As I work on my dissertation proposal (actually a course that helps me prepare and hone in on what my proposal will be) I am rereading some thoughts from Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society
Some of my thoughts surrounding my working topic –
The Practicing Church – morphing from traditional to missional — what are the practices of:
With regard to leadership I find the following from pages 234-241 helpful:
“If I am right in believing, as I do, that the only effective hermeneutic of the gospel is the life of the congregation which believes it, one has to ask how such congregations may be helped to become what they are called to be.”
“…,the Church in the New Testament is represented by visible communities of men and women located in places which can be visited and to which letters can be written.”
“…they are represented by visible congregations which have a specific location–whether in the primary geographical sense, or in the sense of location within one of the sectors of public life in a complex and multisectional society. I have already said that I believe that the major impact of such congregations on the life of society, as a whole is through the daily work of the members in their secular vocations…but the developing, nourishing, and sustaining of Christian faith and practice is impossible apart from a believing congregation. It is therefore important to my thesis to consider, however briefly, the question of the leadership of such congregations.”
“In some Christian circles it is unfashionable to talk much about the ordained ministry, because of the fear of being guilty of elitism, one of contemporary society’s catalogue of unforgivable sins. Without going into an elaborate discussion on this fear, I will make two simple points. First, I hope I have made clear my belief that it is the whole Church which is called to be—in Christ—a royal priesthood, that every member of the body is called to the exercise of this priesthood, and that this priesthood is to be exercised in the daily life and work in Christians in the secular business of the world. But this will not happen unless there is a ministerial priesthood which serves, nourishes, sustains, and guides this priestly work.”
“Men and women are not ordained to this ministerial priesthood in order to take priesthood away from the people but in order to nourish and sustain the priesthood of the people.”
“The business of leadership is precisely to enable, encourage, and sustain the activity of all the members. To set “participation” and “leadership” against each other is absurd. Clericalism and anticlericalism are simply two sides of the same coin.”
“The minister’s leadership of the congregation in its mission to the world will be first and foremost in the area of his or her own discipleship, in that life of prayer and daily consecration which remains hidden from the world but which is the place where the essential battles are either won or lost.”
“…in the person of Peter—we have given to us a picture of apostolic leadership in the Church. Peter is first presented to us as an evangelist. He is a fisherman who, however, catches nothing until he submits to the Master’s instruction. When he does so, there is a mighty catch which he brings, with the net intact and as the fruit of his work, one undivided harvest to the feet of Jesus. Then the image changes and Peter is a pastor to whom Jesus entrusts his flock. He can so entrust it because Peter loves him more than all. But then, finally the image changes again. Peter is a disciple who must go the way the Master went, the way of the cross. He is not to look around to see who else is following. He is to look one way only—to the Master who goes before him. Ministerial is first and finally discipleship.”
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
August 2, 1963
It’s been busy…
Last week my youngest son, Alex turned 10! In eleven days my oldest son Michael turns 30!
Just returned from a retreat in Oregon. Three days offline..it was a great time away with Rich and others. Lots of down time and reflection. Good conversations, lots of alone time out in the woods, on a river. God affirmed our path in some pretty amazing ways.
Tomorrow is a big day for VCC (it is the first time since my ordination in 1996 that we have set in someone as a pastor) we are setting Jim Fox in as our associate…
Book recommendation – The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson
Beginning a new series of teaching tomorrow – taking narratives from Genesis and Exodus through the next few months (until Easter we will be at crossing the Red Sea)…
Last week at VCC we did a reflection – looking back at 2007 and asked these questions:
- Who were the significant people in your life?
What books or Bible study instructed your mind and heart?
- How were you a gift to a person or a community?
- What was your greatest joy this year? Your greatest sorrow?
- In what areas did you grow? Were these areas related to your joy or your pain?
- Did you root your life more firmly in Scripture and in prayer? Did God seem near or far off?
Is there anything you feel God is saying to you as you look back on the year?
This morning we will reflect on looking ahead at 2008 with these questions:
- Who are the people with whom you would like to deepen your relationships in the year to come? Do you have relationships that need to be healed? Are there places in your own heart that need healing?
- Is there an aspect of your character you would like to develop, or one of the fruit of the Spirit you would like God to grow in you? (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Gal.5:22)
- Are there any other goals, in the area of mental, physical, spiritual, or emotional growth that you’d like to name before God, asking his help?
Most of the time we encourage living in the present, this real day to day, ordinary life and see all aspects as holy. Spiritual formation is happening whether I am watching Fox News, CNN or eat dinner with my family. All of life is forming me. There are a few times during the year that it is good to reflect on the past and ask what do I hope for in the future. As followers of Christ we live in three time zones, the past, the present and the future. The Kingdom has come, is here and our prayer, “Kingdom Come”