Looking at the church’s ‘pipeline’ (Paul Reily)

Paul ReilyPaul Reily looks down the church's 'pipeline'.

Outside the house where I live in Leytonstone, East London, we have been treated to several weeks of the road being dug up to renew the gas main. The existing piping, in some cases almost 100 years old, is beginning to show its age. In its place, bright new yellow plastic piping is being placed in the ground, and, because the bore is so much smaller, is being pushed through the old piping into the houses of the people down the road. As I have daily seen these pipes, I have become aware that that they can be seen as a prophetic picture of the church today.

After all, they are bright and new, they are modern, they are flexible, they are replacing something that is ageing and no longer able to do its job, and as a result, London will be safer. They are also going to be buried in the ground! Well, is that a prophetic picture or not?

Whilst it is true that many of those things can be said about fresh expressions of church / New Church / emerging church (whatever you want to call it) compared to some of our experiences of the past, is this true and fair? Are we just about being new, sparkly and shiny, flexible and creating a safer place? 

As I have been in prayer over these past weeks, I have become aware that the pipes can be a picture of the church. But for me, the significance of that picture is that these pipes, whatever they are like, are there to be carriers of gas. 

There were problems with the connection to our house, and as a consequence we were without gas for almost four days. I didn't realise the source of the problem at first, and so was trying to discover the reason why the boiler wasn't working! I felt rather a plonker when I realised that it wasn't working because it was disconnected from the supply of power!

And that is for me precisely where this prophetic picture comes into play. In all of our brightness, snazziness, flexibility … are we truly carriers of the source of power?

Despite all our initiatives, are we carriers of the power and the love of God?

The other day, one of my friends from another church who has been in the area all his life, reminded me of the Jeffreys brothers' meetings in the Royal Albert Hall 55 years ago. As George Jeffreys walked from the back of the auditorium, the power of God was so present that people all around him were healed. This isn't unique to London 60 years ago; there are places around the world where this happens today.

I guess my challenge to myself, as much as it is to you, is: 'Despite all our initiatives, are we carriers of the power and the love of God? Do we carry the truth, supernatural power, and love through service, which is at the heart of the Godhead?'

Of course we need to be relevant, we need to be connected, we need to get away from the obscure – many have been saying this for years. But as we strain for the relevant connectedness of the presentation of the Good News of Jesus today, for which many stand in the fresh expressions of church movement, let us not lose sight of the fact that we are carriers of the power and love of God, unless we become rapidly irrelevant in our own way.