Have you ever been in the classic situation, when speaking with someone who doesn't understand your language, of talking louder in the hope that they will then be able to understand? It seems to be a natural reaction to the situation, but we all know it doesn’t work.
The Christian Church and its message has been failing to resonate with the majority of people in the westernised world for many years now, and we are not going to solve this problem by delivering the same old messages again and again, but louder.
This challenge, that Christians face in many parts of the world, is nothing new. The prophets of the Old Testament had a similar experience; no-one was listening to them. God addressed this situation by doing something quite different. Enter John the Baptist.
John the Baptist walked away from the centuries-old Jewish traditions of divine law and sacrificial ritual. He made minimal reference to either law or ritual. His message was still Judaism, but Judaism-lite, very ‘lite' indeed. "Change your approach,” John challenged the crowds who were drawn to this new teaching. “The influence of God is all around you.” John had dispensed with Temple and synagogue, with law and tradition, and with sacrifice and regular worship. He replaced these staples of religion with a super-simple message of generosity and decency, combined with a zero-expense faith-action that anyone could do anywhere - emersion in water.
John’s Judaism-lite was an instant success. His message spread far and wide across the Jewish networks of the day. By the time that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John sat down to to write their Gospels, each in their own way began by saying: you’ve already heard about John the Baptist; now learn about Jesus.
John came as a warm-up act for Jesus, and we still need him today. Traditional Christianity has lost its potency. We won’t achieve anything by saying the same things, but louder. We need to follow John’s lead; we need to dispense with the over complex moral and religious packaging of our traditions. Instead we need to focus on the oh-so-simple message of John and Jesus: be honest, be caring, be generous, be forgiving - for this is the way of God.