Always new, and nothing new (Ian Adams)

Ian Adams reflects on the need for humility and boldness in 21st Century mission.

The word 'mission' has in many ways become tainted by cultural imperialism and domination. It's a tough act to reclaim any word from its baggage, and some suggest that the word itself needs to be replaced. Reclaimed or replaced, either way it's my sense that whatever word we use, the possibility of the Jesus tradition as a way of life bringing the healing of all things is waiting to be explored, experienced and offered humbly as gift to the world.

And this mission will need to be more humble than it has been for many centuries. As a faith community we have too often not lived in the spirit of Jesus. Mission in his name in the 21st century will need to rediscover humility.

But this humility may release a new boldness! From a starting place of humility emerges a new and quiet freedom to live the Jesus-path with grace and imagination, to encounter him around us and within us, and to offer ourselves in the Christ's name as small gifts towards the world's healing.

It requires a pioneering spirit to see new possibilities and nurture them into being. And there's a powerful sense of newness present whenever we engage in the Spirit's dreamings. With the Psalm-writers of the Jewish scriptures a new song is always being sung.

But there is also a vital need to sense connection to what has gone before. If mission is always new it will always be at the same time, in the very best sense, nothing new. There will be newness because the Holy Spirit seems always to be ahead of us, imagining new life in an ever-changing context. There will be connection with what has gone before because it is the same Holy Spirit who is inspiring the mission. Interestingly for many people it is the ancient roots of the Jesus tradition that are particularly attractive, a deep well from which we may draw 'a spring of water gushing up' for life.

This mix of old and new is vital. In the faith tradition we are one people, one Church. This keeps us connected to our brothers and sisters who may express their sense of mission in a very different way to us. Traditional or experimental, both count, both matter. Whatever it looks like, what is important is the spirit in which your mission is lived and expressed, with St Paul's 'abiding faith, hope and love' as a possible guide.

The connection between always new and nothing new keeps us both humble and bold. Your fresh expression of church is just one more in a long line of such adventures, and you are just amongst the latest to be trying to respond to what God is calling into being. That revelation calls for humility. But your expression of mission is yet one more in a whole line of such callings. You are being entrusted with something precious and, its own small way, important. That revelation calls for boldness!

May your fresh expression of church thrive on the mix of humility and boldness that comes from being always new, and nothing new:

  • what do you sense are the close points of connection in your mission as a fresh expression with what has gone before?
  • what is the newness of the thing you are shaping, the new song you are singing?

6 thoughts on “Always new, and nothing new (Ian Adams)”

  1. Beautifully written

    In response to our prayers ‘How can we serve you Lord ?’, my husband and I are each becoming a fresh expression; refreshed daily as we learn to surrender all, journey deeper and engage our thirst with His bountiful supply of living waters.
    “Mission” flows as those who the Lord brings into friendship with us ‘catch’ what He is pouring into us and we ‘catch’ what He is pouring into them.

    Duw ach bendithio
    God bless you as you drink
    Shepherds Stream Retreat, Powys

    1. Thanks for this Gill.

      I love what you are saying here about mission happening very naturally, and the metaphors of pouring and catching. Thank you!

      peace to you and Shepherds Stream Retreat

    1. Thanks Steve for this. That’s very helpful.
      Perhaps with brokenness we also need a recovery of the sense of our deeper God-given at-oneness, our true state of being?
      Thanks and peace to you

  2. Thanks for this very helpful reflection Ian. You help us see the dangers and the opportunities. We’ve just got Street Pastors going in past year or so here – humbly serving the night-time community in very small, practical ways. But this small start is leading already to some wonderful opportunities for further service. Recognising, and giving thanks for the fact, that many have gone before us. We’re living with the pain here of a Royal Commission which has been showing how the church can get it so wrong. Saying sorry, being authentic, small contributions, serving others with humility. Thank you so much for this timely reminder, and wish you and your family rich blessings. David and Gwen

    1. David and Gwen many thanks for your comment. Great to hear of your Street Pastors start up. Humility and boldness together open up great possibilities. May you be blessed in this and in all your work. Grace and peace to you Ian

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