We were delighted to host Will WIllimon at EBM for the second occasion, six years after he was first with us. This time he addressed a group of 25 clergy and community workers on the subject of mission. Beginning with a review of John Davison Hunter’s book “To Change the World” the conversation then moved to the church in the world. (I read that book last year and really must blog a few comments)
There were many things to take away from the morning, not least his stories, but there were two stand outs for me. It struck a number of us, including Jools Hamilton who mentioned it in the sum up of the morning, the way in which Will seamlessly integrated his frequent biblical reflections with the discussion of politics, ecclesiology, economics and so on. This was no proof-texting, or straining for a bible verse justification. It was simply that the text of the Scriptures has so permeated his thinking that it was natural to speak in biblical categories.
The second thing for me was the way he described the message of Jesus. Every time we think we have it pinned down, it forces us to change position. So when we imagine we have it right in thinking that Gospel is for the poor, for instance, Jesus confuses us by targeting the richest man in town in Zacchaeus. It struck me that those of us involved in inner urban mission can be so self-righteous about our calling. As soon as we settle for this however, and get comfortable, Jesus shatters our illusions.
Oh, and there was a third thing. When it comes to changing the world, he said, we must be wary of thinking that the small things don’t matter. Stephen Dallas mentioned his own efforts at coaching a youth football team, and an unsuccessful one at that. The Bishop was very taken by the story told, and remarked how, as followers of Jesus, we are committed to the only true reality, which is defined in and by him. Stephen’s work with these disaffected young people only makes sense as a world changing act in the context of the bigger story of the Gospel. I can’t tell you how encouraging I found that.
Anyway, it was a thoughtful and engaging morning, made more so by the incredible diversity of people who turned up. Methodists, Presbyterians, Church of Ireland, Baptists, independent churches, women and men, clergy and lay, from mid-twenties to late seventies. Great stuff.
Anyway, here’s a snatch of video.