Today is Sunday and despite the decline of Christianity more people will gather in Church in the UK than will attend football matches! Don’t often hear that statistic from the media. Yet in some ways I find it a depressing statistic, for despite its decline Christianity, it is numerically still a huge force. The Church’s potential is incredible and yet the truth is that it makes very little impact in our nation. That made me think about a parable once told by Danish Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard
A certain flock of geese lived together in a barnyard with high walls around it. Because the corn was good and the barnyard was secure, these geese would never take a risk. One day a philosopher goose came among them. He was a very good philosopher and every week they listened quietly and attentively to his learned discourses. ‘My fellow travellers on the way of life,’ he would say, ‘can you seriously imagine that this barnyard, with great high walls around it, is all there is to existence?
I tell you, there is another and a greater world outside, a world of which we are only dimly aware. Our forefathers knew of this outside world. For did they not stretch their wings and fly across the trackless wastes of desert and ocean, of green valley and wooded hill? But alas, here we remain in this barnyard, our wings folded and tucked into our sides, as we are content to puddle in the mud, never lifting our eyes to the heavens which should be our home.
The geese thought this was very fine lecturing. ‘How poetical,’ they thought. ‘How profoundly existential. What a flawless summary of the mystery of existence.’ Often the philosopher spoke of the advantages of flight, calling on the geese to be what they were. After all, they had wings, he pointed out. What were wings for, but to fly with? Often he reflected on the beauty and the wonder of life outside the barnyard, and the freedom of the skies.
And every week the geese were uplifted, inspired, moved by the philosopher’s message. They hung on his every word. They devoted hours, weeks, months to a thoroughgoing analysis and critical evaluation of his doctrines. They produced learned treatises on the ethical and spiritual implications of flight. All this they did. But one thing they never did. They did not fly! For the corn was good, and the barnyard was secure!” *An English translation as quoted by Athol Gill, The Fringes Of Freedom: Following Jesus, Living Together, Working For Justice.
Do I need to make the connections? Today all over this nation (and the world) hundreds of thousands of geese (Christians) will gather in barn yards (churches) to hear philosophers (preachers) talk about an existence beyond the normal (Kingdom of God) but frankly on Monday they won’t fly, they won’t actually live in the Kingdom.
I don’t know of any more damming indictment of the Church than Kierkegaard’s final paragraph, “And every week the geese were uplifted, inspired, moved by the philosopher’s message. They hung on his every word. They devoted hours, weeks, months to a thoroughgoing analysis and critical evaluation of his doctrines. They produced learned treatises on the ethical and spiritual implications of flight. All this they did. But one thing they never did. They did not fly! For the corn was good, and the barnyard was secure!” People will leave Church today and the lucky ones will leave “uplifted, inspired and moved by the message” but the vast majority won’t fly, they won’t live the life of the Kingdom of God. They won’t risk the corn of this world for the adventure of living in the Kingdom of God.
I don’t have the answers but I convinced we need to make Christianity less about what we do for a few hours on Sunday and more about what we do every day in our every day lives, we need to liberate the church from being a place people go primarily to hear a message to being a community that goes out in mission to live out that message.
Anyone got any examples about how their church help the geese get off the ground?