A Nip of Newbigin: The Local Congregation

Lnewbigin

In this second part on evangelism in a secular culture, Lesslie Newbigin shares that it is not enough to try to impart evangelistic information to society, but rather, there needs to be a local and visible demonstration of the impact this Good-News-knowledge has had on real people. Therefore, the family of God becomes the best apologetic of the true story. 

The clue to evangelism in a secular society must be the local congregation. There are many other things of which one could speak — mass evangelism of the Billy Graham type, Christian literature, radio and television, study and training courses, and so on. These are auxiliary. Many of them can be very valuable. But they are auxiliary to the primary center of evangelism, which is the local congregation. The congregation should live by the true story and center their life in the continual remembering and relating of the true story, in meditating on it and expounding it in its relation to contemporary events so that contemporary events are truly understood, and in sharing in the sacrament by which we are incorporated into the dying and rising of Jesus so that we are at the very heart of the true story. The congregation that does this becomes the place where the new reality is present with its heart in the praise and adoration of God and in the sharing of the love of God among the members and in the wider society. And here, of course, an immense amount depends upon the leadership given through preaching, pastoral encouragement, and public action by those called to ministry in the congregations.

~ Lesslie Newbigin: a Reader, p. 234-235

I liked that part about the congregation becoming the place where the new reality is present with its heart in the praise and adoration of God and in the sharing of the love of God…

We need to emphasize that present, new reality. While contextualization is important, one of  the most compelling things about our gatherings (larger and smaller) is how serious and committed we are as a people to the true story. Rather, the focus is often on our “technique of doing church.”

The Gospel shared is the Gospel lived. So, to share that story in a radically attractive way (evangelism) will require us to ask, “How are we–together interpreting our world and responding to it by the truth of the Gospel?” 

When people begin to encounter other people who are walking by the Gospel, they might see forms of church that are familiar to them but they will be drawn to the story because they see others who have authentically entered it and are taking it seriously.

—–

Part one of this 5-part evangelism series can be found here: Living by the Other Story

Here below is a link to a very good article on communicating the Gospel in considerate and contemporary ways. It runs parallel with what I’ve shared above.

Related articles

Enhanced by Zemanta
Advertisements

A Nip of Newbigin: Living by the Other Story

 

Lnewbigin

The word “nip” in its noun form means a “taste” or “swallow”. I had to come up with a word that complimented minestrone, you know what I mean? I hope you can digest my weak and enigmatic sense of creativity.

So, with that out of the way, I enjoy reading the writings of Lesslie Newbigin. If you haven’t heard of him before, he was a missionary-theologian from Britain to India during the mid-1900’s. Lesslie passed away in South London at the age of 88 in 1998 but left behind a plethora of insights on the church and mission.

This is the first of five quotes that Lesslie wrote about evangelism and the thinking of the “re-evangelization” of Europe. I think these nips would apply to any secularized, Western culture. They’re quite good and I wanted to share them here on HM. 

Evangelism is not the effort of Christians to increase the size and importance of the Church. It is sharing the good news that God reigns — good news for those who believe, bad news for those who reject. Evanglism must be rescued from a Pelagian anxiety, as though we were responsible for converting the world. God reigns and his reign is revealed and effective in the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As we grow into a deeper understanding of this fact, as we learn more and more to live by the other story, we become more confident in sharing this reality with those who have not yet seen it.

~ L. Newbigin, A Reader, p. 234

To nuance more of what Newbigin is saying, living by the other story is really understanding the active reality of the Gospel story in everything we do. The Gospel is the living word, daily impressing itself upon us, and the very light by which we see, interpret, and respond to our world. The more deeply we submerge ourselves into it, the more confidence we’ll have revealing it. 

I liked that line about a Pelagian anxiety. I was taught to live in that panic at one time. What I realized through living the other story was that you don’t have to sell the Gospel, you just have to say it.

Gospel-Centered Church Part 1

Pastor_keller_in_berlin
I’m here at the City to City European church planting conference in Berlin. Pastor Tim Keller is delivering the keynote addresses. In 2012, Pastor Keller is scheduled to release a new book called “Center Church”. One of the sections of the book will be called “Gospel-centered.” Pastor Keller delivered a session to that effect and I’ve shared some notes with you here. I appreciated many things about the session but mostly, the emphasis that this is more of a corporate approach as the people of God. In other words, it requires the people of God devoted together to be a Gospel-centered church. Read on for some of these insights.

7 Lessons of Gospeltality

Jesus is invited to a meal where he takes the opportunity to disciple two sisters in hosting and communing. The story is found in Luke 10:38-42 just before he trains his disciples to pray. The intent of the passage is to have both sisters banqueting at the feet of Jesus. In this case, however, the quiet and resting Mary acts as a foil to her agitated and busy sister, Martha. And that is where we see the discipleship lessons of Jesus coming into play. The presence of the Good News (Gospel) coupled with the activity of teaching and training in a meal setting (hospitality) is where we combine the words to get Gospeltality. On a lovely side note, isn’t it great that Jesus is discipling women and also how he disciples them through their home and everyday lives? By doing it this way, Jesus went beyond the cultural norms (women weren’t discipled) and did it so that it wouldn’t be scandalous to others (informally at a meal setting). 

Our gratitude goes out to Sister Martha who represented us so well. We needed these discipleship lessons:

  1. We need to make sure that we understand who the host is correctly. Jesus said in verse 42, “…this one thing is necessary…” He is the one thing.
  2. We need to understand what is being hosted. The bigger picture of Jesus is why we serve. He is the living meal of God; the one, good portion that will never be taken away.
  3. We need to get our attitude right about our circumstances. If the presence of Jesus is there, then we need to recognize it and rest at his feet.  
  4. We need to forsake the kind of hosting that gives pride to our cooking, cleaning, and homes (our stuff). Otherwise, that will become all that we are about.
  5. We need to help people interact with Jesus. People should be able to see and hear Jesus when they intersect with our lives. If Martha doesn’t learn this, people will always see her. Mary got it.
  6. We need to give-way to Jesus to do his ministry in our every-day world.
  7. We need to allow the marginalized to host us. Jesus came to his own and was unwelcome (Jn. 1:11-12). There were plots to kill him. Jesus had no home, and he was poor. He also made himself the marginalized King by leaving heaven to be the friend of the broken and the least. And so, Jesus says, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:40).  We have so much to learn from those who are on the outside. We also have a great opportunity to be humble because we will be constantly surprised how Jesus enters our homes and our worlds. If Jesus doesn’t host us, we will always be the host, rival him, and make ourselves superior to others.

Martha3

Rival Hosting

Martha, the anxious hostess, invites Jesus the Kingdom-host to come into her home. She wants him to be around her house, but she’s not yet ready to surrender her life to him. Martha craves the admiration and affirmation of a powerful Rabbi. Instead, the events start to turn against her will and she breaks-down into anxious anger.

Galilean_family_room

What’s really happening is a small power struggle; a rivalry of hosting. Martha is in her “every-day-world” where she is queen; it’s her home. Hosting is where Martha shines. And like all of us, home is where “Martha is Martha.” The plot thickens when Martha invites the King into her world who is at home in all of his world. Who should impress who? Which one should host the other?

A quick discipleship lesson we can learn is that we can’t rival the host where it matters the most — in the center of our everyday lives, or what we call home. Otherwise, our homes can never be gospel homes. Jesus hosts, or we do.

Luke 10:38-42

 

note: for more information on this interesting photo and a Galilean family room, click here.