I feel as if I am late to the party with the word ‘relatable’. I’ve only just discovered how widely it’s being used in popular culture, not just as a description of cute and comforting memes, proverbs and words, but also about celebrities, events, and yes, even Jesus.
Relatable, in its contemporary use, simply means ‘enabling a person to feel that they can relate to someone or something’. I find myself wondering what could happen if our local faith communities were seen as ‘relatable’ – places which seemed like somewhere where those who don’t yet belong would find someone to connect with, to build relationship with, to make friends.
Christening families, wedding couples, bereaved people, who have journeyed from an initial contact to being an active part of a local worshipping community, all talk about first impressions of warmth – and relevance. Wider research with those who become part of church, and with those who leave, highlight these factors. Being relatable goes further than a series of tasks or a statement that we are a ‘friendly’ church. It involves being interested in people’s lives, and bringing the Gospel into a dialogue with the ordinariness of everyday life through worship, preaching, conversation, involvement, invitation and more.
I recently heard a talk about work with the homeless, contrasting a transactional approach with a relational approachIt made me think how easily the welcome we offer at church becomes transactional: a series of tasks that we have to do, ranging from handing out leaflets to information about services to come. But what if we thought about welcome as relational, reflecting a ‘relatable’ church, and a ‘relatable’ Jesus. As one sermon puts it ..”there’s something about Jesus. He’s a people-magnet. Jesus shows us that He welcomes people where they’re at.” That first contact with God and God’s people, however it happens, can be the moment when a faith journey sparks into life, as we reflect the welcome of Jesus.
Revd Dr Sandra Millar