success stories

Book: Ministry at the Margins
Author: Anthony J. Gittins
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY pp.193

Excerpt from Introduction:

Mission is an impulsion, a driving onward, a commission to love God and neighbor actively. In a globalized world and a new Christian millennium the age-old question is as pertinent as ever: who is my neighbor? Many Christians continue to seek their neighbor across national and continental boundaries; but many more struggle to discover their neighbor much closer to home in the poor and dispossessed, the forgotten and abandoned, the abused and brutalized.

This book attempts to speak to all who take their missionary vocation seriously. It tries to challenge and encourage, to warn and to suggest, to offer thoughts about how we might continue to be more faithful and more Christlike in our approaches to other people. It addresses one of the fundamental paradoxes of our lives: that humanity is the same the world over, yet every single person is unique. It attempts to say something about preparing to encounter the “other” and to recognize a brother or sister. It deliberately repeats many times that “goodwill is not enough.” It tries to supplement good intentions with good preparation and good judgement.

Excerpt from Book:

As we self-consciously enter other people’s lives, we need tools, we need language, and we need to find meaning. A good place to begin is by discovering the difference between people’s actual experience and their deepest hopes.

If people everywhere were totally content and had satisfactory answers to all their questions, the gospel would have little excitement about outsiders’ Good News. This is why, in secularized societies seduced by the promise of progress, the gospel is far less relevant than it once was. But there is no society where people have no concerns or unanswered questions. People may be more or less able to manage, but they never stop asking the question “why” because unexpected things happen and life is not always predictable or controllable.

Ethos and worldview offer a helpful distinction. The ethos is the palpable experience of life as it is lived: the tone, spirit, or character of a particular culture. When you walk into a prison, a mosque, or a marketplace, the ethos is the typical “feel” or ambiance: it embraces the characteristic smells and sounds and sights. More generally, the ethos is the way things actually are. The ethos of a cathedral may be very different from that of a football stadium, but the ethos of Chartres cathedral is also very different from that of Coventry cathedral. The ethos of different places can be compared.

Worldview (from the German Weltanschauung), sometimes defined as the way a particular culture understands the world, is also glossed as philosophy of life. But worldview can refer to people’s perception of an underlying system or reality: as the way things should be if everything were running smoothly.

If ethos is the way things actually are, wordview is the way things ought to be. “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” said Oscar Wilde. If “the gutter” is the ethos for some people, then “the stars” represent their worldview. . . .

The Christian worldview is very different from any actual ethos. Christians proclaim continuing existence after death — a place of rest and bliss for the just. Missionaries assert that God is relevant and vitally committed to every person. We say the basileia, the Kingdom of God, the Realm of God, is already breaking through, already palpable in today’s world. Missionaries acknowledge this paradox: that the basiliea, while already to be felt, is nevertheless not yet in place — And this is precisely where the gospel of Jesus is relevant: it explains “how” God’s Realm can be promoted and “how” every ethos can be transformed. We announce that the Good News helps promote a more Godly worldview, where every tear will be wiped away and where justice and peace can be found.

Table of Contents:

Introduction: Passing over . . .

1. Movement and mission: approaching Christian ministry

2. Meaning and communication: living with integrity

3. Sense and nonsense: understanding other people

4. Merging agendas: looking for relevance

5. Proclaiming Good News: translating the Gospel

6. Gift-exchange and the gospel: discovering mutuality

7. A place for strangers: learning to be

8. Missionary as stranger: doing marginal ministry

Conclusion: . . coming back