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

The recently published Cape Town Commitment is a document to come out of Lausanne, following the working groups and convention in South Africa in the Autumn 2010. It is subtitled ‘A Confession of Faith and a Call to Action’. You can read the whole thing here: The Cape Town Commitment.

There’s a tremendous amount to reflect upon within this large document. So I’ll just look at one section today.

We Love God’s Word

This section of the commitment highlights four aspects of the Bible: The Person the Bible reveals; The story the Bible tells; The truth the Bible teaches; The life the Bible requires. The second is put this way:

The story the Bible tells. The Bible tells the universal story of creation, fall, redemption in history, and new creation. This overarching narrative provides our coherent biblical worldview and shapes our theology. At the centre of this story are the climactic saving events of the cross and resurrection of Christ which constitute the heart of the gospel. It is this story (in the Old and New Testaments) that tells us who we are, what we are here for, and where we are going. This story of God’s mission defines our identity, drives our mission, and assures us the ending is in God’s hands. This story must shape the memory and hope of God’s people and govern the content of their evangelistic witness, as it is passed on from generation to generation. We must make the Bible known by all means possible, for its message is for all people on earth. We recommit ourselves, therefore, to the ongoing task of translating, disseminating and teaching the scriptures in every culture and language, including those that are predominantly oral or non-literary.

This is a very helpful overview of the missional nature of the big story of the Bible, as well as the worldview-shaping nature of the Scriptures. It also touches on the Bible as a tool of mission in the final paragraph. Could it have talked about mission in a broader sense (cf. the ‘integral mission’ or ‘mission as transformation’ discussion the document addresses elsewhere)? Nevertheless, it is excellent to see such an overarching view of the Bible as thoroughly missional.

Wealth, poverty and power in the Old Testament

Chris Wright's Old Testament Ethics for the People of GodAs well as teaching on specific biblical modules at Redcliffe, occasionally I join other classes for one-off sessions looking how an aspect of the biblical material relates to their subject. The most recent class like this was on Friday when I joined the Diploma and Professional in Mission class on ‘Wealth, Poverty and the Environment’ to look at how the Old Testament addresses the themes of wealth, poverty and power.

I found Chris Wright’s Old Testament Ethics for the People of God particularly helpful in preparing this session. He outlines the Old Testament’s understanding of poverty in three ways: what causes poverty? how are God’s people to respond to poverty; and a future vision of a new creation without poverty.

We then looked at three passages, Deut. 15 and Job 29, 31. The Deuteronomy passage is well-known for its discussion of how Israel is to approach the issue of poverty. Indeed, in his excellent NIBC commentary on Deuteronomy, Wright (again!) suggests that the passage ‘offers limitless opportunity for ethical and missiological reflection and action’. OK, there is hyperbole in this statement but it is undoubtedly true that the passage (and other parts of Deuteronomy) contains much food for missiological and ethical thought. My own Master’s dissertation was on the orphan, widow and alien in Deuteronomy. A couple of years ago I also had a student here at Redcliffe who wrote her dissertation on the book’s approach to poverty and how that might inform how the church addressed the issue in the contemporary UK context.

The Job passages are more obscure to most, but in an attempt to defend his righteousness Job provides us indirectly with a window into an ideal ethical life where those with power protect the weak and address injustice. At one point Job claims that ‘The blessing of him who was about to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy.’ (29:13, ESV)

Wouldn’t that verse make a great epitaph?

Why community is vital for evangelism – a missional reflection on Mark 3

In a lecture on Mark’s Gospel today we were reflecting on Jesus’ words in 3:33-35:

33. “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35. Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (NIV)

Bible and Mission Intern, Mark, made a shrewd observation by prodding us to think about what this might mean in a context where someone professes faith in Christ and is shunned by their family and community as a result.

Just what is our responsibility towards those whom we are seeking to reach? Surely at the very least it should mean that the church offers a family and community to which the new believer can be embraced. The image of church as family is a powerful metaphor; perhaps like no other it conveys the intense and necessary community that can make all the difference.

Joachim Jeremias on Jesus’ Promise to the Nations

Jeremias was a German scholar writing in the mid-twentieth century whose best-known work is probably his volume on Jesus and the Parables. He write extensively on New Testament matters including a short 1958 work entitled, Jesus’ Promise to the Nations, which aims to investigate the missional dimensions of Jesus’ eschatological sayings. I’ll reproduce here the contents plus Jeremias’ forward and conclusion to give you the idea:

Contents

I. Three important negative conclusions
   a. Jesus pronounce a stern judgement upon the Jewish mission
   b. Jesus forbade his disciples during his lifetime to preach to non-Jews
   c. Jesus limited his own activity to Israel

II. Three important positive conclusions
   a. Jesus removes the idea of vengeance from the eschatological expectation
   b. Jesus promises the Gentiles a share in salvation
   c. The redemptive activity and lordship of Jesus includes the Gentiles

III. The solution to the problem

IV. Conclusion: What about the Mission?


Forward

The present work has a twofold aim. It is in the first place a New Testament study, and secondly an examination of the basis of missionary activity. Following the suggestions of Sundkler, it seeks, first of all, to draw attention to a neglected element in the message of Jesus, and attempts ot show how large a place in the eschatological sayings of Jesus is given to the Old Testament conception of the pilgrimage of the nations to the Mountain of God.
At the same time the author also hopes that this work may have some significance for the inner logic of missionary activity, and for its Biblical basis. There can be no doubt that the exposition of the ‘negative’ element in the first part of this work, enables us to get a clear view of the immense extent of the promise which Jesus held out to the nations. The events of Easter ushered in the dawn of that final day in which the fulfilment of this promise to the nations and to Israel began to take effect. The special glory of the missionary endevour lies in the fact that it is a very palpable part of the final consummation inaugurated at Eater.

Conclusion

What about the Mission?
What conclusions for the modern missionary task may be drawn from the strictly eschatalogical outlook of Jesus? Has it been rendered superfluous by acceptance of the fact that according to the preaching of Jesus it will be by God’s act of power that the Gentiles will be brought in to the Kingdom of God in the final consummation? Far from it. WHat is significant for the missionary task is the realization to which we have been brought, that it is firmly rooted in God’s redemptive activity. In Jesus’ sayings about the Gentiles we find: 1. an unparalleled insistence on humility. Man can do nothing. It is not our preaching that brings about the ingathering of the Gentiles. Even Jesus himself did not make the world Christian, but he died on the Cross. God alone does it all. The fundamental note and inmost core of the message of Jesus, resounding in all his sayings about the Gentiles, is confidence in the reality of God and the vastness of his mercy.
But at the same time the sayings of Jesus about the Gentiles are: 2. a revelation of the overriding importance and value of the missionary task. Easter saw the dawn of the Last Day. The Gentile mission is the beginning of God’s final act in the gathering of the Gentiles. The Gentile mission is God’s own activity. As God’s eschatological activity it is an anticipation of the visible enthronement of the Son of Man, and as such it is ‘the actual sign’ of the period between Easter and the Parousia. The firstfruits of the Gentiles are signs, an earnest of the fulfilment, foretastes of the final consummation. Just as justification, the gist of the Spirit, sonship, the communion of the Lord’s Table, are God’s gracious gifts for the period of waiting for the consummation, so too are the Gentiles whom God brings into the Church of Jesus Christ. The missionary task is part of the final fulfilment, a divine factual demonstration of the exaltation of the Son of Man, an eschatology in process of realization. It offers the possibility of co-operating with God in his gracious anticipation of the decisive hour of redemption described in Isa. 25: the Gentiles accepted as guests at God’s Table (v. 6), the veil torn from their eyes (v. 7), and death abolished for ever (v. 8).

I came across this book thanks to my good friend Richard Johnson, who runs Qoheleth Resources, the second hand theological booksellers. He sends out a weekly sheet with loads of bargains so I’d recommend getting on the mailing list.

Missiology journal focuses on orality

Engaging people with the Bible is often a challenge but what about when working in the context of an oral culture? This is a huge issue in Bible and mission so any good reflection on the topic is to be warmly welcomed.

The theme of the April 2010 (vol. XXXVIII:2) issue of the journal Missiology: An International Review is ‘orality’. Here’s the contents:

Translation and the Visual Predicament of the “JESUS” Film in West Africa – Johannes Merz
Focusing on analysis of the “JESUS” film, this article shows that much more is communicated through a film’s cinematography than through its spoken message.

Discipling through the Eyes of Oral Learners – W. Jay Moon
By viewing a funeral through the eyes of an oral people, this article describes oral learning preferences, in order to reveal effective and transformative discipling practices.

Pedagogical Conversions: From Propositions to Story and Symbol – Tom Steffen
While living among the Ifugao people, the author discovers the multiple and integrative roles that stories and symbols play in communication.

Telling Our Stories Well: Creating Memorable Images and Shaping Our Identity – Janet Stahl
This article claims that wisdom gleaned from ancient practices reveals a place in storytelling both for recitation of Scriptural texts and for more creatively crafted techniques.

Bible Translation as Contextualization: The Role of Orality – James Maxey
Bible Translation is actually contextual theologizing in which local host communities demonstrate their appropriation and proclamation of the Bible in their own languages.

Matters of the Heart: Orality, Story and Cultural Transformation—The Critical Role of Storytelling in Affecting Worldview – A. Steven Evans
With storytelling in particular as a catalyst, worldviews, cultures, and values can change, resulting in the transformation of an individual’s life and of an entire culture as well.

Coming to Terms with Orality: A Holistic Model – Charles Madinger
A holistic approach to orality incorporates seven converging disciplines, which, when more fully incorporated, can increase the transformative power of a message.

Mission in Robin Routledge’s Old Testament Theology

Like many Old Testament Theologies (e.g., Brueggemann, Preuss, Goldingay) Robin Routledge’s Old Testament Theology: A Thematic Approach contains a chapter on the nations.

As it came out in 2008 Routledge notes works such as Chris Wright’s The Mission of God and James Okoye’s Israel and the Nations (both published in 2006).

It would make an interesting study to look at how different OT theologies deal with the ‘nations’ or ‘mission’ question. Why, for example, do the chapters tend (but not always) to be at the end of the book? Could this be read as the nations as an afterthought? What, I wonder, would an Old Testament Theology look like if a treatment of the nations came first?

Anyway, in the meantime, here’s a breakdown of Routledge’s chapter on ‘God and the Nations (ch. 10, pp. 334). (nb. He has also contributed a very helpful chapter on ‘Mission and Covenant in the Old Testament’ in Bible and Mission: A Conversation Between Biblical Studies and Missiology – see my review in Redcliffe’s mission journal, Encounters).

God and history
– The divine purpose in history
– God and non-Israelite nations (Condemnation of national pride; Oracles against the nations; Divine guidance of national destinies)

Salvation for all nations
– Mission in the Old Testament
– God’s universal covenant
– Mission: at the heart of a narrative substructure of the Old Testament
– Universalism (Israel as witness to the nations, Israel and the nations: equal partners in salvation?)

Bible and Mission in Edinburgh 2010 Fresh Perspectives on Christian Mission

The Centre has contributed to a newly published book Edinburgh 2010: Fresh Perspectives on Christian Mission. The volume is edited by Kenneth Ross and develops the seven ‘transversal’ themes of the Edinburgh 2010 conference with case studies and vignettes (the themes being: One Church, Many Contexts; Bible and Mission; Women and Mission; Youth and Mission; The View from the Margins; Ecological Perspectives; and Reconcilion and Healing).

My contribution is a short case study on ‘Teaching the Bible and Mission’ in which I give three snapshots from some lectures at Redcliffe. The material is based on blog posts on the Slave girl in 2 Kings 5; the wonderful passage Deut. 10:12-22; and Mark’s gospel.

Here’s the introductory paragraph from the Bible and Mission chapter and a breakdown of the chapter’s contents:

The Christian faith has a foundational text: the Bible. The reading, interpreting and dissemination of this text lie at the core of the missionary task. In this chapter a number of contributors reflect on aspects of the interplay between Bible and mission.

The Role of the Bible Societies in Christian Mission – Fergus Macdonald and Bill Mitchell
Richness in the Biblical Witness – Daniel Patte
Creative Tensions in the Biblical Witness – Marie-Hélène Robert and Jacques Matthey
Teaching Bible and Mission – Tim Davy
The Bible: The Source of Life and Soul of Mission – Bill Mitchell

Jason Bourne, Luke 24 and our place in the mission of God

This was the title of a sermon I preached at Kendal Road Baptist Church last Sunday. Here are some points:

We all live within stories. If you’re a fan of the Jason Bourne trilogy you’ll have been absorbed by his story as he gradually discovers the truth of his identity, what he has done, what has been done to him, and how he resolves these things.

The three films, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum came out between 2002 and 2007 so we had to wait 5 years to find out the conclusion to his story. I remember coming out of the cinema after the final instalment, having witness the resolution of Jason Bourne’s story, and wondering to myself, ‘What story am I part of and how does my life fit into it?’

This is something we should be asking as a church: What is our ultimate purpose and identity? Who are we and what are we about? How do our activities relate to who we are and what we are here for?

The disciples thought they had lost their story – that they were ‘storyless’ – following the death of Jesus: ‘”He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.’ (Luke 24:19b-21, NIV)

Jesus’ death was not part of the plan; it was not part of the big story of God’s purposes as they understood it. But a little later on we read that Jesus, raised from the dead, visits his storyless disciples…

44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49, NIV)

Notice how Jesus tells them the real story; they had misunderstood the story – as Jesus recounts what their Scriptures said he makes two points:

  • 1. The Old Testament (i.e., their Scriptures) had to be read through a messiah lens – the Christ/Messiah God’s deliverer would indeed achieve God’s purposes but through his death and resurrection
  • 2. The Old Testament (i.e., their Scriptures) had to be read through a mission lens – notice how the death and resurrection of God’s deliverer leads to the telling of God’s message of repentance and forgiveness to all nations

Jesus understood the Bible as portraying the big story of God’s mission of reconciling this broken world to himself, a story that reached its climax in the death and resurrection of Jesus. From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible tells us about God’s mission. Mission, you see is not primarily something you and I do; first and foremost, mission is God’s activity. God has set about to reconcile humanity and all of creation to himself and he calls his people to participate with him.

This mission, therefore, defines who we are as a church. Let me give you two quotes I have found really helpful in reorienting myself to this story:

“It is not so much the case that God has a mission for his church in the world but that God has a church for his mission in the world.”

Or to put this another way,

‘It is not so much that God has a mission for Kendal Road Baptist Church in Longlevens and beyond, but that God has Kendal Road Baptist Church for his mission in Longlevens and beyond.’

‘We ask, ‘Where does God fit into the story of my life?’ when the real question is where does my little life fit into this great story of God’s mission?’ or put another way, ‘I may wonder what kind of mission God has for me, when I should be asking what kind of me God wants for his mission.’

This means, returning to the language of the Bourne trilogy:

  • Mission Identity – mission is not just something we do, or something some of us do; mission defines who we are
  • Mission Supremacy – because mission defines our identity it should also shape our activities; how do we as a church community fit into God’s mission to bless and reconcile those in Longlevens and beyond to himself
  • Mission Ultimatum – are you willing to recognise your place, our place, in God’s big story?

Obviously, I am indebted to Chris Wright for a lot of this material, particularly the use of Luke 24 and the quotes.

If you want to listen to the sermon it will be available for a few weeks on Kendal Road’s website (link on the left hand side of the home page)

Evangelical Review of Theology issue on The Whole World

The July 2010 issue of the Evangelical Review of Theology (Vol 34, No 3) contains a number of articles relating to the Bible and mission.

It is given over to papers and case studies to come out of the third consultation of the Lausanne Theology Working Group, chaired by Chris Wright. Here’s the contents of the issue:

Editoral – Christopher J.H. Wright

The Whole World: Statement of the Lausanne Theology Working Group, Beirut 2010 – Christopher J.H. Wright

The World in the Bible – Christopher J.H. Wright

Towards a Missiology of Caring for Creation – Peter Harris

The Global Public Square – Vinoth Ramachandra

Can Christians Belong to More than One Religious Tradition?

Case Studies:

Peacemaking amidst urban violence in Brazil – C. Rosalee Velloso Ewell (Brazil)

The gospel amidst ethnic violence in Berundi – Emmanuel Ndikumana (Berundi)

The world threat of nuclear weapons, and the church’s role – Tyler Wigg-Stevenson (USA)

eVangelism: The gospel and the world of the internet – Rob Haskell (USA)

The separation of beliefs and religion in Europe – Birger Nygaard (Denmark)

Global Missiology online journal

I came across another free, online journal that featuress some articles on Bible and mission themes. Global Missiology describes itself as “a quarterly publication of contributions from international researchers, practitioners and scholars who have a global perspective.”

Here are some of the articles that may be of interest:

Reading Romans Missiologically – William B. Barcley 
The Biblical Approach to Other Religions – Roger Hedlund 
Missional Theology – Tite Tiénou, Paul G. Hiebert 
Possessio and Syncretism in Biblical Perspective – Peter Beyerhaus 
Jeremiah 29:4-7 and Immigrant Ministry – William Ki 
Mentoring for Life in Abundance: Learning from Paul’s Example – Linford Stutzman 
Missional Narrative and Missional Hermeneutic for the 21st Century – Enoch Wan, Paul Heibert 
“Partnership” – A Relational Study of the Trinity in the Epistle to the Philippians – Enoch Wan, Johnny Yee-chong Wan 
A Missio-Relational Reading of Romans: A Complementary Study to Current Approaches – Enoch Wan 

Go to Global Missiology