If you are anything like this pew-sitter, you don’t experience following Jesus as a continuous series of mountaintop experiences. We get the term from the Bible, which tells us of God calling people to the top of mountains for, um, peak experiences. Sinai, Mount Carmel, whatever mount Jesus preached his sermon on and the Mount of Olives come to mind.
So if we are not on the mountaintop where are we? Perhaps we are somewhere on the side of the mountain – (although it is even more true we are above the mountain with our ascended Lord Jesus).
Which brings me to the question of slopes. It is hard to keep your footing on a slope, especially when someone above you dislodges a few rocks that bounce towards you. A couple of rocks came past me down the mountain in the last few weeks. Whether they were pebbles or boulders, you can work out.
One was a Briefing review of Introducing God, the locally written evangelistic course that’s been run in over 2,500 churches. Not enough about judgement wrote the reviewer in The Briefing, the provocative flagship publication of Matthias Media.
Which I seem to remember is one of the criticisms Introducing God’s Dominic Steele had of the Alpha course as he set out to write his local improved version. It just goes to show that no matter how high up the mountain you think you are, rocks can come your way on the slippery bit.
The Briefing attracted rocks from some staff of its own UK publisher when it ran a pretty bog-standard Sydney-line piece on creation. By none other than Matthias Media’s new chair, Sandy Grant, the genial dean of Wollongong. Denying a literal seven-day creation was shocking to the gentle souls in London. The sense that the rock solid Briefingwas below them on a slippery slope suffused their long letter.
This pew-sitter has been around just long enough to know that some readers (probably clergy) might think that this column is having a go at the gadfly publication that so rarely gets a mention in Southern Cross. Far from it – our eastern suburban publishers have been turning out some cracker issues lately. Especially the one where a couple of Briefers paid good Sydney Anglican money to go to the Hillsong conference. It is a good piece of journalism, which makes the point that sometimes churches do slide down the slippery slope, and in surprising ways. It is fair, balanced and devastating.
So, yes Virginia there is a slippery slope.
The great Baptist Charles Spurgeon discovered it in the 19th century – he called it the downgrade – and despite protests at the time history has proven him right. But the point your pew-sitter is making is that having a few rocks come in your direction doesn’t prove you are on the fabled slope. Got that? Or do I have to throw something at you to get your attention?