Watching your favourite football team can be difficult, especially if they are losing. Typically heads drop and the vocal support wavers. Then the opposition fans start chanting, 'You're not singing anymore!'
Many Christian leaders I've spoken to recently, consider that this is a particularly tough time for the Church in the UK. They feel the Church is misunderstood by the majority of the population, misrepresented by a powerful and negative media, and marginalized by government and other authorities. In their opinion the opposition are playing well, goals have been conceded - sometimes own goals - and the prospects look grim.
The theme at Spring Harvest this year, 'Sing the Lord's song in a strange land' - which explores the book of Daniel, seems particularly appropriate given the deep sense of alienation that many believers say they are experiencing in the current UK climate. Widely-held concerns about the proposed Religious Hatred legislation which may also limit freedom of religious expression, dismay over the BBC's decision to go ahead with the broadcast of Jerry Springer – The Opera, despite a record number of complaints, and a mountain of negative media coverage has left some feeling that the Church is bleeding to death from a thousand cuts. Our cover feature (page 14) reports on this widely held view.
But it isn't all gloom and doom – as we speak to other Christian leaders who point to silver linings in the clouds. They highlight five special opportunities that individual believers and the wider body of the Church have in 2005.
We also speak to the leadership of a fast-growing London church, Hillsongs, which is attracting huge numbers to its theatreland venue. 'When the worship starts the place lights up,' reports Gill Troop, who went along to find out how this church is successfully reaching thousands of 20 and 30-somethings – a generation missing from many UK church services.
So whether you feel like you're singing in the rain because your team is a goal down, or you feel like you're singing in the sunshine because things from your perspective are looking good, the reality is that we're all called to sing the Lord's song. That's harder to do when you are away from home and seem to be headed for defeat – but winning or losing we all need to sing. Ultimately our confidence needs to be in the Lord, who provides the security to believe that we will end up on the winning side. God is in control and He decides when the final whistle will blow. So sing up!