N. Gordon Cosby: Death of a Personal Hero and Church Innovator
by Greg Klimovitz
“At this point in my life, and at this point in our world’s life, I am asking what is to be my focus – to what am I to be giving my limited time and energy? What is the new thing, the genuine thing, that God wants me to be learning, doing, being now?
For me the central question is what it means to be the authentic church of Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected. What is its nature? Its essence? And how can that essence be structured and expressed so as to become a healing agent in the world?”
—Gordon Cosby, Becoming the Authentic Church
N. Gordon Cosby was missional before being missional was cool. N. Gordon Cosby was innovative before innovation sold books. N. Gordon Cosby dared the church to be different, take risks, carry its cross, and follow Jesus no matter what the cost. Read any book on missional theology or missional church paradigms, you are almost certain to see his work cited in footnotes or endnotes.
Just ask Darrell Guder, who wrote Missional Church. Yet many still do not even know the name. His deep legacy cannot even be discovered on Wikipedia! Still, I consider him to be the most influential writer, pastor, teacher, preacher, practitioner, and innovator I have ever read or met. He ranks among the top within my list of personal heroes.
Those at Church of the Saviour told me that Cosby was on MLK’s proverbial “speed-dial,” as a white voice for racial reconciliation during the Civil Rights Movement.
N. Gordon Cosby believed the church was called to transform the very communities and neighborhoods it called home. He cried with prophetic vigor for the church to journey inwardly so to serve outwardly.
Church of the Saviour, the ecumenical Christian community he founded in Washington D.C. in 1947, has continued to do just that. I am grateful that I was able to spend a week immersed in their community life in 2009. I look forward to on-going returns.
But today…today I am saddened that Gordon will no longer be huddled around a table at The Potter’s House with eager listeners, learners, and practitioners of the faith. I grieve that he will no longer write pamphlets or speak hunched over a podium. I lament that I will not have an opportunity to have a prolonged conversation with such an influential voice.
N. Gordon Cosby died yesterday at the age of 95. Gordon’s journey inward, which propelled him outward, has now launched him onward, where he rests until Christ comes again and makes all things new and right!
I am certain he will innovate even then! But for now, let’s keep dreaming his dreams.
“If you love the church but are disillusioned, disheartened, discouraged by what it has become- we invite you to dream with us. If you are weighted down by the choices you have made for your own life, and you long to become the freed and freeing person that God desires, unleashing the gift of who you really are- we want you to dream with us. If you are hungry for the passionate, healing way of Jesus and would be our companion on the journey- we need you to dream with us.”
—N. Gordon Cosby, Becoming the Authentic Church)
“The Church of the Holy Spirit is full of variety. Sameness and conformity are the demands of alien spirits.” —N. Gordon Cosby in Elizabeth O’Connor’s, Eighth Day of Creation