Leslie Newbigin

By Keld Dahlmann, Senior Guardian

In 1974 a 65-year old man retired as a missionary and bishop, serving more than 40 years in India. Him and his wife Helen made their way overland back to the UK using local buses, carrying two suitcases and a rucksack, meeting lots of local people during their long travel (I just think that detail is very telling about who there where) They then settled in Birmingham, where he became a Lecturer in Mission. His name was LESSLIE NEWBIGIN.

Because ha had been away from western culture for the majority of his life, he had the gift to revisit western culture almost as an outsider and expose the underlying assumptions in our culture that the church to a far extent had given into. For the rest of his life his writings focused on the serious need for the church to once again take the Gospel to post-Christian Western culture, which he viewed - not as a secular society without gods - but as a pagan society with false gods. He then began to reshape the thinking around gospel & culture, mission & ecclesiology to an extent that he often is called the “father” of the missional church movement, 

As a young student i came across Newbigins writings. Especially “The gospel in a pluralist society” was (and still is) highly challenging and inspiring . The last chapter in the book is around the question of leadership, Newbigins asks: what kind of leadership will it take to lead a missionary congregation? (that was before the invention of the term “missional church”) His own answer is: leadership is - first and foremost - discipleship.

That question became the dominant question for me after my encounter with Newbigin: how do we put discipleship and mission at the core of who we are and what we do? Later i wrote my theological thesis around “missional leadership”. To a far extent our global family - The Order of Mission - is one (of many), imperfect, try-as-you-go, living it out, practical responses to Newbigins legacy.