‘We have to learn a new method of using the Bible as a missionary book’

IMG_0460I came across this wonderful quote recently and was struck by how much it mirrors contemporary writing on missional hermeneutics. It can be found in V.F. Storr’s brilliantly titled, The Missionary Genius of the Bible (London: Hodder & Stoughton). Writing in the aftermath of the Great War and in the midst of significant changes across the globe and within biblical scholarship, Storr sensed that a new and more profound examination of mission in the light of the Bible was required.

He penned these words in 1924 but they would be right at home within the growing body of literature on a missional reading of Scripture.

A great cause needs a great backing; and to match the growing sense of the largeness of missionary enterprise must be an enlargement of the appeal which we make to the Bible. It is, for instance, not enough to quote from Scripture a series of proof-texts in support of missions. The proof-text suspended in mid-air is useless. It must be related to its context. It must be shown to stand out from a background which is essentially missionary in colour. We must, in a word, see the revelation in the Bible in its large, bold outlines, in the big sweep of its movement, in its progressive character and unfolding purpose. We have to learn a new method of using the Bible as a missionary book.


Rob Bradshaw at has just announced he has put up Storr’s book as part of his project to digitise out-of-copyright mission books. It was provided by Cambridge Centre of Christianity Worldwide.

Here’s a link to the page where you can download Storr’s book

Want to take this further? Come and study more about Bible and Mission with me on Redcliffe’s Summer school mode Contemporary Missiology MA, including the module ‘Reading the Bible Missionally’ running this July.

Event: Making it missional – a fresh approach to preaching, reading and studying the Bible


Next month I’ll be leading an evening seminar for local churches that aims to connect insights from the developing missional hermeneutics discussion with local congregations and communities. Here are the details:

Making it Missional

a fresh approach to preaching, reading and studying the Bible

Wednesday 20 April 2016, 7:30-9:30pm   |   Redcliffe College, College Green, Gloucester, GL1 2LX
£5 including refreshments

In recent years, a revolution has been taking place in the way the Church grasps the missional nature of Scripture. Come and explore with Dr Tim Davy what this could mean for our local congregations and communities. Tim has taught Bible and Mission at Redcliffe for a number of years. His PhD focused on the missional interpretation of the Bible and he leads the Bible and Mission stream of Redcliffe’s MA in Contemporary Missiology. Tim’s module, Reading the Bible Missionally will run during this July’s MA Summer School.

Reserve your place now

Want to take this further? Come and study more about Bible and Mission with me on Redcliffe’s Summer school mode Contemporary Missiology MA, including the module ‘Reading the Bible Missionally’ running this July.

Genesis 3-11 and the Bible’s relevance for all

PrintI’m enjoying reading Brian Russell’s (re)Aligning with God: Reading Scripture for Church and World. In this excerpt from the chapter, ‘The OT Story: Creation, Fall, and Israel’, he reflects on the ‘international framework’ of Gen. 3-11:

‘These stories remain in the same international framework of Genesis 1-2. The narratives of Gen. 3-11 are descriptive of the global human condition. There is still no Israel. We will find a few faithful followers of God, but we have not yet reached the moment when God will call a new humanity into his service to begin the narrative thread that will culminate with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and the unleashing of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is vital to recognize this international context. The Bible is the story for all humanity. The Bible will soon narrow its focus for a time on the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the human lineage through whom Jesus Christ will emerge, but the first eleven chapters of Genesis set the backdrop for the biblical story as a whole and assume its relevance for every people, language, and nation.’

Want to take this further? Come and study more about Bible and Mission with me on Redcliffe’s Summer school mode Contemporary Missiology MA, including the module ‘Reading the Bible Missionally’ running this July.

Finding mission in the big story and the tiny details of the Bible


‘Mission is what the Bible is all about’, declares Chris Wright in his The Mission of God: Unlocking the Grand Narrative of the Bible (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2006, p.29). While he goes on throughout the book to nuance what he means by this bold statement, it reflects something BIG about the relationship between the Bible and God’s mission: that the unified and unifying story of Scripture is the story of God’s mission. It is a ‘big picture’ claim, which echoes a lot of writing on missional hermeneutics over the last ten to twenty years.

Yet, while we celebrate the way in which the Bible’s big picture tells us about God’s mission, let’s not forget that God’s heart for mission can be seen in the tiny details of Scripture as well. Later in the same book Wright has this to say about some of the seemingly incidental editorial seams in the Gospels, like Mark 3:7-8:

‘Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him.’ (ESV)

Here’s what Wright makes of the significance of these little details:

The editorial summaries of the international extent of Jesus’ influence. Though we might be tempted to dismiss these short notes by the Gospel writers as merely local colour, it is more likely that they are intentional signals of the wider impact of Jesus. His ministry was not actually confined to the borders of Israel, even if that was what he primarily wanted. For his fame to spread far and wide, and representatives of the nations came to know and to benefit from his ministry. These notes are found in Matthew 4:24-25, Mark 3:7-8 and Luke 6:17-18. The geographical spread of the the regions is substantial.’ (p.513)

God’s mission is in the very DNA of the Bible. Hold on to the big picture but remember to notice and appreciate mission in the tiny details as well!

Want to take this further? Come and study more about Bible and Mission with me on Redcliffe’s Summer school mode Contemporary Missiology MA, including the module ‘Reading the Bible Missionally’ running this July.

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Dealing with the risk of miscommunicating Biblical truth through pictures

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 10.51.19Over at the Scripture Engagement website Michelle Peterson gives a summary and links for her article Avoiding Visual Miscommunication: Choosing Illustrations for Translated Scripture. I’ve put the description and link below.
The issue has been raised before by a colleague of mine, Johannes Merz, who describes the ‘visual predicament’ of the Jesus Film (see his article, ‘Translation and the Visual Predicament of the “JESUS” Film in West Africa’, in Missiology, 2010, no. 2 pp.111-126 – you’ll need a subscription to read it). His main point is that we need to give more thought to how visual images can be misunderstood and, therefore, we need to do more to overcome those things.
Although Merz and Peterson’s work is focused on non-Western projects, these are questions everyone needs to be wrestling with. Think about how often we use images to illustrate Bible talks; think about how we use images to present something from the Bible on Facebook. What assumptions are we making about how the image will be interpreted, or how the visual context shapes the verse it accompanies. We had great fun chewing over this issue in a Scripture Engagement class last term here at Redcliffe, and there’s a whole lot more to explore.
Here’s the description and a link for Peterson’s article:

Illustrations often serve motivational functions for readers, especially reluctant readers, increasing their enjoyment of a text and the amount of time they give it. Various audiences require different kinds of Scripture visuals to care about the message and understand it well. Just as translators need to carefully check the words of Scripture, it is important that they also check Scripture illustrations with members of the intended audience, and if needed, change their choices based on this interview feedback. This paper encourages translation teams to check visual elements of Scripture with members of the intended audience, and helps prepare consultants to check illustrations based on local visual vocabulary, grammar and rhetoric.

This is an edited version of a paper presented at the Bible Translation Conference in October 2015, Dallas, Texas.

You can read the article by following this link: Avoiding Visual Miscommunication

You can study Bible and Mission on Redcliffe’s MA in Contemporary Missiology part-time using Summer School intensives. Click here for more details: MA in Contemporary Missiology

New book on missional hermeneutics – (re)Aligning with God: Reading Scripture for Church and World

PrintI’m looking forward to reading Brian Russell’s new book on a missional reading of Scripture, (re)Aligning with God: Reading Scripture for Church and World, which has just been published by Cascade / Wipf and Stock. Brian blogs over at and has been teaching and writing on the topic for a number of years. Definitely one to get hold of!

Here’s the publisher blurb and contents:

How do we communicate the message of the Scriptures in our twenty-first-century, post-Christian context? (re)Aligning with God: Reading Scripture for Church and World answers this question by presenting the Scriptures through the lens of mission and by teaching a method for reading Scripture with a missional hermeneutic. The biblical story seeks to convert us to its perspective and to transform its readers and hearers into God’s missional community that exists to reflect and embody God’s character to/for/in the world. Ready to revolutionize your reading of the Bible and expand your ability to unleash the Scriptures in your context? (re)Aligning with God will give you rich content and practical tools to become a profound, inspiring, and confident reader of the Bible for all who are seeking to hear its good news.

Endorsements & Reviews

“This book . . . makes a well-argued case for reading Scripture through a missional lens and gives practical guidelines for how to do this. If this were all the book did, it would be well worth a read; but it goes a step further. It calls us to action . . . [T]his isn’t the most comfortable book you will ever read on the subject of hermeneutics, but it is one of the most challenging.” –Eddie Arthur, missionary blogger and writer; director of strategic initiatives for Global Connections

“What would happen if the church read its Scriptures for the sake of God’s mission in the world? What would this look like? And how might we shape communities of Christ followers for whom these questions are central? Here’s the long-awaited manual for those of us who are interested in missional hermeneutics. Russell shows the way. Take and read.” –Joel B. Green, Dean of the School of Theology and Professor of New Testament Interpretation, Fuller Theological Seminary



  1. Scripture and Conversion

PART ONE: (re)Engaging God’s Story

  1. The Old Testament Story: Creation, Fall, and Israel
  2. The Old Testament Story: Israel’s Life in the Land, Prophets and Writings
  3. The New Testament Story: Jesus the Messiah, the Mission of the Church, New Creation

PART TWO: Learning to Speak Human: Reading the Bible for All People

  1. Learning to Speak Human: Methodology and Missional Hermeneutics
  2. Reading the Old and New Testament Missionally: Jonah and Philippians

PART THREE: Aligning Our Communities

  1. Unleashing the Biblical Narrative: Implementing a Missional Hermeneutic in Our Communities of Faith

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners

What is the Church’s voice to be in the midst of the current refugee crisis and on what basis does the Bible call us to account for our actions and attitudes? I want to bring out two main points from this passage in Deuteronomy that might guide our thinking and actions.

12 “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good? 14 Behold, to the LORD your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the LORD set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. 16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 20 You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen. 22 Your fathers went down to Egypt seventy persons, and now the LORD your God has made you as numerous as the stars of heaven. (Deut. 10:12-22, ESV)

Our ethics arise out of who God is

Deuteronomy is a kind of constitution for the newly forming nation of Israel as they stand on the brink of entering the promised land. What kind of nation are they going to be? What shape will their national life take as God’s priestly people displaying life with God to the watching nations?

Israel’s ethical life was defined by God’s character and values. How were they supposed to live? In a way that reflected who God is: they were to ‘walk in the ways of the Lord’, a phrase the OT often uses for one’s ethical life.

Note the central section of the passage: God’s greatness is put alongside the protection of the weakest. He loves the sojourner/alien, a category of people who from outside of Israel (for a whole variety of reasons, including war and famine) and now settled-but-vulnerable in Israel.

The Bible does give us specific instructions and commandments but ultimately it tells us who God is and places us within the story of his purposes. We are supposed to understand and celebrate who God is and act accordingly. God loves the sojourner. Let’s contextualise this: God loves the refugee, giving him food and clothing.

Our ethics are also motivated by memory and identity

If that wasn’t enough to call Israel to action God gives them a lesson from their history (and bear in mind, most of those listening to Moses at this point had did not have their own individual memory of the events he evokes). Israel had never been a nation before, but they had been refugees. They had experienced hospitality and hostility. Towards the end of Genesis we read that their forefathers had moved to Egypt because of famine. They knew what it was to be welcomed. However, they also knew what it was liked to be oppressed in a foreign land, which we read about at the beginning of Exodus.

Israel was supposed to draw on their memory as people who had been refugees and apply that part of their identity to their dealings with refugees in their midst in the future.

This, I think, is important for us Brits to consider. Has our sense of being an island nation made it seem like the refugee problem is ‘over there’ and, therefore, not our responsibility? Providing hospitality to more refugees will involve sacrifice: are we hesitant to incur this cost because we do not feel ‘sojourner’ is part of our national memory. Is this why we need to be shocked into action?

But ‘refugee’ is an essential part of our DNA as the people of God. Progressing through the biblical story we read numerous examples of the people of God being displaced and on the move, whether it is moving to or from Egypt, Exile and Return, or the dispersion of the early Church. Comfort and stability is not the norm. What are we as the Church prepared to do to live out the heart of God and our own displaced identity?

What has the Levitical Priesthood got to do with Mission?

The Theology of the Levitical PriesthoodNicholas Haydock, a graduate of Redcliffe’s MA in Bible and Mission programme, has recently published a revised version of his very good dissertation under the title, The Theology of the Levitical Priesthood: Assisting God’s People in their Mission to the Nations.

Here is the blurb:

In this book, Nicholas Haydock explores the biblical presentation of the Levitical priesthood, drawing out themes that run throughout Scripture and reveal God’s intention for the priesthood. It is successfully argued that this intention cannot be divorced from God’s desire to reveal himself to the nations. This hypothesis is shown to be true in examining the various functions and metaphors ascribed to the Levites. Whereas in much of Old Testament criticism, the Levitical priesthood has been painted in a light contrary to the biblical depiction, The Theology of the Levitical Priesthood takes the canonical presentation of the Levites at face value. It is the author’s conviction that in attending to the biblical presentation of the Levites, the Church will be aided and better equipped to apply herself to Scripture and to participate within God’s mission, in the present day.

“”[This book] successfully argues that the theology of the Levitical priesthood is not only a coherent whole, but it expresses a missional purpose that aided the priesthood and the people of Israel in their witness to the nations at large and in their worship of the One true God . . . This will provide for many a whole new avenue of viewing the fact that Israel and her leaders were to be a ‘light to the nations.'”” –Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., President Emeritus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Hamilton, MA

“”This helpful study brings together two important themes in the Old Testament that are often neglected by commentators and preachers: priesthood and mission. Haydock examines the role the priest was expected to play in Israelite society. His lifestyle, Haydock argues, should adorn Christian leaders, indeed all the people of God, and in this way draw the nations to the knowledge of God. This makes the priesthood central to the Biblical understanding of mission. [Theology is] a useful, original contribution to Biblical theology.”” –Gordon Wenham, Tutor in Old Testament, Trinity College, Bristol, England

If what Nicholas writes gets you excited about mission in the Old Testament, why not check out the Bible and Mission stream of Redcliffe’s MA in Contemporary Missiology?

Welcome to the Fostering, Adoption and the Church research project

Here are some details of a new research project we are starting at Redcliffe College.

Fostering, Adoption and the Church

Welcome to the Fostering, Adoption and the Church research project!

This is just a short introduction but you can read more about what we will be doing on our About page.

The project is based at Redcliffe College, an interdenominational, evangelical, international College based in the UK with a focus on training for cross-cultural misson, leadership, member care and linguistics, translation and literacy.

Aim and vision

The aim of the project is to motivate and resource the Church in addressing the crisis of vulnerable children in the UK and beyond. Our vision is: Societal transformation through biblical, theological and missiological research that mobilises and supports Christians in fostering and adoption.


The ‘Fostering, Adoption and the Church’ project will carry out and communicate biblical, theological and missiological thinking through:

  • Rigorous published research that raises the profile of fostering and adoption in the academy and the Church;
  • Accessible writing (online and…

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A couple of Redcliffe dissertations highlighted on the Scripture Engagement website

Highlighted on the Redcliffe Research blog. Redcliffe teaches Bible and Mission and Scripture Engagement to MA level through specialist streams on our Contemporary Missiology programme. Visit here for more info

redcliffe research

The Impact of Vernacular ScripturesThe Scripture Engagement website is an excellent website and is full of information and links for SE. A couple of recent graduates on Redcliffe’s Bible and Mission programme have posted their dissertations in the resources section. Here are the abstracts and links to the relevant pages. These were very good pieces of work so well worth reading for how to structure and write a dissertation as well as for the fascinating content.

Author: Mark Woodward

MA dissertation: Bible & Mission, Redcliffe College, UK (2014)


In many ways the Malila and Nyiha are typical of Tanzania’s numerous multilingual communities, where both Swahili and the local language are used as part of everyday life. Given that there are several versions of the Swahili Bible, two of which are generally available…

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