This week’s e-mail from The MediaNet….

Here’s a tip.  If you’re travelling by train and you fancy a bit of peace and quiet, take a Burger King bag along with you. Put it on the table, and you can pretty much guarantee that no-one will sit next to you!  If you haven’t got a Burger King bag I find that a Bible has the same effect. The chances are you’ll have the whole table, and possibly most of the carriage to yourself. After all, not many people want to run the risk of being evangelised on the East Coast Mainline.

Of course it can go wrong.  I was on the Manchester to London train, Bible in front of me, when a woman sat next to me. She’d noticed the Bible and struck up a conversation.

“Are you a believer?” she said.  “Yes I am,” I said.  “So am I.”

There was a pause. “Do you pray to God?” she asked.  “Well I try to,” I answered, as politely as I could.  “Me too,” she said.  A minute or two passed.  She was sizing me up.

“Do you go to church?” she asked.  “Yes I do,” I said.  She thought for a moment.  “Saturday or Sunday?” she asked.

“Is that important?” I asked her.  She shook her head with a solemn look.  “Oh yes,” she sighed.  “It’s the most important.”

And that made me very sad.  We had so much in common – but from her point of view, not quite enough.  Whether its religion or politics or sport, it’s all too easy to allow ourselves to be defined and divided by what we’re against, instead of what we’re for.  I once knew two brothers bound together by shared genes and family history, who fell out and didn’t speak for years because of an argument over who was going to inherit their mum’s grandfather clock.  They would have been better to throw the clock in a skip and get on with enjoying their friendship.

The early days of the internet were virtually paralysed by a “Holy War” about whether it was best to send computer code from right to left or from left to right.  The truth is that either would have done – but neither group of scientists wanted to let the other have their way.

Families, churches and neighbours – all too often I find it’s not the big disagreements that cause the problems but the very small ones. This week we’ve watched two brothers trying to work out whether they could serve together in the Shadow Cabinet.  So much of their beliefs and values are in common.  But it’s the other things that meant that Ed is now Prime Minister-in-waiting, while David is left wondering what his future holds.

Of course we could argue for hours about which are the small issues for Christians and which are central. And whilst we conduct that argument we are not only distracted from the task of introducing people to Jesus – we’re actually making it more difficult.

Think of Christian truth as a tree.  Some things are in the trunk of the tree – they are completely central to what we believe.  Other issues are side branches or even twigs, on which we can afford to differ. theMediaNet is committed to serving and respecting the whole Christian tree.  The evangelist David Watson used to say that there were only two issues that were make-or-break for Christians…the belief that Jesus Christ is God, and the belief that he rose from the dead.  All the other issues are branches or twigs.

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