One of my heroes of the faith is Leslie Newbigin. Newbigin spent much of his career serving as a missionary in India and became affiliated with the Church of South India and the United Reformed Church, becoming one of the Church of South India’s first bishops. He is most known for laying the foundations of today’s missional church movement.
After forty years as a missionary in India, Newbigin returned to England only to find that the church had shrunk in numbers, and influence in the culture. The idea of England and Europe being Christian was quickly fading. His writings helped to direct the churches attention to mission to the post-Christian west.
The fading influence of the church or what some would say, Christian morals, in western culture, has caused a great deal of anxiety in our own churches. Our anxiety causes us to long for the way things were or live in fear of the future. Leslie Newbigin was well known for saying, “Nostalgia for the past and fear for the future are equally out of place for the Christian.”
The past cannot be replicated and the future is in God’s hands. The question for Newbigin, and for us, is how will the church respond to a culture that has in many ways left the church behind? Following Jesus in his mission to the world requires an imitation, even if in small ways, of his “enfleshment.” And that means more than inviting people to church events.
In The Message, Eugene Peterson translates John 1:14 this way: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” In other words Jesus dwelt with people. He lived with them, listen to them. He knew their joys and their fears. Jesus taught his disciples to live the same way. One of the things that excites me most about coming to First Covenant is that I see the church starting to do ministry not “to” the community or “for” the community, but “with” the community. This takes a willingness to listen, share, to realize we don’t have all the answers, and the realization we have much to learn.
As I begin my time with you on May 1st, I look forward to the ministry we will do with one another and the community. Who knows how God will use us? – Pastor Chris