!)

That is exciting! We didn’t tell them to start a group because we thought it would be a good idea. One person discovered gifts and passions, and from that she led into something amazing! I am so excited to see what God is doing and will do through that act of obedience and commitment to serve.

When we take our gifts and use them, big things can happen! But there are two things we really need to avoid if we want to see that happen, two traps we Christians can easily fall into.

Pretending we have gifts we don’t

The first danger is this: pretending we’re gifted in areas we aren’t. Lots of effort can get poured into trying to do things that God has never called us to do because we feel we ought or because we don’t want to look bad in front of others who are good at it.

Of course sometimes it isn’t a conscious thing. Sometimes we suffer from this very ‘nice’ idea that everyone should get a go at everything. Let’s create a rota and make sure everyone gets a fair shot at it all. Otherwise it wouldn’t be fair, right? But the product of that is this: most of the time, most people don’t do what God has gifted them to do. What a waste!

Yes, we have to explore some gifts to see if we might have them. Yes, we can grow in our gifts so if our first go isn’t amazing it doesn’t mean we never consider it again. And yes, just because I don’t have the gift of, say, evangelism it doesn’t mean I should never seek to share my faith (the same goes with the gift of giving!). There are times to ‘branch out’.

But our norm, our centre, our focus should be pursuing full throttle the gifts that God has really given us. If the whole church were truly released to discover and walk in the gifting God had given, what potential!

Pretending we don’t have gifts we do

Then there’s the opposite. Isn’t it really a little arrogant to say “I have the gift of ______, so let me use it.” When people do that, isn’t it likely to make others feel worse? Shouldn’t we be humble about our gifts? We shouldn’t put ourselves forward so much – that’s just pride, right?

I have to confess, this is something I have struggled with myself. It may be a thoroughly British thing. We Brits like to be modest.

But hiding or keeping quiet about our gifts isn’t modesty at all. At best it’s false modesty, but at worst it’s pride.

False modesty

How is it really pride? Well, the only reason we’d ever feel that talking about our gifts was arrogant is if – deep down – we believe they’re a result of our own ability. But they’re not. They’re gifts. It isn’t arrogant to tell someone about a gift you’ve been given. It doesn’t glorify you – it glorifies the Giver!

If someone is a leader, let them know that, say that, and be that. Let them lead you. If someone is a prophet, value the insight and words God has given them. Listen to them. If someone is a servant, don’t demean their gift by telling them to let someone else sweep the floor this time. Let them serve you. Of course thank all these people. Honour them publicly and privately.

It’s taken me quite a while, but I am now quite comfortable telling people what gifts I believe God has given me. I’m done pretending.

What about you?

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Jun 252014

Regular readers of this blog will know I love my small group! I’ve talked about them here and here (and one of the people in my small group wrote a post for me here). Last week, we started something new.

We are studying the book of Ecclesiastes every other week when we meet. We each commit to reading and reflecting on the same chunk before we meet, and then we discuss it together. I’ve decided that I’m going to blog along with this, trying to capture some of what we’ve discovered as we’ve studied this oft-neglected book (inevitably conversations stray beyond the strict boundaries of one specific chapter, so there’ll be thought from other parts of the book, and of the Bible, as well).

Last week we kicked off with Ecclesiastes chapter 1.

ecc 1

Life under the sun: meaningless

These verses can make pretty soul-destroying reading. They speak of the meaninglessness of everything in this world. Work, pleasure, wisdom, knowledge. Ultimately, nothing lasts, nothing new comes along and things just keep going round and round and round. Some things may be good for a while, but then we die, rendering it all ultimately pointless.

It’s not very hopeful. As one person said last week, “Ecclesiastes 1 may not be the best thing to read on a Monday morning when you didn’t really want to go to work anyway!”

This is Solomon’s declaration about everything in this world, under the sun. None of it really means anything beyond itself. Nothing has a higher purpose or meaning. It’s all just there. Until it’s not. And even that doesn’t matter, really.

The word meaningless isn’t a positive word. Nobody uses that as a positive thing. And the very fact that we use ‘meaningless’ as a negative shows that we like meaning. We want for our lives, for this world, to mean something. We all want meaning.

So this is a pretty bleak picture.

meaningless tolstoy

What about … OVER the sun, maybe?

This might make me a little unpopular, but I believe it’s true: if this life and this world is all there is, then nothing has any real meaning or purpose. The most we can hope for is to enjoy it a bit while it lasts, but none of it matters.

But Solomon’s description is of life ‘under the sun’ (at one point ‘under the heavens’). When looking at this world purely as a self-contained system, when judging it by its own merits, it’s meaningless. Solomon’s understanding of the world, though, would have been far from that.

He knew and understood there was more to life than that. In Hebrew biblical thought, the physical world we see around us is just one part of the much larger spiritual realm in which God exists and rules. There is FAR more to life than meets the eye.

meaningless under the sunThis isn’t all there is.

Where does your meaning come from?

What these verses do, then, is not slam this world as pointless. They do something far more than that. They expose the fact that without God the world is meaningless, so we stop looking for our meaning anywhere other than God.

The truth is, we often give the things in our lives – jobs, relationships, money, hobbies, pleasure – the wrong kind of significance. We think they have such meaning, but on their own they don’t.

This is why Ecclesiastes 1 is exactly the sort of thing we should be reading on Monday mornings when we didn’t want to go to work anyway. We need to be reminded that there is a purpose to this life, that God made things for a reason, made us for a reason, made us to work for a reason, rest for a reason, fall in love for a reason.

Remembering that God is in this world and has plans for it gives everything meaning, but the right kind of meaning!

It stops things masquerading as all-important and instead lets them take their rightful place. Their place as something which God has made for a purpose. Something through which we can find God, serve God, love God. Something through which we can partner with God to bring about His purposes.

Everything has a purpose, so everything is an opportunity. That isn’t soul-destroying at all. It’s liberating.

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Why & how do I write this blog?

Jun 162014

Today I have had a post published on someone else’s blog, and I wanted to mention it here. It is on the wonderful blog of the even more wonderful Debbie Duncan. I know Debbie from our church. She is a lecturer in Nursing in London, and is married to our pastor Malcolm. She has four children, and I think they’re all great!

blog hop

What’s it all about?

The post she’s published is part of an idea called the ‘Monday blog hop’, where different writers talk about their writing, why the do it, how they do it, and other interesting things like that. Then they nominate another couple of writers to carry it on and host their post the following week.

Some in the series have been published authors and others – like me – are not. This blog is where I write, and at the moment that’s it!

The four questions I answered were:

What am I working on?
Why do I write what I write?
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
How does my writing process work?

So if you’re interested in any of that, head over to Debbie’s blog and it’s all there. But by way of a teaser, here’s a confession I make in the post:

I talk to myself a lot. Whether in the shower, while walking the dog or driving the car, I am someone who processes my thoughts by talking about them so I tend to start trying to argue with myself or an imaginary friend out loud.

I’ve nominated two people: my wife and Debbie’s husband. So this time next week their posts should appear here…

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Am I exclusive like Francis Maude is?

Jun 122014

Yesterday at our staff prayer meeting at church, we had a bunch of different newspapers out and we prayed for the world and all that’s going on in it. I saw a story about Francis Maude, UK Cabinet Office minister, and it made me sad.


He was speaking about making government services more readily available online, and he said:

everything that can be delivered online, should be delivered online

So far so good. Whether it be paying tax, dealing with driving licenses or accessing benefits, using the internet to access services is at once both far easier for most and much cheaper for the government (and the tax-payer). Government services should be delivered online. But then he carried on:

… and only online.

It was those three words that have troubled me, and many others.

Pushing the marginalised to the margins

The problem is quite simple: not everyone can access these services online. For many – particularly the elderly – the digital world is so foreign and scary that the ‘one-off lesson to help them get onto the internet’ is just not sufficient. Making services available online is tantamount to refusing services to some people. Others – particularly those who are poorer – simply cannot afford internet access.

It is those who are already among the most vulnerable in our society who will be affected most harshly if this happens.

What is perhaps even more troubling is the arrogance not just of assuming everyone can get to grips with the digital age, but that everyone should. Maude justified his aims to force digital involvement on people by stating that “we think that is a better thing for people’s lives.” Inevitably, to maintain this position, you have to deride those who do not want it, and Maude happily writes this group off as what he calls online ‘refuseniks’. Because name-calling always helps.

Essentially, this is the marginalisation of the already-marginalised. I believe it is wrong.

A call to inclusion

Jesus included people. People others had given up on. People others told Him not to include. People who had never been included in their whole lives. And He calls us to do the same.

It isn’t the job of the government in this country to do something just because Jesus would (though it is the job of this government to serve the needs of all citizens, not just those who are easiest).

exclusionBut just because we Christians cannot demand our government act in a certain way, we ourselves must do so. It’s easy to point fingers, but what about us?

Who are our churches excluding? Who is it we would really rather weren’t part of our communities? What do we do without realising that turns people away? Are we afraid of the messiness of doing life with certain types of people? How do we inadvertently tell people they’re not welcome? What names do we create for those people?

I am beginning to lead on our church’s use of the internet, digital and social media. I believe this is an important thing for the church to take hold of. But I would be horrified if I discovered that promoting Jesus-centred use of social media led others to believe that because they don’t have a Facebook account they are no longer welcome. I need to be careful about that.

We must include everyone, and nothing should be a barrier to that.

So I pray the government would rethink. I pray the government would reach out to the marginalised with inclusion. And I pray I would too.

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Jun 042014

Last night my church did something that reminded me of one of my favourite things ever. It was a joint church prayer meeting. May not sound much, but I loved it. It embodied one of the best things ever:

Churches being united.

Mixed hands linked together in unity

I grew up in a youth group run by people from a number of local churches. A few of us from my church helped at another church’s children’s holiday club. In my previous job, one of the best things was the really close relationship between the local churches. I was even given space in their office to work from. I love it!

Church unity makes me so so excited, and here are some reasons why.

It’s good for us

A church is a family. I love my own family very dearly, and I think there are splendid things about us. But I also know there are pretty odd things about us too. Not all families are like ours, and that’s fine. In fact it’s good – it would be rubbish if every family were like the Criddles.

A local church can have many marvellous things about it, too. But it can also have its own quirks, flaws and foibles. There isn’t a single church in the world for whom that isn’t true. When we come together with other churches, we learn from each other. We Baptists have oodles to learn from our Catholic brothers and sisters. They have plenty to learn from us.

And beyond just learning from one another, unity keeps us grounded, reminds us we aren’t the big picture. The big picture is the whole worldwide Church that Jesus is forming for Himself all over the world. This is what Paul says about that Church:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)

Could it be any clearer? We are one. Everything about us – from start to finish – should drip with unity. Remembering that, acting like that, helps us remember we aren’t the real deal. We’re part of something bigger, and that should inspire us!

unity pope archbishopIt’s good for our communities

Just like the Church doesn’t exist just for those who are part of it, our unity shouldn’t exist just for us either. When we are united, we are better able to make an impact for Jesus in our communities.

As hard as we try, it’s difficult not to fall into the trap of being parochial. Do I want to see my own church growing? Yes. Of course I do, I want to see God on the move and doing things through my church. That isn’t wrong. What is wrong is that desire becoming greater than wanting to see the kingdom of God grow in my community. That is far more important.

When we honestly come together from different churches to work together, we’re forced to leave our parochial mindset at the door and work for something far bigger than us. When we do that, we can be far more effective at serving and reaching our local community for Christ.

I believe that’s why some of the most exciting and fruitful projects I’ve ever been part of have been those run by churches working together, not just one church.

It’s good for the gospel

This is the biggest one for me. The night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed to His Father. A chunk of that prayer was for the unity of His Church. This is what He prayed:

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:22-23)

Jesus prayed that we would have unity so that the world will know Jesus was sent by God and loves us. Our unity is itself a proclamation of the gospel!

Today, the church is known for squabbling and bickering amongst ourselves, and it is not good for the gospel. Why would people take us seriously when we can’t even get on? If a group so disparate, so diverse, so different from one another can really know unity, someone somewhere is going to wonder what (who?) is holding us together.

I’m not expecting global church unity to happen overnight, but I will pray for it, and take any and every opportunity to work with other Christians, churches and denominations, to increase the peace, harmony and unity of the Church. Jesus prayed that I would.

And He prayed that you would too.

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I’m in the news!

Jun 032014

I’ve been a little quiet on here in the last few weeks. It’s nothing personal. I’ve been on holiday with my wife, and haven’t blogged while away. Normal service will resume shortly, I promise!

In the meantime, here’s a fun thing – that post I wrote about Ricky Gervais back in January has made local news! Here’s the clipping from the newspaper:

news clipping

You can also read the article online by clicking here.

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How to share the gospel

May 112014

What a presumptuous title for a blog post! It sounds like I, Dave Criddle, think I’ve cracked it and have the how-to guide on how to share the good news. Far from it!!

This week, I preached on 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10. In it Paul describes how he shared the gospel with non-believers in Thessalonica. I was deeply challenged by his evangelistic method(s) and wanted to spread that challenge around!

how to share gospel

The verse that struck me was 1 Thessalonians 1:5:

because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

There seem to be four elements at work here, and each presents me with a big challenge.

‘not simply with words’

It would be easy with a phrase like that to downplay speech, to say talking the gospel doesn’t matter. Francis of Assissi is famously quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.” Francis himself wasn’t promoting a wordless gospel, but his words have been taken to mean that.

wrods if necessaryThere are folk who advocate sharing faith by actions and lifestyle instead of words. While the ‘not simply’ in this verse certainly means words aren’t all we need, it’s a stretch to say we don’t need them at all.

Whether it be Jesus, Paul or anyone else who ever shared ‘the gospel’ in the New Testament, words were always used. We can’t escape the need to articulate our faith with words.

‘with power, with the Holy Spirit’

Not just words, then, but power also! There are two things Paul says add power to the message he proclaimed. The first is the Holy Spirit at work.

All through Acts, when the gospel was preached God added confirmation of the message with miraculous signs and wonders. People were healed and there was breakthrough in communities. People saw first hand the power of the gospel which was being talked about.

Do we have reason to believe God is no longer in the business of adding his ‘Yes!’ to our message by working wonders in people’s hearts and lives? I don’t think we do. We need the Holy Spirit to convict, to add power to what we proclaim.

‘and deep conviction’

The second source of power is the messengers’ own conviction. They really believe this stuff! They were deeply convicted and passionate about the truth, power and importance of their message.

We can all tell whether someone cares about what they’re talking about. And if we as messengers of the gospel aren’t excited about it, captivated by Jesus, who He is, what He’s done, what He’s doing and what He’ll do then how on earth can we expect others to catch the vision?

I saw a statistic recently (I can’t find it now) that said the majority of people who come to faith are led to Jesus by someone who has been a Christian for less than two years. Is that just because the infectious zeal has worn off after that? If so, how sad.

‘we lived among you’

Paul’s message wasn’t a hit-and-run gospel. He stuck around and lived with those he shared Jesus with. A chapter later in his letter Paul says, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (1 Thessalonians 2:8).

sharing lifeHe lived alongside them. He became their friend. He shared life. The ups and the downs. He walked with them, hand in hand. He chose to commit to them, and in doing so became a model of what a life lived with Jesus looks like. This was real relationship.

And in fact when they did convert, Paul was their role model (1 Thes 1:6). It was the life they’d seen him living that they aspired to. He was their model of faith, and the only reason he could be was that he had shared life so totally with them. That is sobering.

Like I said, I find all of it very challenging indeed. It is such a holistic vision of what sharing faith can look like. I’m sure all of us naturally lean towards parts of it and away from others. To embrace all of it is a big calling, but if we take it seriously there is huge power. Let’s step up!

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May 092014

I remember one of the things I was taught at church as a child was this: being a Christian isn’t just about being a nice person. How true! A living Christian faith isn’t about being polite. We aren’t just called to be ‘nice’. We are called to be transformed, new people enlivened with the peace and joy and love of knowing the one who made us and died for us.

There’s more to being a Christian than being nice. But there isn’t less to being a Christian than being nice. If I am transformed by Jesus, surely that would make me nice! Not weak and feeble. Not a pushover. But kind and gracious, surely!

be nice

That’s why seeing someone commend me on Twitter earlier today made me a little sad. Here’s the tweet:

Scott's Tweet

(For the uninitiated, “#FF” stands for ‘Follow Friday’, a custom by which – on Fridays – you give advice to your followers on Twitter about who else they might like to follow. Today, Scott (an atheist who I’ve never met but talk with on Twitter quite a bit) recommended me to his other followers. Thanks Scott.)

What are we known for?

Sure, it’s always pleasant when someone says you’re a good egg. But this made me really sad. I’ve got to know how Scott thinks a little since January when he saw my Ricky Gervais article and starting asking lots of questions. He’s not a fan of religion or faith (and that must shape his views), and he wouldn’t claim to speak for all non-Christians.

The two bits that make me sad are ‘even though’ and ‘despite’. I’ll answer honestly even though I’m a Christian. I’m a nice bloke despite my faith (in his view a delusion).

In his mind, and presumably experience, by default a Christian wouldn’t be open and honest, a person with my faith wouldn’t be a nice person. The default Christian is dishonest, unpleasant and sees themselves as beyond reproach or questioning.

This is sad.

Like I say, this is one person and this view may not be the case everywhere. But having interacted with quite a lot of people like Scott – reasonable, but not Christian – and having seen the way media presentation of Christianity is going, I fear it may be. I fear that society at large doesn’t think Christians are very nice.

This is sad

I find this very sad. Jesus said this:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

The mark of being a follower of Jesus – the way HE says we will be known as His – is love. This of course includes love of everyone, but first and foremost it means loving ‘one another’.

I want to make something clear: the vast majority of Christians I know are full of love, are beautifully kind and caring people. They are nice! And they should be. They are called to be. It is their responsibility to be.

But it also breaks my heart to see the ways in which Christians treat one another, and the way that in the public eye we have become known as people of exclusion and hate, not welcome and love. I have been so upset by the manner in which conversations recently around same sex marriage have been conducted. There has been such hate and vitriol by Christians on both sides of that discussion. There has of course been dialogue filled with love, compassion and grace from both sides as well, but there should be more of it.

We can do better. We can be nicer!

love not rightThis needn’t be the way things are, though. There is no reason why people should think of a Christian and think ‘bigot’ or ‘hateful’ or ‘unkind’. Jesus was none of those things, and neither should we be.

Sometimes we put such a high premium on being right that we forget the importance of being kind. We would rather win the argument than love our ‘opponent’. Jesus so totally models the opposite of this that he was willing to be killed by His ‘opponents’ in order to extend love.

I end, then, with two messages.

For non-Christians: On behalf of Christians, on behalf of the Church, I am sorry. We have a message of love and inclusion and radical grace, but so often we fail our Saviour and our world by letting that get obscured. We have never claimed to be perfect, but I am sorry for the times we fail.

For Christians: Let’s be better. Let’s rather be loving than right. As we continue to discuss important things, and to do so publicly, let’s remember that the only way to be known as Jesus’ disciples is to demonstrate love. Let’s take back the reputation of our faith and be known for radical love and kindness by people, whether they agree with us or not.

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Faith when you don’t feel like it

May 042014

I’m going to be honest. Sometimes I don’t feel like praying, reading my Bible or going to church to be around other Christians. I’ll be even more honest and say this: sometimes when I’ve felt like that I’ve just not bothered.

I don’t think this is just me – I imagine it’s a fairly universal Christian experience. Often we don’t feel God’s presence, and we don’t have much motivation to actively pursue our faith, even if we’ve known the power of those things before. We stop pursuing God, and we continue to feel far from Him. We feel ourselves in a rut. What to do when we’re not sure if we can be bothered?

faith when you don't feel like it

It was the guest post on my blog a few days ago that has got me thinking about these things. I found my friend James’s words very powerful, so if you haven’t read it check it out before I carry on.

My advice: do it anyway

What to do, then? There are of course times when we feel totally on fire, captivated by God, inspired by who He is. There are times when we do not just know He is present because we are told He is in Scripture but because we can feel His presence palpably. He is in the atmosphere, in our coming and going, our every breath, every moment, every thought.

But there are also times when it’s not like that. We feel nothing. It seems irrelevant. In those times, what to do?

My advice is simple, but not easy. This advice is as much for me as it is for anyone else. This is it:

Do it anyway.

What’s ‘it’? ‘It’ is any of the countless ways God has given us to seek Him. Opening up His word where He reveals Himself even if the words seem lifeless. Sitting before Him in prayer even if it feels like we’re all alone talking to a brick wall. Being part of a community of Christians, gathering together in His name even if it feels like a formality. Singing to Him in worship even if the lyrics seem trite and the tune leaves us cold. This is just the tip of the ice berg. There are all sorts of acts of devotion and worship He has given us: fasting, giving, silence, pilgrimage – the list goes on.

Doesn’t that make me a hypocrite?

I said it isn’t easy, and for me this can be the biggest internal barrier: it feels like hypocrisy. God seems pretty clear that while He likes our acts of worship He isn’t interested in them so much as He is interested in our hearts (e.g. Psalm 51:16-17). Surely to just ‘go through the motions’ is the height of hypocrisy.

I don’t think it is.

Collectively, all these activities we’re talking about are called ‘spiritual disciplines’. Discipline isn’t about our feelings, whether we’re really into something in that moment or not. We do them because we do them, but because we do them there can be great benefit.

If I cannot in all honesty marshall my emotions to give God joyful praise, I am still able as an act of will to give myself to Him, to place myself before Him. I should not be driven by what I feel. Devotion, worship, faith – these are things of our will before they are things we feel. It’s not hypocrisy to honestly give God our wills. It would be to pretend we feel something we don’t.

Opening the door to God

The truth is we don’t want to remain distant and detached in our faith. The very fact that in those times of feeling disconnected it feels bad shows a desire for close relationship with God. Part of the reason for these disciplines is just that.

Richard Foster, who wrote a fantastic book on spiritual disciplines (), puts it like this:

God has given us the Disciplines of the spiritual life as a means of receiving grace. The Disciplines allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us.

A relationship with God – like any other – requires attention. When human relationships become distant or difficult, there are two choices. Feel hopeless and let it become more distant, or work at it and build back the intimacy we want.

These holy habits are gifts given to us so that we can present ourselves before God exactly as we are, putting ourselves in a place where He might work in us, change us, speak to us. He won’t force that on us anymore than we can force ourselves to feel anything.

But we can steadily, daily place ourselves at His feet and simply say ‘I’m here’. Once we open the door, and keep it open, things can change.

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“Why am I a Christian? Habit.” – James Pollard

May 022014

Why Christian thumbMy next instalment in the “Why are you a Christian?” series is from my friend James. I owe a lot to James. He used to be my youth leader and has had a profound impact on my life. He was trying to teach me about Jesus, and he did that plenty. But on top of that, without trying he taught me to speak in public and without knowing he taught me to pray. He’s a legend!

This is his answer to my question, “Why are you a Christian?”

james - why

Why am I a Christian?


Ok, that’s a bit of a cheat, that’s more of an answer to the question “Why are you still a Christian”. Originally I was a Christian because of the sense of love and adventure that I heard came from following Jesus. Even before that, it was because my family took me to Church, though on my part it was a slightly frustrated “can we go home now and watch Batman” kind of way. I missed out on a lot of Children’s Sunday Morning Telly.

It was hearing from people who considered God to be active now, and that he was interested in me that pulled me into making faith my own. I was supported by an excellent local youth group.

So why do I say habit?

Even if you are not a Christian I guess that you have read Dave’s blog (among other things) and it is clear that Christianity is not a smooth road. (Or maybe it is a smooth road but the vehicles we are travelling in are not in the best repair?)

I had a period where not only did God seem to be silent, but the activities of the church looked to be outright harmful. I couldn’t see God at work anywhere, and faith just seemed to be making life hard for people. I was re-evaluating all my experience up to that point, and re-evaluating it downwards. My only act of worship was to drag my grouchy miserable carcass along to a Church on Sundays. The songs tasted of ash, the preaching was clear but meaningless. The people were nice, but it’s not like I don’t know nice people who don’t know Jesus. (Double negative followed by a negative. Take that grammar!) I struggled to see why anyone would want to be a Christian.

It was Habit that kept me “in.” It was so ingrained that Church on Sunday is what I did, I couldn’t not go. And I hit a point where it felt that all I had left was habit. But it slowly dawned on me that habit could be good in itself. Not just the attending church, but other behaviours I had picked up on the way and that I still practiced because they were habits. These habits impacted how I treated others, even if the emotion was not always totally there.

Habit kept me in a place where I could start to hear (faintly) God speaking again. Habit eventually took me to a place where I could begin to see again why someone might want be Jesus’ Disciple. And habit kept me returning to a place where I could (even faintly) hear from the one who preached such incredible outrageous things like “Love Your Enemy”. Without the habits, I probably would have just wandered off.

“Love Your Enemy”? That’s nuts. I want to know a God who not only taught that, but lived it as well.

Ok, so why am I a Christian? Love. Why am I still a Christian? Love. And Habit. And Jesus.

Brilliant stuff! Thank you James for writing this. If you have any questions for James, or thoughts on what he shared, drop them in the box below. I know he’ll want to see. If you want to see the rest of the answers I’ve had so far, check them out here.

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