All talked out

One hundred and one years ago, there was a very important conference in Edinburgh. One hundred years later there was another conference in Cape Town inspired by the conference in Edinburgh. Today  there was a conference in London talking about the conference in Cape Town and its development of the themes from the conference in Edinburgh.

The findings of the conference about the conference were presented in a shiny book, and helpfully annotated at today’s conference by the extremely capable theologian who had put it together. The book has two principal thrusts, sixteen major sections, and between them they have one hundred and thirty-five subsections, along with a few further sub-divisions on the next level down.  The bits which I have read are insightful, challenging, thoughtful and profound.

However, when a plea was given from the front by a senior figure behind both conference and book that we should ‘take it to our churches and pass on the insights’, my heart began to sink a little. Would my church really want to hear about, much less study, the one hundred and thirty-five subsections, I wonder? And if so, which of the regular weekly activities or pastoral concerns would be put on one side whilst they did so? Church always holds heavenly aspiration and earthly reality in tension- but at that moment I felt it particularly acutely.

There has to be a place in the Kingdom for big-picture thinking and hard theological questioning. I’m all for it, in fact. However, there also has to be some realism about how and where that thinking strikes the ground of the local mission field.

What do you think?