Convenience is the anti-thesis of security
Part of my job is to do with security of websites and their underlying infrastructure. I’ve long held the view that the anti-thesis of security is convenience. Ask anyone dealing with computer system security and chances are they’d agree it’s not a good idea to let people choose their own passwords or pin numbers. There are factors such as the importance of what you are protecting that come into play but in general if you let people choose their own password they’ll go for something which is easy to remember and therefore guess or work out. Pin numbers will be the same: if they can get away with it most people will keep them the same on every system. Convenience for the person undermines security of the system. As this photo proves (I couldn’t find an attribution for this by the way so if it’s yours let me know).
But it’s not just security that suffers by convenience. I appreciate I will sound like Monty Python’s old Yorkshire men (“You tell that to kids today…”) but the truth is that we live in a world where convenience is the key. E-mail, Tweets and Status updates are pushed to mobile phones, bookings are made online or by SMS — preferably on the way to the venue and wireless internet connections are left unsecured and open because it’s easier that way. The phrase of our times seems to be “Can’t be bothered” (or a more colourful alternative) not because of apathy but because of pseudo-laziness. I say pseudo-laziness because this isn’t us not wanting to do something, it’s just us not wanting to take too much time or spend too much effort on it (which I suppose is laziness then). Some believe this is all a product of our drive for an instant world, I think it’s about convenience: you buy a new gadget and you want it to be charged already not wait for 24 hours, joint electricity and gas supply deals are sold not only because of cost savings but because it’s more convenient to deal with one company (until you actually have to deal with them then it’s anything but convenient!), people are encouraged to spend rather than save for things (presumably ‘spending’ on credit) and instead of buying your shopping “when the shops are open” it’s more convenient to dodge the shelf-stackers in the wee hours. I appreciate that there are good reasons for some if not all of these but the truth is that, to take 24 hour supermarkets as an example, once the store is open 24 hours it’s not just those who can’t get to the shops in normal hours who use them. We live in a world driven by convenience and whilst it can be both a nice thing and a dangerous thing it is not something that is likely to change.
It’s important to remember then that it is into this world we Christians are bringing our message. Our message which can sometimes make “store up your treasures in heaven” sound like “save for a rainy day”. A message which we too often present as “Thou shalt not” instead of “Have real and eternal life, more and better life than [you] ever dreamed of”. So what do we do? In a world which says “I can’t be bothered” how do we present “Love your neighbour as yourself”? Can it be that the Christian message is behind the times in ways we hadn’t considered before? Do we need to present it in ways which make it more convenient for people? In truth we already are. Fresh expressions, Messy church, Street pastors are all excellent examples of the Church making itself more accessible and removing the obstacle of inconvenience and they are not the only ones. But is this enough? Is it enough that organisations, churches and groups run these kind of projects or are we in danger of segregating the Church into the old and the new? Many studies have been made and papers written about the problems with running alternate ways for people to “do church” with many very clever people warning about the dangers of ending up with two “congregations”.
It’s up to us
But there’s something which keeps nagging at me. Whilst all these activities, projects and groups are great let’s not forget that many of the key moments in Church growth have come when God moves individuals to (for want of a better word) witness to those around them. This is important to remember. If the world around us is living by “Can’t be bothered”, the only way for me and you to teach them the importance of “Love your neighbour” is to do it. If the culture of saving seems foreign (no matter how good the advice) then the only way for us to demonstrate “Store up your treasures in heaven” is to do it and show it as it is: building for both now and the future. I am sure there are those who will disagree with me but Christianity is not about making God convenient, it’s about living as citizens of Heaven here and now: making God accessible through Jesus, through our words and actions. It’s about being inconvenienced ourselves so that other might experience life-changing grace. Yes it may involve changing our ways but the Church is all about change (despite the picture we present), it’s a “building” that is built of lives, hearts, hopes and love. No building remains the same while it is under construction so yes the Church must adapt, change and grow to keep its arms open to everyone but it’s not the building which lives but the stones it is made of – aka us. It’s been said that Christianity is supposed to be caught not taught and that you may be the only Bible people ever read. Now if you ask me both of those already sound like a convenience.