Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The Continuum of Relevance and Identity

In an early article Jurgen Moltmann produces a helpful continuum between relevance and identity. The church moves between both relevance and identity; in the world but not of the world; incarnated in the world with a citizenship in heaven. If it moves too far to one side there is a reaction the other way. Mission and evangelism follows this continuum. Think of those churches that focus on ‘personal faith’ as a gathered community to the extent that their sectarian nature makes them irrelevant to the world around. Of course, they would say that is the whole point! Calling people out of the world that is passing away. Or consider those churches for whom their Christian faith seems little more than an overlay upon existing views on justice, relationships, God, etc. So relevant that they have merged back into the world around them! Mission and evangelism requires both identity and relevance. We are a people called out, yet God sent the Son to save the world. Remove the admonitions concerning justice from the Bible and it would almost be readable in one session!

It is good to ask ourselves where we are on the continuum. Where does your predilection lie? It is good to be aware of what might become excessive within our ministry, and what might be overlooked. (And as an aside, it is also important to recognise this as part of the dynamic involved in the threatened schism in the Anglican Communion at present.)

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