#9: Transcending Structures and Social Change #TaylorTuesdays


To say that the individual is so much a captive of the structures of society that the only way of salvation is by destroying the old structures and building new is a counsel of despair; for who is there to bring about the change if all are really being determined by the structures? The system in that case will stamp its mark even upon the revolution which seeks to overthrow it.

Structures can only be changed by those who are already freed to stand back from them and inwardly transcend them. Even sociological change, therefore, must be activated by personal revolt and response. The responsible freedom which the Spirit lays upon those who are alive in Christ makes them agents of liberation through their disobedience to sociological necessity. They will not fit the theory. They will be saved in order to save.

The Go-Between God, p.162

How does social change happen?

Over the last couple of weeks, Russell Brand’s edition of New Statesman, and his interview with Jeremy Paxman, have been garnering a lot of interest and attention. In the interview, Paxman seemed to be mainly concerned with Brand’s refusal to vote, and whether this is really an effective way to bring about change.

For a long time there have been discussions among pioneers about whether change comes from inside or outside of structures. This could apply to both the structure of society, or to the structures of the institutional church. For Taylor, the answer seems to be clear: there is no getting outside of structures which affect us.

However, with the Spirit at work within us we can have the freedom to rise above them. It is this unwillingness to ‘fit the mould’ which enables us to provide a prophetic voice into society and culture.

Some questions to ponder:

  • What do you think J.V. Taylor would make of Russell Brand’s agenda for change?
  • In what ways might you be called to be a prophetic voice of liberation in your mission context?
  • What creative forms could that prophetic voice take?


What do you think? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment.

Each Tuesday we’re posting a quote from John V. Taylor with some thoughts and questions for reflection. John (or J.V.) Taylor (1914 – 2001) was the General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, and Bishop of Winchester, and wrote several seminal books on theology of mission, including The Go-Between God: The Holy Spirit and the Christian Mission and The Primal Vision: Christian Presence Amid African Religion. Find all the Taylor Tuesdays posts here.
About the author: James Henley
James Henley
James has been with The Lab since 2007 and leads our team. He's an ordained pioneer minister in the Church in Wales.