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Dwelling in the word as we dwell in the world


Dwelling in the word. It is a recurring metaphor in Alan Roxburgh's book, Missional: Joining God in the Neighborhood. It derives from the wisdom of Leslie Newbigin, an Anglican missionary to India in the 1930s, who discovered that he needed to relearn the gospel. Newbigin's missionary approach was to sit with local people to listen and learn.

He began to read the gospel from the perspective of the other: "he came to understand the extent of his captivity to the canons of modernity and the West and his assumption that these canons were the right and only ways of reading the gospel" (page 35).

His new neighbors were opening him up to a new perspective of the gospel. It drove him more deeply into the scriptures.

We tend to read the world from the context of scripture, as Newbigin said he did when he arrived in India from England. What if we turned that around, and read scripture from the context of the world? What if we approached the gospel in light of Grand Jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island, Ebola and ISIS, and the growing public awareness of sexual assault – and what is going on in the neighborhood of our church or our soul?

There is a lot of darkness in the world. We can bring that darkness to the text. The light of the gospel can guide us in and through that darkness if we can dwell in the word as we dwell in the world.

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