BMS Mission Catalyst issue on mission and the Bible

Mission Catalyst issue on Mission and the BibleI missed this one when it came out (hooray for archives!), but a 2009 issue of BMS World Mission’s publication, Mission Catalyst focused on the theme of Mission and the Bible. Here’s the contents:

Cover to cover: mission throughout scripture
Mission doesn’t just start at Matthew 28. As Alan Pain explains, God told his people to ‘go’ from Genesis to Jesus – and beyond.

Oral Bible: the greatest story of all
In North Africa, people are coming to faith in Jesus through the mission of OneStory, which shares the Bible in culturally relevant ways. This is an example of that work in action.

New perspectives: mission brings the Bible to life
Four BMS mission workers reflect on how the culture in which they now live has changed the way they approach the Bible.

Bible reflection
The Bible is rich in world mission messages. Rev Sian Murray Williams focuses on one passage – the Journey to Emmaus in Luke 24: 13-35 – and provides a four-point sermon outline.

Click on the link to read the issue on Mission and the Bible

Ross Wagner on the Apostle Paul and the missio Dei

The concept of the missio Dei is foundational for understanding a missional reading of the Bible. We, the church, are involved in mission because we are sent by God to participate in his mission.

Ross Wagner is a New Testament scholar who teaches alongside Darrell Guder at Princeton Theological Seminary. A couple of publications to mention, which I have just added to the Bible and Mission books and articles section of this microsite:

Wagner, R. Heralds of Good News: Paul and Isaiah ‘In Concert’ in the letter to the Romans, Leiden: Brill (2002).

Wagner, ‘Missio Dei: Envisioning an Apostolic Reading of Scripture’, Missiology, 37:1 (January 2009), 19-32.

The first title links to a Google preview. The second was part of an issue of Missiology dedicated to the theme of missio Dei. Here is the abstract to Wagner’s article:

A theological account of the nature and function of Scripture in the church is properly situated within the larger context of the missio Dei, God’s merciful self-communication to the world in Jesus Christ through the power of the Spirit. Exegetical soundings in 2 Corinthian, Philippians, 1 Peter, and 1 John illustrate the fruitfulness of an “apostolic hermeneutic” that attends to the waus in which these texts address and form the church as the community of the reconciled who are called into fellowship with the triune God as active participants in God’s won work of reconciliation. 

A couple of other related links:

Gorman, M. (2011) ‘Missional Musings on Paul‘, Catalyst On-line, 37:2.

Hunsberger, G. ‘Proposals for a Missional Hermeneutic: Mapping a Conversation‘, Gospel and Our Culture Newsletter eSeries, 2 (January 2009). Subsequently published as G. ‘Proposals for a Missional Hermeneutic: Mapping a Conversation’, Missiology, 39:3 (July 2011). This mentions Wagner’s work as part of Hunsberger’s round up of scholarship on missional hermeneutics up to that point (late 2008).

Free access to Richard Bauckham on Mission as Hermeneutic for Scriptural Interpretation

Noted New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham has written two important works on the Bible and Mission. The most developed is his 2003 book Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World, which I posted about last week: Mission by way of the least in Luke. But prior to this he wrote a short essay entitled ‘Mission as Hermeneutic for Scriptural Interpretation‘, which he has made available on his website, along with a number of other Accessible lectures and essays.

The 1999 essay was presented in Cambridge as a Currents in World Christianity Position Paper. There are some very interesting points, which he expands on in the later book. I ask my students on the Reading the Bible Missionally module of Redcliffe’s MA in Bible and Mission to read both. At some points he differs from people such as Chris Wright, though at others he compliments them well.

Here are a couple of quotes to give you a flavour:

The title that was suggested to me for this lecture could be read in at least two ways, which are certainly not mutually exclusive. One could take it to mean that the church’s practice of mission is a form of scriptural interpretation. The Bible is the sort of text that calls for interpretation not only by means of more text but also by the practice of what it preaches. Could anyone really understand what it means to love enemies without doing it, or at least seeing it done? That the church’s mission in and to the world is the practice of the biblical text in which the text is constantly being interpreted is important, and we shall return to it at the end of the lecture. But it depends, I think, on the other possible meaning of my title. In this case the title refers to a missionary hermeneutic of Scripture, in other words a way of reading the Bible for which mission is the hermeneutical key, much as, for example, liberation is the hermeneutical key for the way of reading the Bible that liberation theology advocates. A missionary hermeneutic of this kind would not be simply a study of the theme of mission in the biblical writings, but a way of reading the whole of Scripture with mission as its central interest and goal. Of course, such a missionary hermeneutic could and should only be one way of reading Scripture among others, since mission itself is not the comprehensive subject of the whole Bible. But a missionary hermeneutic would be a way of reading Scripture which sought to understand what the church’s mission really is in the world as Scripture depicts it and thereby to inspire and to inform the church’s missionary praxis. Such a hermeneutic that reads the Bible with a view to mission should properly be developed in reciprocal relationship with the practice of mission as itself a practice of interpreting Scripture…

The biblical particularity of God’s own narrative identity is non-negotiable. But the effect of its encounter with other narratives is not uniform or predictable since they each have their own particularity. This is where the element of contextualization in a missionary hermeneutic is required. It is also the point at which missionary praxis turns out to be itself a necessary part of a missionary hermeneutic.

Mission by way of the least in Luke

Bible and Mission by Richard BauckhamIn Richard Bauckham’s excellent Bible and Mission: Christian Witness in a Postmodern World he outlines four different ‘strands’ in the big story or metanarrative of the Bible, which illustrate the idea of movement in the Bible ‘From the One to the Many’:

(1) From Abraham to all the families of the earth
(2) From Israel to all the nations
(3) The king who rules from Zion to the ends of the earth
(4) To all by way of the least

I’ve been listening to Luke’s Gospel on my way home from work recently, which reminded me of this fourth strand (though, of course, each are important themes for Luke).

Here I just want to quote something Bauckham says about the theme, and then point out what this looks like in the early chapters of Luke:

This fourth of our thematic trajectories through the biblical story is a necessary reminder that the church’s mission cannot be indifferent to the inequalities and injustices of the world into which it is sent. The gospel does not come to each person only in terms of some abstracted generality of human nature, but in the realities and differences of their social and economic situations. It engages with the injustices of the world on its way to the kingdom of God. This means that as well as the outward movement of the church’s mission in geographical extension and numerical increase, there must also be this (in the Bible’s imagery) downward movement of solidarity with the people at the bottom of the social scale of importance and wealth. It is to these – the poorest, those with no power or influence, the wretched, the neglected – to whom God has given priority in the kingdom, not only for their own sake, but also for all the rest of us who can enter the kingdom only alongside them. (pp.53-54)

Consider the broken conditions into which the Gospel was announced and Jesus was born; a tiny pocket of a vast and domineering empire

Consider the barren couple to whom John the Baptist was born

Consider young, unmarried Mary

Consider the scorn and scandal

Consider the fragility of human life, of God becoming an embryo

Consider the future task of the baby in Mary’s song, to bring down rulers and raise the humble

Consider the early witnesses of Jesus: marginalised shepherds, frail but hopeful Simeon, and ancient Anna, who had known grief after only seven years of marriage.

When God became flesh he stepped into this broken world. But what Luke expertly portrays in what he says and in what he implies is the brokenness, fragility, grief and oppression endured and caused by real people in space and time.

Christian Mission – Old Testament Foundations and New Testament Developments

Christian Mission - Old Testament Foundations and New Testament DevelopmentsThanks to Antony Billington over at LICC for making us aware of a recent publication in the McMaster New Testament Studies series.

Christian Mission: Old Testament Foundations and New Testament Developments edited by Stanley E. Porter and Cynthia Long Westfall (Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2010).

Here’s the blurb, contents and endorsements:

How did a first-generation Jewish messianic movement develop the momentum to become a dominant religious force in the Western world? The essays here first investigate the roots of God’s mission and the mission of his people in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism, specifically in the Psalms, Isaiah, and Daniel. The contributions then discuss the mission of Jesus, and how it continued into the mission of the Twelve, other Jewish believers (in the Gospels, General Epistles, and Revelation), and finally into Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles documented in the book of Acts and his epistles. These essays reach backward into the background of what was to become the Christian mission and forward through the New Testament to the continuing Christian mission and missions today.


Introduction: Christian Mission: Old Testament Foundations and New Testament Developments – Stanley E. Porter and Cynthia Long Westfall

“Declare His Glory Among the Nations”: The Psalter as Missional Collection – Mark J. Boda

The Book of Daniel and the Roots of New Testament Mission – Brian P. Irwin

Mark, Matthew, and Mission: Faith, Failure, and the Fidelity of Jesus – Michael P. Knowles

A Light to the Nations: Isaiah and Mission in Luke – Craig A. Evans

A Cord of Three Strands: Mission in Acts – Stanley E. Porter and Cynthia Long Westfall

The Content and Message of Paul’s Missionary Teaching – Stanley E. Porter

Paul’s Missionary Strategy: Goals, Methods, and Realities – Eckhard J. Schnabel

The Hebrew Mission: Voices from the Margin? – Cynthia Long Westfall

Bible and Mission: Missiology and Biblical Scholarship in Dialogue – Michael W. Goheen


“For too long now biblical scholarship and missiology have been progressing in splendid isolation with little reference to each other. This sparkling collection of essays not only demonstrates the interdependence of these disciplines but also takes seriously the Hebrew Scriptures and Second Temple Judaism as fertile soil in which the seeds for Christian mission were sown, came to flower in the New Testament, and continue to bear fruit in the ongoing global mission of the church at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”
—Trevor J. Burke
author of Adopted into God’s Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor

“Biblical scholars and missiologists have much to learn from each other. This work, with contributions from notable scholars, offers some fresh biblical insights for thinking about Christian mission.”
—Craig Keener
author of Romans: A New Covenant Commentary (Cascade 2009)

“We have needed a work that presents the development of Mission from Israel to the early church. These essays, written by leading scholars in both fields, admirably accomplish that goal. Here is a work that covers the field, presents missional roots as well as strategy, is very readable, and would serve as a fine textbook both for courses and personal study. I highly recommend this book.”
—Grant Osborne
author of The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation

Why read the Bible with the global church?

Reading the Bible with the Global ChurchOn 30 March Eddie Arthur (UK Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators) will be giving the 2011 Annual Lecture in Bible and Mission here at Redcliffe on the subject of Reading the Bible with the Global Church.

It seems to me that the act of Bible reading is itself a cross-cultural experience. Within the pages of the Bible we have the Spirit-inspired thoughts, songs, stories, instructions, visions and poems of a remarkably diverse group of people. As I read the text I am constantly engaged in a process of understanding the language and ideas of people unlike myself. I am constantly crossing borders and boundaries. This is one of the many reasons why it is essential to recognise the worth in reading alongside others, and especially others from different cultures. The wonderful diversity of the global church parallels and broadens the cultural diversity of the biblical writers and figures themselves.

In anticipation of the event and as part of an ongoing discussion we would love to hear your views and your stories:

  • Why do you think it is important to read the Bible alongside brothers and sisters from around the globe?
  • Do you have stories of how you’ve experienced this?
  • How can this be encouraged practically?

Please join the conversation by leaving a comment below, or posting something on Twitter or Facebook.

Redcliffe’s 2011 Lecture in Bible and Mission

Reading the Bible with the Global ChurchThis year’s Annual Lecture in Bible and Mission will be held on Wed 30 March, 7pm to 9pm. It is the key public event of the year for the Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission, with previous speakers being Chris Wright on The Bible and Mission and Gordon Wenham on The Nations in the Psalms.

Our lecturer this year is Eddie Arthur, Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators, who will be speaking on the subject, ‘Reading the Bible with the Global Church: Opening our eyes to see how God speaks worldwide’.

It is being put on in partnership with Bible Society, Wycliffe Bible Translators and Biblefresh.

Here are the details from Redcliffe’s website:

We all come to the Bible with our own perspectives, insights and blind spots, which is why reading it with others is vital. But often the groups we are part of come from similar cultural backgrounds. Are there things we could be missing?

Imagine being part of a Bible Study group made up of believers from Britain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burkina Faso and Bulgaria. How might this open our eyes to read God’s Word afresh?
At this year’s lecture in Bible and Mission Eddie Arthur will explore what it means to read the Bible alongside believers around the world. There will also be discussion groups led by church leaders to unpack what this might look like in a local congregation context.

About Eddie Arthur
Eddie Arthur is the Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Previously he has worked as part of the translation team for the Kouya NewTestament in Ivory Coast and as the National Director for a Wycliffe partner organization in Ivory Coast and Mali. You can read more of Eddie’s thoughts on Bible translation and life on his website, or follow him on Twitter @kouya

The evening is free, but prebooking is required.

To book
Please complete the online form or call 01452 308 097.

Please see our directions page for details on how to find us.


Suffice it to say that it should be an excellent evening! Eddie is a clear and deep thinker, a great communicator, and someone with a wealth of experience in the thinking and practice of Bible and mission.

More reflections to follow in the run up to the event…

Catalyst online journal

Catalyst Online Journal

Catalyst Online is a journal for United Methodist (UM) seminarians but is also available on the web for the wider public. Its aims are

  • to alert seminarians to significant resources within the classical Christian tradition;
  • to highlight evangelical perspectives on Christian faith and practice;
  • to stimulate serious consideration of classical Christianity;
  • and to encourage a seminary experience fully within the Wesleyan tradition of uniting the two so long divided, knowledge and vital piety

It is well worth a look with some excellent scholars contributing articles.

Having looked through the archive here are three particular highlights for someone with an interest in Bible and Mission (I may well have missed some so add a comment to include others):

Missional Musings on Paul By Michael J. Gorman (volume 37.2, February, 2011)

What is a Missional Hermeneutic? by By Brian D. Russell (Volume 37.4, April, 2010)

Reading The Bible As One Story by Michael W. Goheen (Volume 33.3, March, 2007)

Why is the Gospel of Mark neglected in most of the Bible and Mission literature?

In preparation for the lecture ‘Mark and the Mission of God’, I was surprised by the distinct absence of this Gospel throughout the Bible and Mission literature. There seems to be much greater emphasis on Matthew, Luke and even John concerning Mission theology and not so much on Mark. To say that Mark is not used at all would be a fallacy, as a smattering of references can be noted. But even the mighty Bosch in Transforming Mission only cites four references from this Gospel.

Could this be the product of previous generations of scholars not taking Mark seriously, by relegating it behind the later Gospels, whose writers rework, edit, mould, and shape some of Mark’s original writing? Or is it that the concept of Mission is so intrinsic to Mark that it is often missed by in-depth exegesis? Do we miss the wood for the trees? Often it can be the cursory reading of a book that enables the reader to see the overall big picture. In their The Biblical Foundations for Mission Senior and Stuhlmueller write,

One of the first things to be noted about the Gospel of Mark is that it faithfully transmits the basic content and thrust of the kingdom ministry of Jesus. Given the mission implications of this motif, we should not overlook this fundamental datum before turning to Mark’s particular emphasis. (p213)

Perhaps with the emphasis on form, redaction and other critical methodologies or the rush to find the ‘historical Jesus’, we have missed the basic premise that Mark was more missionally minded than we first thought.

The Bible and Lausanne’s Cape Town Commitment – part two

The excellent Scripture Engagement website highlighted another part of the Cape Town Commitment related to Bible and Mission.

The following is a section within PART II For the world we serve: The Cape Town Call to Action,  IV. Discerning the will of Christ for world evangelization

C)    Aim to eradicate Bible poverty in the world, for the Bible remains indispensable for evangelism. To do this we must:
(1)   Hasten the translation of the Bible into the languages of peoples who do not yet have any portion of God’s Word in their mother tongue;
(2)   Make the message of the Bible widely available by oral means. (See also Oral cultures below.)

I’ve posted before on the essential task of the continuing task set before the church of Bible Translation. Living in the West it is too easy to take this for granted. We need our conviction and passion for God’s Word, God’s world and God’s people to spur us on to action. This is an issue of justice as much as anything else. I don’t say this lightly.

D)    Aim to eradicate Bible ignorance in the Church, for the Bible remains indispensable for discipling believers into the likeness of Christ.
(1)   We long to see a fresh conviction, gripping all God’s Church, of the central necessity of Bible teaching for the Church’s growth in ministry, unity and maturity…
(2)   We must promote Bible literacy among the generation that now relates primarily to digital communication rather than books, by encouraging digital methods of studying the scriptures inductively with the depth of inquiry that at present requires paper, pens and pencils.
E)    Let us keep evangelism at the centre of the fully-integrated scope of all our mission, inasmuch as the gospel itself is the source, content and authority of all biblically-valid mission. All we do should be both an embodiment and a declaration of the love and grace of God and his saving work through Jesus Christ.

It is not enough to own a Bible (or several) in our heart language. We must know it and engage with it. We must help others do the same. On the issue of technology, how can we engage people with the Bible who ‘don’t do books’? What is interesting to me is the relationship between the ultra-technological generation, many of whom have moved beyond books (or have never engaged with them), and the vast numbers around the world for whom books are not the primary form of communication…

2. Oral cultures
The majority of the world’s population are oral communicators, who cannot or do not learn through literate means, and more than half of them are among the unreached as defined above. Among these, there are an estimated 350 million people without a single verse of Scripture in their language. In addition to the ‘primary oral learners’ there are many ‘secondary oral learners’, that is those who are technically literate but prefer now to communicate in an oral manner, with the rise of visual learning and the dominance of images in communication.
As we recognize and take action on issues of orality, let us:
A)    Make greater use of oral methodologies in discipling programmes, even among literate believers.
B)    Make available an oral format Story Bible in the heart languages of unreached and unengaged people groups as a matter of priority.
C)    Encourage mission agencies to develop oral strategies, including: the recording and distribution of oral Bible stories for evangelism, discipling and leadership training, along with appropriate orality training for pioneer evangelists and church-planters; these could use fruitful oral and visual communication methods for communicating the whole biblical story of salvation, including storytelling, dances, arts, poetry, chants and dramas.
D)    Encourage local churches in the Global South to engage with unreached people groups in their area through oral methods that are specific to their worldview.
E)    Encourage seminaries to provide curricula that will train pastors and missionaries in oral methodologies.

Dealing with the question of orality is one of the major challenges for Bible Engagement in the coming generations. (indeed, it is fair to say it always has been?). So, as the statement asks of us in the final point, what are we doing here at Redcliffe to address the issue. I’ll highlight three things:

1. In our second year Psalms course one of the assignments is to produce a creative piece that comes out of a deep reflection on a psalm. Students have done this in an amazing variety of ways – painting, drawing, sculpting, welding, video, song, sewing, blogging.

2. An new third year module we are looking to deliver (subject to validation) in the next academic year is called Story, Song and Social Networks: Bible Engagement and Oral Culture. It aims to equip students with an understanding of the thinking and practice of communicating the Bible to individuals and communities of oral learners in a variety of cultural contexts. This might be an ‘unreached’ people group who use song as the primary means of communication, or sections of UK culture whose preferred mode of communication is through web 2.0.

3. As well as a module on missional hermeneutics, our MA in Bible and Mission has a module on Bible Engagement in Intercultural Contexts delivered by some fantastic thinker-practitioners from agencies like Wycliffe Bible Translators and Bible Society.

There is more we could do and more we should do, but that is the challenge before us all.