More on Missions, etc.

William Willimon, in a book called The Intrusive Word, wrote the following:

Desiring too desperately to communicate, at any cost, can lead us into apostasy.
Can we preachers respect the gospel enough to allow people not to understand it? We are not responsible for all failures of communication. The gospel itself, in collision with the corruptions engendered by life in a democratic, capitalist society, bears some of the responsibility for people not hearing. …
Atheism is the conviction that the presence and power of God are unessential to the work of ministry, that we can find the right technique, the proper approach, and the appropriate attitude and therefore will not need God to validate our ministry. If Jesus was the “communications specialist” that [George] Barna claims him to be, why in the world did he waste so much time teaching “in parables,” which very few understood? Above all, if he was so good at communication, why on earth was he crucified? …
Our preaching ought to be so confrontive, so in violation of all that contemporary Americans think they know, that it requires no less than a miracle to be heard. We preach best with a reckless confidence in the power of the gospel to evoke the audience it deserves.


One of the dangers of emphasizing the concept of mission as a mandate given to the Church is that it tempts us to do what we are always tempted to do, namely to see the work of mission as a good work and to seek to justify ourselves by our works. On this view it is we who must save the unbelievers from perishing. … It is the Spirit who will give [the disciples] power and the Spirit who will bear witness. It is not that they must speak and act, asking the help of the Spirit to do so. It is rather that in their faithfulness to Jesus they become the place where the Spirit speaks and acts. …
The world’s questions are not the questions which lead to life. What really needs to be said is that where the Church is faithful to its Lord, there the powers of the kingdom are present and people begin to ask the question to which the gospel is the answer. [As a professor of mine–Tim’s–likes to say, “The only good questions are the ones to which the Lord has given us answers.”] And that, I suppose, is why the letters of St. Paul contain so many exhortations to faithfulness but no exhortations to be active in mission. –Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society



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