I’ve been teaching students how to understand and read the Bible missionally for about a decade. This was my favourite piece of student feedback.
In the class was a student who had agreed to preach at his home church after term had finished. At the end of the module he said that the way he approached the sermon changed as a result of his studies. That’s how I knew the teaching had ‘landed’. Yes, there were good essays submitted. Yes, we had rich conversations. But here was someone whose learning had made the transition from classroom to pulpit. Some days you just have to punch the air and give thanks to God that you get to do this stuff for a living!
This July (23-27th) Rosalee Velloso Ewell and I will be teaching ‘Reading the Bible Missionally’ as part of Redcliffe College’s UK Summer School. It can be taken as part of our MA in Contemporary Missiology or as a standalone, non-validated week of teaching for personal and vocational development.
But why should you, a church leader, invest time immersed in a missional reading of the Bible? Here are five reasons why I think you’d love it and your ministry would be enriched by it.
Grasping more of the Bible
In my experience, a missional approach to reading the Bible grows our understanding and love for God’s Word. It deepens our appreciation of why we have the Bible, what God is saying through it, and how he uses it to shape us for his purposes in the world. I find my view of Scripture is enlarged and my sense of wonder deepened: ‘I can’t believe I’m in on this!’
Fresh ways to approach familiar texts
What biblical texts do you most associate with mission? Matt. 28? Luke 4? John 20? Gen. 12? Isa. 49? All vital passages for understanding God’s mission, of course. But have you ever found yourself wondering if there is more to say on these Scriptures? A missional reading of the Bible helps us to articulate questions we may not have considered before. In so doing it helps us to revisit familiar texts in fresh ways. To see this at work in the context of Bible study, see my previous post, Making Bible Studies Missional.
New approaches to neglected texts
One of the really exciting things about a missional reading of the Bible is the way this approach breaks open new possibilities for connecting ANY biblical text with God’s mission. This is not to downplay the complexity of reading certain texts missionally; indeed a good missional reading will probe those complexities. I’ve seen the benefit of a missional approach through students working fruitfully on Nahum, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Esther, as well as the Beatitudes, and women in Luke’s Gospel. And if you need further proof that a missional approach enables us to be attentive to an unlikely source of biblical reflection on mission, consider that my own PhD was on a missional reading of Job!
A more connected congregation
A missional reading makes us more attentive to mission in the Bible and the Bible in mission. It heightens our awareness of our identity as God’s people and our role together in God’s mission. At its best a missional reading of Scripture makes us all more attuned to the call to follow Jesus and make disciples. It challenges the whole congregation with a whole-Bible call to engage in God’s mission. It critiques the notion that there are those that ‘do mission’ and those that don’t. It confronts our simplistic divisions between ‘local’ and ‘global’. It comforts us in our pain and says that even in our brokenness (perhaps especially in our brokenness) we have a part to play in God’s purposes.
A missional approach to the Bible can be a way of encouraging a congregation to turn our disposition to God’s mission as a central part of who we are, rather than relegating it to the periphery. Because a missional reading breaks open multiple layers of possibility for thinking biblically about the Church’s participation in God’s mission, there will be no member of the congregation for whom it won’t apply.
Refreshment for your own life and ministry
Maybe you need to immerse yourself in a missional reading of Scripture just because it will do you good! Maybe you are tired, or feeling battered by the pressures of ministry. Maybe you feel like you’ve been running on empty or that you’re looking for a fresh approach to your preaching. Maybe you’re curious about what a missional reading might mean for your own Bible reading, prayer, preaching and leadership. Maybe you love studying but need the discipline of a structured programme.
Whatever the reason, maybe spending a week immersed in a missional reading will do you good! For more information on joining Rosalee and me this Summer, visit: UK Summer School, MA in Contemporary Missiology, or drop me line. For details of costs and how to apply to ‘audit’ the module click here. See you in July!