I completely understand why Britain’s first “atheist church” feels threatening to many Christians there. (If it didn’t have at least a little shock value, why else would HuffPost pick up the story?) In fact, the pastor of a nearby Catholic church doesn’t like it at all:
“How can you be an atheist and worship in a church? Surely it’s a contradiction of terms. Who will they be singing to?
“It is important to debate and engage with atheists but for them to establish a church like any other religious denomination is going too far. I’m cautious about it.”
Having read Andy Stanley’s Deep & Wide, however, I’m thinking of these things in a new way: Why see the atheist church as a threat? Why not see it as an opportunity? Just think: here are all these unchurched people who obviously feel such an unmet need for love, community, and companionship that they’ve gone to the trouble of gathering here in the first place! What a mission field!
What can nearby churches do to welcome them to the neighborhood? How can they show hospitality? How can they bear witness to Christ’s love?
Maybe, for example, a real church can use its experience and resources to help the atheist church get involved in service projects to the community. I bet they could partner with them in any number of ways. Who knows?
One thing’s for sure: being angry about it—as many members of the atheist church expect Christians to be—won’t help anyone.