January 16, 2015

Orbiting the Center, Moving Towards the Margins

This is a bit of a half-baked thought but I'm throwing it out there...

We have a slogan at work. We believe that our job is "engaging a changing world with an enduring faith in Jesus Christ."

I like this. I like it because it does two things: 1–it holds a commitment to a particular tradition and 2–it makes a commitment to understanding–being in relationship with–our current reality, context.

Christians tend to struggle with this. Relevance or Faithfulness? Traditions or Trends? This motto simply says, We do both.

I like this.

I like it because I think it's realistic. I think it's honest. I think it's what we're always struggling with, trying to figure out how to do. But it's also not that common. We Christians tend to either promote that we do one or the other.

In Acts 1:8, before Jesus' ascension he tells his best of friends to be his witnesses in "in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world." In the King James Version that last part reads, "the uttermost part of the earth." I don't know why but I like that. Christians have often used this passage as a metaphorical trajectory for ministry. Start in your proverbial “Jerusalem” and move towards your metaphorical “ends of the earth.”

In a sense, this is much more than metaphor. As Michael Goheen offers in his book A Light to the Nations, we still orbit around the initial calling of Israel to be a people for all peoples (p. 131). But rather than a straight line moving in one direction, I wonder if we work in a kind of never-ending spiral whose center is Jerusalem–our roots, our tradition, our history; which we forever orbit as our center, yet simultaneously and continually move towards the margin–relevance, context, etc.

If we thought of the work of the church in this way, I wonder if such a motto as "engaging a changing world with an enduring faith in Jesus Christ" would seem so rare in current Christian conversation.

I think folks are tired of having to feel as though they have to pick between commitment to tradition and faith in their own language. I think folks are ready for the both/and.

I think this is what the term "missional" was intended to get at.

What do you think?

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