Delivering the Unchanging Message Amidst a Changing World
It’s called “news” for a reason – it’s always new, always changing, always different. In our interconnected world today, there is “news” all the time. It’s too much at times. Wars rage and cease; disease runs rampant and is controlled; people are born, live, die, marry, divorce, become friends, lose touch, obtain jobs, retire – and this all happens at such a fast pace it is hard to keep up at times.
Yet amidst this change the Gospel breaks in – the Good News of Jesus Christ. This Good News is that God loves and wants to be in relationship with humans – in such relationship that God came to Earth so we could know God, and God could know us. Christianity is big and complex – and yet this message is the heart of the Christian message. It is strikingly simple and deep at the same time.
So amidst all the change, how does the message of the Good News impact people? How is the change people experience talked about in preaching? Are the busy, changing lives we lead even mentioned in sermons or in church, and if they are, how are they connected to the bigger narrative of God’s relationship with humanity?
Below are the proposed plans for the fellowship year – this will be updated somewhat as we arrive in each country and learn more about each place.
– Focus: Race, education, community development
“If I cannot change when the circumstances demand it, how can I expect others to?” Nelson Mandela
South Africa is a nation that has encountered much change in the past twenty years. Redemption Point, an interracial, intercultural, and intergenerational church in Pinetown, near Durban, will act as host for the first four months in the country. The focus will be with them and their non-governmental organization Creating Opportunities for Community Advancement (COCA), learning about the changes happening in the country and how these affect preaching. The second four months will be spent in other parts of the country with similar organizations, learning about their experiences with change.
– Focus: Growth of Christianity, agricultural development
“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” Isaiah 55:12-13
Cameroon has experienced great growth in Christianity in recent years. Preaching, church administration, and leadership will all come to the foreground here, with one of the biggest questions being “how is this growth happening?”
I will also spend time working on a newly created farm. A local pastor has been transforming his land from overgrown brush into workable, arable land that can feed his family and other needy people in the community. Through conversations with him and local leaders, I will come to understand how they use the farm to advance the mission of God in the world and how this is changing people’s lives.
– Focus: Communal living, reflection, monastic change
“As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” Proverbs 27:19
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.” Acts 2:42-44
We will be staying in two monastic communities – Pluscarden Abbey, near Elgin, and Iona Abbey, on the Isle of Iona. Worship, gardening, cleaning, prayer and other daily activities will be sought out, all the while learning from the monks what change means in their context (which by the larger society is often seen as changeless), and how they view change in the rest of the world. Can what they do in devotion and time spent intentionally devoted to God be replicated outside of those walls?