The Bible and European mission

Redcliffe has just hosted the annual European Consultation, organised jointly by ourselves, Global Connections and ECM.

This year the focus of the 24-hour event was on three trends in Europe, which were covered in three sessions yesterday: Islam, Migration, and Urbanisation. This morning then comprised of three responses: one from a church perspective, one from a mission agency perspective, and finally, a biblical reflection, which I was asked to do.

I won’t replicate the talk here just yet as it will be available soon on the Global Connections website as an audio file.

My brief was to reflect biblically on the conversations that had gone on throughout the event. I chose three parts of the Bible to do this. To whet your appetite, here is the basic structure. I’ll post again when all the talks are available.

2012 European Consultation

Biblical Reflections on Encountering the Other

Whether it has been in the context of talking about Islam, Migration or Urbanisation, a recurring theme over the course of this consultation has been an exploration of encountering those unlike ourselves. In the case of those of other faiths or none, how do we engage with them, love them, and reach them with the good news of Jesus? In the case of those who already share our faith, how do we join together with them in fruitful ways?


A migrant’s story (2 Kings 5)

Here is someone who has migrated but not of her will. We can only imagine the trauma of her situation. Yet still she seeks shalom for her captor; she still trusted in the power of Yahweh, as well as his ability and willingness to heal this pagan enemy.

I think the story here in 2 Kings 5 can move us to remember that God’s people are often the disempowered in every worldy sense, yet even here (especially here?) God can and does do some extraordinary things to further his purposes.


Applying Wisdom to a European context (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes)

One rather neglected part of the Bible when it comes to mission thinking and practice is the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament: Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes.

In his book, The Mission of God Chris Wright addresses the WL in several ways which I would like to draw on here:

1. Wisdom as ‘international bridge’.

Israel’s WL is part of an international body of WL, the type of which was common across the ANE. Israel was aware of this and was often complimentary of the wisdom of other nations. So, lots of contact between Israel’s wisdom thinkers and those of other cultures.

Wright, p.443: ‘The Wisdom literature is undoubtedly the most overtly international of all materials in the Bible’

This is seen in 2 ways: deals with issues common elsewhere; 2. but Israel did not absorb the nations’ wisdom uncritically

Wright: ‘some missiologists and cross-cultural practitioners suggest that the Wisdom literature provides one of the best bridges for biblical faith to establish meaningful contact and engagement with widely different human cultures around the world.’

‘Israel had no monopoly on all things wise and good and true. Neither, of course, have Christians. Nothing is to be gained from denying, and much missional benefit accrues from affirming, those aspects of any human cultural tradition that are compatible with biblical truth and moral standards.’

‘Missional engagement then may well build a bridge with other cultures through the common international quality of biblical Wisdom, but the bridge in itself is not salvific. Eventually, something must cross the bridge. And that can only be the message of the biblical gospel, of the identity of YHWH and the fill biblical story of his redemption of the world through Jesus Christ.’

2. Wisdom often uses a ‘struggling voice’, which acknowledges uncertainty and promotes honesty.

‘not a safe intramural exercise for Israel. They are issues with which Israel struggles or the sake of the world.’ (Brueggemann, quoted in Wright)


From, ‘I embrace you’ to, ‘I need you’ (Rev. 7)

The heart language you speak will reflect and shape the way you see the world around you, in a way that only that language can do. So, there will be ways of understanding and praising God through Swahili that English just can’t do. And vice versa. There are aspects of God that a French or Hungarian speaker might more readily or fully understand that wouldn’t come so easily to an Albanian. And so it goes on.

‘Christianity seems unique in being the only world religion that is transmitted without the language or originating culture of its founder.’ Lamin Sanneh

That is to say, the Christian faith cannot be contained within one language or culture. It is too big, too wonderful and too gloriously complex to be fully contained and expressed through one language or one cultural expression.

This is not just an issue of how benevolent, accommodating or curious a host culture church should be in relation to the migrant individuals, communities or churches. The very nature of the Gospel, of the incarnation, and of passages like Rev. 7 teach us that we need each other to more fully understand and express our worship to God.

The Bible and trends in Europe today

2012 European Consultation: Trends in Europe todayEvery year Redcliffe College hosts a consultation on mission in Europe. The next one, which is organised by Global Connections, ECM and Redcliffe, is in January and is focused on the theme of Trends in Europe Today.

I’ll be offering some biblical reflection toward the end of the programme. If you are interested or engaged in mission in a European context do come along.

Redcliffe’s European specialism is embodied in the work of our Nova Research Centre.

There is info about the consultation below from Redcliffe’s website. .

2012 European Consultation: Trends in Europe Today

Wednesday 4 to Thursday 5 January 2012

It isn’t easy to find people who love Jesus in Europe today. Only in the Middle East are you less likely to meet people who follow Christ. This is a sad statement to make about Europe, whose skylines are littered with steeples.

Nonetheless God has called many churches and mission organisations to say “This isn’t good enough! We want God to be glorified in Europe too!”. But it isn’t always easy to work in today’s most secular continent.

Organised by Global Connections, ECM and Redcliffe College, this consultation is designed to help stimulate your thinking about some of the trends we are facing in Europe today. Experienced missional thinkers and practitioners will deal with the challenges of Migration, Urbanisation and Islam.

As with previous consultations this is a unique chance to network with other leaders involved in Europe with its many unique and changing facets, to share information on current activities, focus and aims, as well as future plans and dreams.

Speakers include:

Robert Calvert (Urbanisation), formerly of Scotland, currently pastors a church in Rotterdam. It is made up of people from more than forty nations and the team of elders is drawn from four continents.

Alessia Passarelli (Migration) consults for the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe (Brussels) while also doing PhD research into the relationships between migration and churches in Italy and the Republic of Ireland

Bert de Ruiter (Islam) speaks on issues related to Christian-Muslim relations and has developed a course called Sharing Lives to help Christians overcome their fear and share their lives with Muslims.

Tony Peck (Church response) is General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation and an Associate Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance.

Chris Wigram (Mission organisation response) is International Director of European Christian Mission, which works in 18 European countries.

Tim Davy (Biblical reflection) is Director of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission at Redcliffe College, and lecturer in Biblical Studies and Mission

Ian Nicholson (Prayer) works with 24/7 Prayer.

The consultation will be held from 12 noon on 4th January through 2pm on 5th January 2012 at Redcliffe College.

Directions to Redcliffe College


Until 31 October 2011 the cost is £75, which includes an early booking discount.
From 1 November to 23 December 2011 (the booking deadline) the cost is £85.
This will cover food and accommodation, including lunch and dinner on 4th January, and breakfast and lunch on 5th January.

To book

You can download the booking form here, or book online via the Global Connections website
If you have any other queries relating to booking for this event, please contact Evan Winter.

Bible, mission and migration

Nova Research Centre, an initiative located at Redcliffe that researches and publishes on mission in and for Europe, has just published their latest news bulletin. Vista is a quarterly bulletin of research-based information on mission in Europe. The theme this issue is migration.

Here’s a snippet that picks up on a biblical theme:

European churches and mission agencies are in the vanguard of those working with migrants and 2010 has been declared a year of European churches responding to migration. The experience of koinonia outlined in the New Testament will not permit social and ethnic diversity to become divisive and the most powerful testimony to a reconciling Gospel is to live that Gospel out within reconciled communities of the Kingdom. The experience of community should always move us beyond ourselves, however, to the vulnerable, needy and lost who can be found among migrants and refugees. It should also learn how it can best integrate the migrant experiences of vibrant and vital faith with its own experiences.

And, the challenge remains, as to how best address the challenges and questions posed by the nationalist and far-right populist parties. There are precious human rights and freedoms that the church must not allow to be trampled underfoot by such movements. New ways must be found to counter destructive, divisive, and racist policies that ignore the public value of key biblical and theological insights. The diversity of the early church is a powerful reminder and stimulus to better appreciating our own European diversity and framing a more adequate response in mission.

Read the whole issue of Vista