Kia ora e te whanau

Again because it has a limited distribution, what follows is my latest offering to the Methodist Monthly publication ‘Touchstone’.

In Christ

Born in 1884. E.Stanley Jones was an American Methodist Missionary to India where he served 50+ years. Jones abhorred racism and worked tirelessly in the interfaith space. He was a friend of Ghandi and the Nehrus, and a confidant of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

As we might expect Jones was a committed ecumenist – to quote Wikipedia:

In 1947 in the United States, he launched the Crusade for a Federal Union of Churches. He conducted mass meetings from coast to coast and spoke in almost five hundred cities, towns and churches. He advocated a system through which denominations could unite as they were, each preserving its own distinctive emphasis and heritage, but accepting one another and working together in a kind of federal union patterned after the United States’ system of federal union. 

Jones died in India early 1973, just short of his 90th birthday. He was truly one of the most remarkable people of the 20th Century.

I’ve got to know Jones a little – his theology, his thinking, his heart. I don’t agree with everything he said, like all of us he had his own foibles, yet his book ‘In Christ’ has been a constant companion over the past two decades. Why did Jones write this book? To quote his introduction:

This twenty-third book is the result of a feeling of a need. The need is this:

Some concept that would reduce the whole of life to the utmost simplicity. If you have that, you’re “in”; if you don’t have it, you’re “out.” By “in” I mean “in life,” and by “out,” “out of life.” I felt I had found that concept in the phrase “in Christ.” If you are “in Christ” you’re “in life”; if you are “out of Christ” you’re “out of life.” If that proposition be true, then it cuts down through all veneer, all seeming, all make-believe, all marginalisms, all halfwayisms — through everything — and brings us to the ultimate essence of things: If you are “in Christ” you are in life; if you are “out of Christ” you’re out of life, here and now, and hereafter…..

The phrase “in Christ” is the ultimate phrase in the Christian faith, for it locates us in a Person — the Divine Person — and it locates us in Him here and now. It brings us to the ultimate relationship — “in.” Obviously this “in” brings us nearer than “near Christ,” “fol­lowing Christ,” “believing in Christ,” or even “committed to Christ.” You cannot go further or deeper than “in.”

To be “in Christ” means to pull up the roots of one’s very life from the soil of sin and self and herd and plant them “in Christ.” He becomes the source of our life, the source of our thinking, our feeling, our acting, our being.

This obviously involves self-surrender. Not merely the surrender of our sins, our bad habits, our wrong thinking, and our wrong motives, but of the very self behind all these. All of these are symp­toms ; the un-surrendered self is the disease. So the phrase “in Christ” is not only the ultimate concept, but it demands the ultimate act —  self-surrender. …..

One would expect that this ultimate concept in Christianity, “in Christ,” leading to the ultimate human response, self-surrender, would be deeply embedded in the New Testament. Is it? It is far more deeply embedded in the New Testament than many things upon which we have built whole denominations — the new birth, conver­sion, baptism of the Holy Spirit, justification by faith, baptism by water, apostolic succession, presbyters, bishops, forms of church government, inner light, absence of forms.

I don’t doubt that the response of some will be “Andrew you’re simply promoting a form of exclusive individualised Christianity rather than recognising the call to participate in the cause of freedom and justice for all.” I recognise the tension.

What I can’t help noticing is that this ‘Missionary to India’ was one of the most effective promoters of the call to freedom and justice for all – and it sprang for a profound  spirituality being rooted ‘in Christ”. There was a deep generosity of spirit within Jones as he reached across all barriers with the love and acceptance that was in him – because he was “in Christ”.

To adapt the words of a well-known series of tv adds – “I want what he had”.

Personal and Leadership Resources

This week, just one.

Why I Told My Dad to Spend More Money

As I read it, it made logical sense. Except, what struck me about it, is that while it sounds simple, we’re asking someone to break the habit of a lifetime.

The reality is that many of us live out of a poverty mindset (guilty as charged), and worry about running out – turning this around may require learning a new skill. At first it will be difficult. As with many changes of habit, it starts with noticing. The short article can be read here:


Trevor Hoggard addresses the lectionary readings 1 Sam 8:4-11,19,20;  2 Cor 4:13 – 5:1; and Mark 3:20-30. He makes a plea for a circumspect attitude to politics and refusing to get tied up with the rhetoric of unduly partisan positions which prevent us for listening to alternative perspectives.  Trevor’s sermon can be experienced here:

My response to the Gospel text of Mark 3:20-35 is titled ‘Piling On’. I address the issue of that sense of being under attack from all sides – that some  would describe as ‘spiritual warfare’. It can be experienced here:

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