I recently completed Signs Amid the Rubble and I cannot recommend it enough. The lectures within – ranging from the 1940’s to the mid-1990’s – contain insights that are just as fresh today as when they were written. The very last lecture in the book, given at Salvador, Brazil to a missionary conference, struck home with me. He concludes with the following observation:
“I find it strange that conferences about mission and evangelism are often pervaded…by a kind of anxiety and guilt – as though this were a program that we have a responsibility to carry out and about which we’ve no been very successful. Isn’t it remarkable that according to the New Testament the whole thing begins with an enormous explosion of joy? The disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple praising God! It seems to me, the resurrection of Jesus was a kind of nuclear explosion which sent out a radioactive cloud, not lethal but life-giving, and that the mission of the church is simply the continuing communication of that joy – joy in the Lord.”
I think anyone who has been a part of discussion within Mainline Protestantism can relate to the anxiety and guilt that Newbigin names which, in my experience, often do reign in clergy gatherings and conferences. We sometimes talk as if all of this is up to us, and bearing God’s message is a task to complete rather than good news to share.
Instead, as the great Bishop reminds us, the mission of Jesus Christ is one of joy – a kind of radioactive cloud emanating across time and space, in which we participate as witnesses and heralds. Thanks – and joyful, exuberant praise – be to God.
From Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History by Lesslie Newbigin, ed. by Geoffrey Wainwright (Grand Rapids: Eerdman’s 2003), 121.