Samuel Wells: Being With the World
Being With the World
(Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2018)
WHO: Samuel Wells, vicar of St. Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square, London.
HE SAYS: “The key difference between being with the church (incarnational ministry) and being with the world (incarnational mission) is that in the church one can assume that ministry is recognized and discipleship sought, whereas in the world one can make neither assumption.”
THE BIG IDEA: This book is about three things: mission, the world and “being with.” As Samuel explores the notion of “being with” as an emerging theme in theology, he sets out to stimulate a renewal of reflective practice in mission. This book also ponders what constitutes the mission of “being with” as distinct from more established portrayals of mission.
Divided into two main parts, this book starts with an examination of individuals in relation to their standing before God. Drawing on the Gospels, Acts and personal experience, Samuel writes The first five chapters look at five kinds of unbelievers: the lapsed, seekers, those of no professed faith, those of other faiths and the hostile.
In the last four chapters, Samuel looks at the corporate, from the question of faith sharing to a more general idea of witness. He also writes about being with neighbors, organizations, institutions, government and the excluded.
“Christianity isn’t simply about satisfying people’s hunger. It’s a huge gamble on the hunch that what people are really hungry for is something they don’t know the name of, and wouldn’t initially recognize when they found it.”
A Conversation with the Author
- Unpack what you mean by saying “with is the most important word in the Christian faith.”
The Trinity is fundamentally a relationship, a circle of uninhibited with. It’s not just three persons; it’s the utter connection of their being with one another. With, we discover in John 1, is how the Son relates to the Father. The Word became flesh and dwelt with us. The cross is above all the moment when Jesus has to choose between being with us and being with the Father: and he chooses us: on that choice our salvation depends.
- How can pastors on the front lines model being with people for their congregations?
By reflecting on the example of Jesus, who spent a week in Jerusalem working for us, three years in Galilee working with us, and 30 years in Nazareth being with us. If God spent 90% of the incarnation being with, why should we be different? This book is written to explore the eight dimensions of being with – presence, attention, mystery, delight, participation, partnership, enjoyment, and glory.
- How is this book a “meditation on the ways of God”?
It is a deep pondering of how God is with the world and of how we may imitate the way God is with the world. It is also an attempt to explore the implications of the conviction that God gives the church everything it needs – and if the church experiences its life as scarcity, perhaps it’s ignoring the gifts God is abundantly giving it, notably the ones that come from the ‘world.’