Fresh air; gut check

In divine pressure relief, I stumbled upon this article: Experienceing Life at the Margins on Christianity Today. It was referenced by Gordon College’s chaplin, Gregory W. Carmer, in his column on the next semester’s chapel theme.

It’s an interview with Rt. Rev. Dr. David Zac Niringiye, assistant bishop of Kampala in the Church of Uganda.

The key chunk:

One of the gravest threats to the North American church is the deception of power–the deception of being at the center. Those at the center tend to think, “The future belongs to us. We are the shapers of tomorrow. The process of gospel transmission, the process of mission–all of it is on our terms, because we are powerful, because we are established. We have a track record of success, after all.” …

God very often is working most powerfully far from the center. Jesus is crucified outside Jerusalem–outside–with the very cynical sign over his head, “The King of the Jews.” Surprise–he is the King of the Jews. “We had hoped…” say the disappointed disciples on the road to Emmaus, but he did not fulfill our criteria. In Acts, we read that the cross-cultural missionary thrust did not begin in Jerusalem. It began in Antioch, on the periphery, the margins. But Jerusalem is not ready for Antioch! In fact, even when they go to Antioch, it’s just to check on what’s happening.

I have come to the conclusion that the powerful, those at the center, must begin to realize that the future shape of things does not belong to them. The future shape of things is on the periphery. The future shape of things is not in Jerusalem, but outside. It is Nazareth. It is Antioch.

If you really want to understand the future of Christianity, go and see what is happening in Asia, Africa, Latin America. It’s the periphery–but that’s where the action is.

And I realize it’s not about me and my to-do list. In fact, that to-do list is likely 1% as kingdom-critical as I’d like to think it is. “The future shape of things does not belong to [me].”

Articles like this further cement my conviction that church in America is nothing like church is supposed to be. Even in my progressive, little, “front-lines” church. Not to worry, though. God will show us. And he’ll show us from the outside in, just as he did with Jesus.

Joel Maust

Joel Maust is a blogger, marketer and photographer living in the beautiful Flathead Valley of northwest Montana.

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