Saying it is enough to make me a pariah among the 20-something ‘twitterati’, but the latest series of Top Gear has been superb. It’s not clever, but it is big. Nightmare of the left they may be, but watching Clarkson, Hammond and the other one drive around America, race across Europe and destroy the Twickenham pitch remains one of the most entertaining ways to waste an hour of your life.
Here’s the thing: they’re having fun. The chemistry between the three is compelling and they clearly love what they’re doing. Call it a collective mid-life crisis, or perhaps just the realisation that they’re never going to be accepted by the liberal elite, but they’re out there, hanging out with friends, going on road trips, blowing stuff up, putting celebrities in cars and plugging Eric Clapton’s guitar into a Kia Cee’d. There’s something infectious about seeing people so happy in each other’s company.
And this got me thinking about church. I can’t remember the last time I walked into church and found it infectious. I can’t remember the last time I looked across a congregation and saw people happy to be in each other’s company. I’m going to be honest, I spend a lot of time in church feeling pretty bored, laughing politely at jokes that I would ignore down the pub and generally feeling pretty well entrenched within my comfort zone.
The thing about Top Gear is a large section of the viewers are middle-aged men, desperate to be doing what the presenters are doing, desperate to be part of that group, to live a life that seems to be defined by ‘how hard can it be?’.
I want to be part of a church like that. I want to be part of a church that people look at and go ‘how do I become part of that?’. And I genuinely think that needs to start with the Church beginning to enjoy itself a bit more. I want to hear more jokes in Sunday services; I want congregations going on more road trips, going on holiday, not for some profound teaching, but to enjoy one another’s company.
So often our attempt at doing community within church is defined by traditional church parameters: the shared lunches, the village fêtes, the quiz nights. I don’t think the outside world are looking at this and saying ‘I want to be part of that.’ Go paintballing, drive to the beach, tell jokes, and most importantly, be infectious.
But there’s one other thing that the Church can learn from Top Gear, and it comes from the question central to the show – how hard can it be? When we look at the things we want to change in the world, often the Church’s approach to the issue is to draw up a list of problems, a list of reasons why it won’t work. When the Top Gear team look at something they want to do, they ask ‘how hard can it be?’ What if we began to take that approach? What if we believed that God was capable of doing things beyond our wildest dreams? What if, instead of searching for problems, we praised God for opportunities?
In John 14:12 Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these.” What if we believed that? I want to be part of a church that believes what Jesus says, that believes that greater things are yet to come. And I think the world wants to part of a church like that as well.
So go on, and I can’t believe I’m about to say this, make your church a bit more like Top Gear.
Image by Justin Leighton. Copyright owned BBC Worldwide.