Paul Fromont of Prodigal Kiwi(s) has posted several times on well-known British author, pastor, and church leader, Dave Tomlinson's visit to the Diocese of Waikato. Dave's home community is St Luke's, Islington, North London.
Today, on an unfortunately wet, miserable Nelson day - normally we are the sunshine capital of NZ - Dave shared with us his thoughts, stories, and musings on the future of the church, mission, and kingdom of God in a world which we, perhaps, fail to understand. Speaking personally, my thinking on church was challenged in numerous ways. I will just mention three.
(1) Is my conception of God too small?
God, Dave reminded us, is bigger than Christianity, is at work ahead of the church which is always running to catch God up, and never set up the church to be a club with tight borders.
(2) Is the Western world secularised as we Christians often observe, or is it deeply spiritual in ways we do not see?
With some lovely, and sometimes heart-rending stories, Dave shared with us his experiences of talking to people Christians would label as 'non-Christian', indeed some of whom might even label themselves as 'atheists', and yet who are deeply spiritual, searching and questing for something outside of themselves, yet not instinctively thinking life in the church is the answer they seek.
(3) What kind of orthodoxy, and what kind of historical faith do I think I subscribe to?
Dave reminded us that orthodoxy that is ossified leads to sterility, and proposed 'progressive orthodoxy' as a way of being orthodox which was open to the ever-changing context in which the church finds itself. He also pointed out, following Maurice Wiles, that 'historical' can both refer to our past as something fixed and which we mess with at our peril, and to the character of Christianity as something which has adapted to changing patterns of history since its inception. He did not urge the latter over the former, but suggested keeping both in mind is important.
There was more much more, including this gem about the nature of ministry: 'the pre-requisite of ministry is that we like people'!
... and then the thought, shared more than once, that Jesus never asked anyone to follow him by believing in propositions ...
In sum the day reminded me of this text:
"My dear friends, let us love one another because the source of love is God." (1 John 4:7)