Een artikel uit de Ecumenical Review van de World Council of Churches (oktober 2020)
Een beschrijving van hoe de NextGen (Next Generation) kerk uit New Jersey bewogen werd tot solidariteit en eenheid te midden van een pandemie.
NextGen Church is a multicultural church located in Princeton, New Jersey, under the leadership of the Rev. Dr Mia Chang and Minister Steve Ku. NextGen Church was started in 2008 by Chang, a second‐generation Korean American, in West Windsor, New Jersey. Her calling, as the name of the church revealed, was to the next generation. NextGen Church has a diverse group of people, with members from Asia, Africa, and South America. Those who does not identify themselves with one group, such as Blasian (Afro‐Asian), Latino‐Asian, or multi‐ethnic married couples, are free to join the church, since it does not impose one language or culture
This multicultural intention gives the church flexibility, especially regarding the idea of mission. Chang argues, “Many churches have limited ideas about mission.” She believes “mission is the DNA of the church.” For NextGen Church, mission is not a one‐time event – going a great distance and doing some unusual activity; rather, it is manifesting Christ’s love at all times, in all things, and in all places. For this church, mission is Christ’s love manifested in the world. As St Paul argues, “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (2 Cor. 5:14‐15).
Participation in God’s mission is about living not for self but for Christ’s love. As David Bosch maintains, “mission is God’s self‐revelation as the One who loves the world, God’s involvement in and with the world, the nature and activity of God, which embraces both the church and the world, and in which the church is privileged to participate.”10 Thus, “mission is God’s ‘yes’ to the world . . . God’s love and attention are directed primarily at the world, and mission is ‘participation in God’s existence in the world.’”11 The church can only claim to participate in God’s mission through manifesting Christ’s kind of love for the world. The new commandment Jesus gave is summarized thus: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). The love of Christ for the world forms the basic foundation and the prerequisite for authentic participation in God’s existence in the world.
The church’s authentic solidarity with society and the world is the manifestation of Christ’s love.
NextGen Church regards itself as participating in God’s mission. The pandemic did not change the church’s missional identity in God but has provided an opportunity for the church to enhance its participation in God’s missional endeavours in the world. The church demonstrates that a shift from the traditional idea of mission as “what we do” to “who we are” is essential. NextGen Church is an example of the significance of the churches that have paid attention to the shifts taking place in missiological imaginations in the contemporary world. The churches that have understood mission as participation in God’s love for the world are churches that are missional at the core of their very being, with mission woven into every fibre of the church’s vision.
As the World Council of Churches plans for its 11th Assembly in 2022, three lessons can be drawn from NextGen Church about Christ’s love that moves the world to reconciliation and unity.
First, reconciliation and unity are not a task but a vision of the churches.
Second, how the local church strategically positions itself to embark on mission as part of the world church makes “church location” crucial for solidarity. Thus, how the church locates itself impacts its scope of influence, making it very local but global.
Finally, church culture has been significantly revealed through this pandemic. It has become clear that we can see to the core identity of a church through its culture. The church culture permeates the life of the church, providing various opportunities for discipleship through which members are gathered together and empowered for the sake of God’s mission.
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