It seems appropriate at the beginning of a new year to reflect on books that have impacted me in what I do as much as in what I think.  The work of Lesslie Newbigin I read as a young Christian.  When I was working on my doctorate I re-read some of his material and remember saying to my supervisor, who had known Lesslie when he was alive, “I had not realised how much impact he had on my own thinking.”

Newbigin himself would argue he took some of his ideas from Michael Polanyi but his seminal idea is that the West is not a missionary sending field anymore but one needing the gospel again.  For many people this comes and remains as a shock.  It has been implemented more widely though as the missional movement – making sure churches see themselves as following Jesus into the world as David Dunbar discusses the idea here.

Newbigin’s impact though is how do we conceive church?  Do we see it as an oasis in the dessert a place to relax and turn it into a resort?  Or do we see it as a place to be empowered to soldier on reaching the world for Christ?  One place we want to stay in forever due to fallen human nature, the other we feel uncomfortable about, but then when was the point of the gospel to make us comfortable?

Newbigin’s work has never made me comfortbale and continues to challenge me on what to do day to day for church and in teaching about church.

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