From the Margins … The Way Forward … More Reflections from Western Europe

marginalization.gifQuite fitting it was to finish reading a Leslie Newbigin work on the flight over to Barcelona. Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship proved a great introduction to the thoughts if the late Michael Polanyi. Missionaries offer keen insight, especially when trying to get one’s mind around the discontinuous cultural changes we face here in North America. We do well to listen and discover the ways in which we have accommodated to a certain ethos, pathos and logos of a bygone era.

Newbigin asserts we may have built religous/spiritual infrastructure around Cartesian methodologies that undermine the move toward faith. Hoping to rival the indubitable certainties proffered by science, religious figures mounted a campaign to compete in an arena where neither discipline could possibly fare well. Achievements of objective knowing have been greatly exaggerated. When the Church hitched its proverbial wagon to the Enlightenment,

It was almost inevitable that the collapse of confidence in the great project of the Enlightenment should carry with it a collapse of confidence in the validity of the church’s worldwide missionary enterprise.

From Newbigin’s experience he witnessed sudden collapses. An entire continent once thought its mission was to bring civilization to the rest of the world now seemed to come to the place where religion once a vehicle of enculturation was pressed to the edges, marginalized. He notes the disconnect between the world of the individual and the “real” world in which people live and move. The dualism created by these two places of living sent people spiraling toward a nihilism void of real purpose. Exploring the real world placed a distant second to, “Who am I?”

Listening to missionaries in Western Europe seemed to evidence Newbigin’s description. Missing from Western Europe are the stories of widespread evangelization. Rather than a vibrant house church movement or the existence of a strengthening Christian movement noted in the global south, these missionaries face the difficult task of offering a voice from the margins. We pastors who spent the week in Barcelona sense the setting here in the States is not dissimilar.

Speaking from the margins reminds me of Father Richard Rohr’s article that forms the title of this blog, “The Edge of the Inside.” It may well be time to explicate just why I chose this for a title.

To my new friends, let’s learn together how to live the way of Jesus from the margins for the glory of God and the blessing of the world. I will be looking to learn from you.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

3 comments on “From the Margins … The Way Forward … More Reflections from Western Europe

  1. I have risen from the ashes to bring you an interesting message my dear brother. I was having a conversation with one of our state guys yesterday. Despite my illness, I am sure that he made the statement that Delaware was more like Connecticut & the Northeast than Maryland. He should know, he was the church planting guy in the Boston area before he came to Maryland/Delaware.

    I was incredibly affirmed by this line of discussion. It gave me a greater appreciation for our brothers that we hung out with last week. IT also affirmed my course of ministry. I was blessed to be with our new friends.

  2. Ann says:

    Everywhere I go in the World, whether Eastern Europe, Africa or South America, there they are, the missionaries. Why?

    When I was in Tanzania, I never met such people who gave so much, even though they had nothing to give, literally. When I was in Ukraine, I never met more devote people. So, why would missionaries travel these countries and others to convert those people to their own point of view? There arenâ??t that many missionaries from European countries. Most are from the USA. Why?

    I once thought that Christianity was the religion of love; more than any other religion, so I was taught, it stressed love, love of oneâ??s neighbor and love of God. But, now, having grown, having seen the world a different light, I cannot help but think there has got to be more to all those missionaries found throughout the world than merely selling the words of Jesus.

    Considering the influence of the religion in US politics in recent years, I wonder if missionaries are pushing another agenda, a more political agenda upon the worldâ??s people, if only in a round-about way.

  3. Todd Littleton says:


    I cannot speak for all of the missionaries you encountered. I believe I can speak for those I spent time with. There interest in US politics is minimal. In fact, truth be told, it is often US Foreign Policy that makes their work in parts of the world much more difficult.

    As to “selling the words of Jesus,” I think this is a bit disingenuous to those I know. They are not selling but trying to faithfully live the very axioms you noted – love others with gentleness and respect in the way of Jesus and love for God. If you have had an unfortunate experience where a missionary was peddling someone’s politics that is regretful.

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