Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How many "salvations"?

One of the statistics I had to report to my national church was "how many 'salvations' there had been between July 1st last year and June 30 in my church?". My denomination in NZ these days has gone conservative and I am no longer in tune with it. What is meant by "Salvations"? I know what they mean... I think... how many came up to the front and "Confessed Christ" or something like that. But is that Biblical? Isn't it a limited view of what Jesus was all about?

I read once about a survey among the Bible Belt in America. (It was in an evangelical magazine) There were a whole lot of lifestyle questions, about values and perspectives and goals. The thing that the survey found was that there was very little difference between those who were "saved" and those who did not profess to be Christian. They were just as materialistic in their goals, they were just as racist, they were just as likely to have an affair, they were just as mean etc. etc. It seemed their religious "salvation" was not making much difference to their lifestyle. They were not being really changed on the inside.

When Jesus healed someone physically it is said "he made them whole." It is the same root word as the word "salvation". Salvation is the process of being made whole, and one reason I am a minister is that I believe that Jesus can put us on the road to wholeness and keep us traveling that road. I am both "saved" but also "being saved". For me salvation is a journey toward wholeness.. I am being shaped and moulded... I encounter new challenges and discover new things about life and the sacred, salvation is a journey and process. I know this because I can look back and see that I am being saved, healed and changed. Saved from myself. Saved from the pressures of the values in the world about me.

So "how many salvations"? I have seen changes in some of the people in the drop-in... salvation! I have seen changes in me... salvation! I have seen fire fighters become softer, more giving people... salvation! I have seen a family move into a house and become more settled... salvation! I have seen kids at our Ocean Grove cottage venture have to reason through their behaviour and become wiser in the to and fro of conversation... salvation! I have seen volunteers at our Christmas dinner come alive to the spirit of Christ and love the act of giving and sharing... salvation! and I could go on. Now I know my national body people would not agree with me... but I am sure God celebrates these "salvations"... even if they are small steps he has been able to lead people along in the journey of salvation.

So I objected to having to list off "How many salvations" there had been. Not just because there had been none... in their terms... but because I have moved beyond that concept of "Salvation". I think it belittles the mind, heart and movement of God! Often too I think it creates just a religious expression of the selfishness that Jesus came to save us from! It does not really change the self-focus, it just makes it religious. Salvation for me, is becoming more and more "joined" to God, to others, to creation. It is having an ever wider circle of concern, solidarity and compassion.

I did answer the question to how many salvations there were.... they could not disagree with my answer... My answer? .... "God only knows!"

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