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Leader comment: Propagation of the faith — the Church Times’s task

22 March 2024

THE parable of the sower, found in three of the Gospels, is familiar to clergy and laity, teachers and evangelists. A combination of ambitious church initiatives and a longing for others to know Christ can often set up an unrealistic expectation that everyone will instantly embrace Christianity “if only we . . .” (fill in blank here). It is salutary that it is Christ himself who reminds the disciples that it is the listeners’ responsibility to choose whether to respond to what they hear — and that the seed of the knowledge of the love of God will flourish in only a small proportion. This does not absolve the Church — by which is meant all its members, in their own way — from the task of making Christ known; but any disappointment at the failure to convert someone, or to help to swell a congregation by whatever means, should be tempered by an acceptance that, ultimately, this is a matter for the Holy Spirit.

An editor, similarly, cannot expect everyone who sees their newspaper to be instantly enamoured of it. We know that our work often falls on the path, on stony ground, or among thistles, however hard we work to make our reporting, commentary, and reviewing the best it can be. At the Church Times, we are conscious that our online stories are seen by non-subscribers only if they chance upon them through a search engine or on social media; and that our print version, if known about, is seldom seen. This is why we have produced an extra copy this week. If you are a subscriber, thank you in advance for passing it on to someone who will appreciate it. If you are a recipient, we hope that you like what you see enough to want to try at least ten more issues for an outlay of just £10. If there are too many stones and thistles in your life for this, we understand — but one of our objectives is to help people to clear these away through accurate reporting and wise counsel.

It is widely accepted that the established financial model for newspapers is broken, as advertising revenue is sucked away by the internet giants. Specialist titles such as this fare better than many, but the fate of local newspapers is particularly dire, especially those that went free on the strength of their advertising at the time. Yet the need for good journalism has not diminished. Officials in local and national government can do what they like unobserved; organisations can praise their own activities unchallenged. And, all the while, opinionated social-media posts encourage people to inhabit a world chosen for them by algorithms in which, for example, the Princess of Wales sends a body double out shopping to fool the public, and Donald Trump is a suitable man to lead the United States.

The Church, thankfully, is not as prone to such falsehoods. Yet it has its own stones and thistles, and our journalists and contributors dig away at these, rejoicing when our readers help to clear them away. It is a task that could always have more helpers. . .

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