I believe it was missionary theologian Lesslie Newbigin who said that the incarnation—God coming in the flesh in Jesus—was God’s great missionary act. Jesus came as a baby on a mission to save us and to proclaim God’s good news to the world. Christmas, therefore, celebrates God’s mission to reconcile to himself all things through Jesus Christ. Christ’s mission began not with pomp and power but with his birth as a vulnerable baby.
When I was a campus missionary at a secular university, I had no standing, privilege, or power. The university was wary of our presence as religious clergy. Most students regarded Christianity as either irrelevant or as a barrier to progress. I did not have an office, let alone “a ministry center.” I did not have a team of staff or volunteers. I was marginalized and vulnerable. But I drew strength and courage from Christ’s example and, by God’s grace, over the course of 15 years developed relationships, networks, volunteers, and credibility.
In an increasingly post-Christian culture, perhaps we need to learn how to bear witness not from a position of power and strength but of weakness and vulnerability.
I want to take this opportunity to thank our readers and donors for responding so generously to our annual appeal. As of the time of writing, total donations have exceeded our $300,000 goal by almost $86,000, an amount that also exceeds last year’s total. Your generosity means that we need to draw less funds from ministry shares, freeing up those dollars for other ministries that might need them. Your gifts, therefore, benefit more than just The Banner. We are truly grateful and hope that you will support us again next March.
Around this time last year, we also sent out a readers’ survey to measure how well we are doing. Over 1,200 of you completed that online survey. Nearly 80 percent of respondents were either very or somewhat satisfied with The Banner. You told us why you read The Banner, which sections you read the most, what you value, and where we are lacking. I thank you all for sharing your opinions.
The survey results helped us to see how we might improve The Banner to serve you better. And indeed, we’ll be making some of those changes to both print and online versions for the new year. In January 2018 we are launching a revamped Banner.
This new Banner will have fresh content and a fresh look. There will be new columns, including “Cross Examination,” which will focus on why we believe what we believe. Based on the survey results, the third-most read column, after the features and the editorial, is the “Frequently Asked Questions” column. In the new format, this column will be expanded from its present three questions to four questions over two pages and will get a new name: “Big Questions.” No doubt there will be some fine-tuning and adjustments over the course of 2018 as we live into this new Banner. You can see a sneak peek of the new Banner on the next page [in the print edition].
We are excited to present these changes. But our goal is still the same: to be your trusted source of news on the Christian Reformed Church and of thought-provoking ideas to stimulate conversations for spiritual growth. Thank you, and may you have a blessed Christmas.