The mission of Christians requires humility as well as the bravery to make committed decisions, according to former Christian Aid director, Michael Taylor.
Taylor was addressing the Student Christian Movement (SCM) conference this morning (20 February) on the themes of mission and vocation.
He suggested that rather than hankering after certainty, Christians should recognise that uncertainty can be the motivation for humility without undermining commitment. He urged his audience to be “humble enough to recognise the reality of uncertainty and brave enough to make a decision and commit yourselves to action”.
Taylor, who was a Baptist minister before taking the helm at Christian Aid from 1985-97, said he was speaking as an activist but insisted it was a mistake to base faith around either activism or contemplation rather than seeing the need for both.
In this context, he described vocation as an “ongoing spiral of action and reflection” and said it was not about “finding your way once and for all”.
Encouraging an acceptance of the limits of human experience and understanding, he said that this need not lead to relativism. Instead, he spoke of the need for “crossing borders” so that people encounter others different to themselves.
“Cross the border if you want to be wise and discover what it is you have to do,” he explained.
Praising the “kind of openness that we find in SCM”, he said that “we should not be intimidated by Christian religious believers, or any religious believers, who come to us and say that they’re certain”.
But he warned SCM against the dangers of “soft” community, instead encouraging a potentially more unsettling “community of difference”. He also said that SCM should avoid the path taken by some churches and other organisations, which seem to exist for their own sake rather than for a more meaningful, outward-looking purpose.
The talk was followed by warm applause, appreciative comments and questions. A number of questioners challenged particular points, suggesting a diversity of opinion in the room, and several participants pushed Taylor on the need to give a central place to Christ.
However, the depth and general approach of the talk seemed to be appreciated by people of varying views and backgrounds.
“I’ve never heard a Christian talk like that before,” explained Chloe Young, 18, a student at the Royal Northern College of Music. She told Ekklesia that she appreciated “the openness and willingness for listening and discussion rather than ‘right and wrong’ rules”.
The SCM conference, Living It Out, which concludes tomorrow (21 February), is focusing on the themes of “spirituality, vocation, activism and mission”.