The Japanese missionary to Thailand, Kosuke Koyama, once reminded the
church to practice "neighbourology." As a Christian in a non-Christian
Asian culture he had learned that before someone would listen to
Christian theology she or he needed to experience being treated as a
neighbor with respect and concern for his or her human needs.
The mission of the church involves both theology and "neighbourology."
One of the ways we can fulfill our mission as Florida United
Methodists is to practice "neighbourology" by having a social ministry
and witness. We seek ways to both directly serve the needs of others and
address public issues from a Christian perspective. Many of our churches
are very effective in their social ministry and witness.
Should the United Methodist Christians in Florida embrace a common
social ministry and witness? Is there some form of service to others we
should do together? Are there some issues in which all of us should
engage together? To answer those questions requires a discernment of the
Spirit. As we talk and pray, we may discover that there is indeed a
common social ministry or witness we should embrace. This will be one of
the tasks of our Conference Table. If we are led to developing a common
focus, then we could have a greater impact upon people and our society
than we shall have if there is no common focus.
However we are led by the Spirit in our exploration of a common
social ministry and witness, the claims of "neighbourology" lie upon all
of us as a people of faith. As the apostle James wrote, "If a brother or
sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go
in peace, keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their
bodily needs, what is the good of that? So, faith by itself, if it has
no works is dead."