Recently I blogged about an upcoming discussion on Lesslie Newbigin and his contribution to mission thinking in the West. For this discussion, we were asked to share what he contributed and where we thought we should go in light of that contribution. I discussed his contributions, now I will briefly share where my thoughts on the future...
One approach would be to see if the seeds Newbigin planted are now growing in the church, or whether we still have work to do.
To what extent can the church name the powers? Most of the Western church has been formed within the fact/value split – if not from the culture, then from within the church itself. Not yielding to the sacred/secular split, how might the church learn to speak prophetically to the powers, all the while seeking their redemption? How might the church look to where Jesus is at work in the culture, and follow him there? How might the church learn to foster the rearrangement of cultural items to Christ, not adding or subtracting to the culture, but glorifying God within the culture itself? How might the church follow Christ in all realms, including politics, economics, arts, education, recreation?
Regarding Christendom, to what extent is the church still patterned after Christendom models? Has the clergy/laity split been rooted out or simply replaced by professionalization and various modes of control? Do we train individuals or entire communities in giftedness? On the church question, do Christians see the church see itself as the people of God dispersed rather than as a place and time to meet? Do communities of faith meet in all sorts of configurations, consistent with the culture, presenting no unnecessary barriers to those outside?
Newbigin advocated for the church’s engagement of all spheres of culture, thereby proclaiming public truth. Sphere by sphere, our members need skills to embody this truth; they need to learn how to embrace, to critique, and to see where God has gone before them. The church today has yet to acquire the skills for which Newbigin advocated. I think we would do well to press on until these skills become synonymous with ‘church’.