Pattern Church in Swindon is the church that my family and I have been attending since we moved to the area last year. It’s a fairly new church plant in the Church of England, which was supported by Holy Trinity Brompton. It meets in an old factory dating back to the days when Swindon was a massive railway town built around the headquarters of the Great Western Railway (GWR). Half the town was these enormous engineering facilities, for the railway. That has nearly all gone now, but those enormous buildings remain and Pattern Church have got one of them and built their worship centre in. The name “Pattern Church” comes from the history of their building as the Pattern Factory which held all the engineering templates for the GWR.
It’s a lively church with lots of young families. It’s also got lots of new Christians in it too – people who are very new to faith. Being planted by HTB they have loads of ALPHA related mission going on, something really central to their ethos.
They asked me to preach at Pattern Church with a mandate to really help and encourage Christians to share their faith with their friends and work, home and school. One of the things about ALPHA is that it depends on people in the church bringing their friends along, which in turns depends on them having helpful conversations outside the church!
So I drew some lessons from a favourite passage of scripture to do this, Paul’s visit to Athens as recorded in Acts 17. In Athens Paul first of all toured the town and learned about the culture by careful observation. He looked at the sorts of things that dominated Athenian life, which were idols and temples and the busy religious life of the city. He then looks for a connecting point with culture and finds it in the ‘idol to an unknown god’ and doesn’t begin by criticising or denouncing it; but he builds off it. He commends them for their religiosity and proceeds to tell them about the unknown God. So I showed how that is a model for today, finding the things that our friends are into (not unknown gods in the literal sense) but things like justice, identity, the environment, or meaning. The task then is to show people the way in which that thing is great – but that these things makes little sense on their own. In fact – they only really make sense when embedded in a Christian worldview. Many people are looking for good things, but looking in all the wrong places.
It’s the approach we have taken here on the Solas website with the Have You Ever Wondered? series, starting with people’s everyday concerns and showing how they work in a biblical framework.
If you are a Fecbook user, you can watch the talk on this link, starting at 44 minutes.