Monday, May 07, 2007

The Way of Anchor & Newbigin's Thoughts

A classic book on church and culture is Lesslie Newbigin's "The Gospel in a Pluralist Society". He helps answer questions that I am asking in one form or another: "What is the Christian message in a society marked by religious pluralism, ethnic diversity, and cultural relativism?" How do we be the church in the United States of America, Indiana, Fort Wayne, 3rd Street in the year 2007? What does gospelwork look like? How do we go the Way of Jesus - proclaiming the coming Kingdom of God, healing the sick and crippled, instructing on God's truth, and reclaiming freedom and beauty for humanity and creation?

In chapter 18 - titled "The Congregation as Hermeneutic of the Gospel", Newbigin provides brilliant insights and direction into finding answers for these questions and others I've not yet asked (by the way, "hermeneutic" means "interpretation" - as theory or method").

He writes on page 227 "How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross? I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic (interpretation) of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.

Also: "Jesus, as I said earlier, did not write a book but formed a community. This community has at its heart the remembering and rehearsing of his words and deeds, and the sacraments given by him through which it is enabled both to engraft new members into its life and to renew this life again and again through sharing in his risen life through the body broken and the lifeblood poured out. It exists in him and for him.

And this is the quote that resonates deeply with me: "Insofar as it is true to its calling, it becomes the place where men and women and children find that the gospel gives them the framework of understanding, the 'lenses' through which they are able to understand and cope with the world."

What kind of church do I want Anchor to become? A congregation of men and women and children who believe the gospel and live by it - at home, at work, at school, at play. For those who have trouble understanding and coping in this world, our gospel-life as a Eucharist becomes one of the means through which God calls individuals into a Jesus community. I don't mean for this to sound idealistic or academic, but I'm trying to work out in my mind and heart how I am wired and what that means for how I do ministry. I want men, women and children to walk out of darkness and into the light of the coming Kingdom of God - how does that happen through how I do life/ministry?

Newbigin lists six characteristics of this Jesus community that he has described as the hermeneutic of the gosepl: very illuminating and thought-provoking. I will examine them one by one in the next few weeks as I work my way through the next sermon series at Anchor concerning our mission and our becoming missional. The series starts Mother's Day and ends Father's Day. We'll see whether I can either get some good answers or get some better questions to ask.

Are you asking any questions about your church?

1 comment:

Tom said...

Great book as is "The Open Secret" even though it was a lot harder for me to work through. Interested to read your thoughts.

By the way, I caught on to Library Thing from your blog here and love it. Kim is working on adding my books at home to it (she actually puts LCN # on them so I can actually find them) and every now and then I add a few from my office. It will take a while but it sure beats the database we were using. Thanks.