A Missional Reading of Scripture conference

A Missional Reading of Scripture conferenceCalvin Theological Seminary in the US is holding an excellent looking conference this November on the theme of ‘A Missional Reading of Scripture’.

As well as including some key missional hermeneutics scholars, I like the way it aims to address the application of the approach to matters of preaching and theological education as well.

Here are some details plus a link to CTS’s website.

A Missional Reading of Scripture

Wed-Thurs, November 20-21, 2013

3233 Burton Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546  


Over the past century a number of scholars have recognized that mission is not simply a peripheral theme in the biblical story. Rather, it is a central thread in the biblical writings and central to the identity of the church. Thus, a missional hermeneutic is a way of reading Scripture in which mission is a central interpretive key that unlocks the whole narrative of Scripture. It 

does not simply study the theme of mission but reads the whole of the biblical canon with mission as one of its central themes. This conference will explore what it might mean to read both the Old Testament and the New Testament with a missional hermeneutic, and what that might mean for missional praxis of the church, specifically preaching, theological education, and the life of the local congregation.  


Speakers & Plenary Topics 

Christopher J.H. Wright – A Missional Reading of the Old Testament

Michael W. Goheen – A Missional Reading of Scripture and Preaching

N.T. Wright – A Missional Reading of the New Testament

Darrell L. Guder – A Missional Reading of Scripture and Theological Education

For more information visit the Calvin Theological Seminary website

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

Psalms and the missional formation of the Church

A Light to the Nations by Michael GoheenI’m really enjoying Michael Goheen’s book,  A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story. Here’s a nice quote on the relationship between the Psalms and the formation of the people of God, and how this relates to our engagement in God’s mission:

We get a glimpse of the richness of Israel’s worship when we read Israel’s temple hymnbook – the psalms, which prompt the people to thanksgiving, wisdom, commitment, repentance, joy, and obedience. The psalms nourish faithfulness in all its dimensions, so that Israel might be an attractive display people. Israel’s worship and liturgy also creates an alternative worldview to that of its pagan neighbors, opening up a very different way of seeing and living in the world. It offers an unclouded vision of the world in which the one true God, Israel’s God, is creator of all things, ruler of nature and history, and merciful savior. Rodney Clapp captures this perspective on worship in the title of his chapter on the church’s worship: “Welcome to the real world.” In the midst of the land, before the nations, Israel’s worship celebrates the one true God and his mighty deeds in history. What Paul Jones says about the church is certainly first true of Israel: “Inasmuch as the Church is anchored in the gracious acts of God, corporate worship sustains and transmits Christian identity formation.” And so in these ways Israel’s identity and self-understanding, its role and calling in the midst of the nations, are constantly celebrated and nourished by its liturgy. (pp.57-58)

One question that arises for me is, ‘In what ways are we celebrating and nourishing our role and calling in the midst of the nations?’

What do you think?

PS. If you are interested in the relationship between the Psalter and the mission of God, have a look at the June 2010 issue of Encounters Mission Journal, which was on the theme of The Psalms and Mission. It features the following articles:

  • Editorial:  The Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission.
    (Tim Davy, 761 words, pdf 54 KB)
  • Article 1:  The Nations in the Psalms.
    (Prof Gordon Wenham, 5513 words, pdf 65 KB)
  • Article 2:  The Nations in the Psalms and the Psalms in the Nations – a response.
    (Tim Davy, 912 words, pdf 51 KB)
  • Article 3:  Psalms 1-2 as an Introduction to Reading the Psalms Missionally.
    (Dr Brian Russell, 2083 words, pdf 51 KB)
  • Article 4:  Reflections on the Nations in the Psalms.
    (Eddie Arthur, 485 words, pdf 23 KB)
  • Article 5:  The Nations in Isaiah 40-55.
    (Rev Dr David Spriggs, 1218 words, pdf 37 KB)
  • Article 6:  Missionary Attrition and the Psalms of Lament.
    (Name withheld, 1041 words, pdf 41 KB)
  • Article 7:  A Missional Reading of Psalm 47.
    (Tony Hughes, 1664 words, pdf 48 KB)
  • Article 8:  Praying the Psalms.
    (Rev Dr Ian Stackhouse, 2598 words, pdf 59 KB)


  • Book Review 1:  Transformation after Lausanne: Radical Evangelical Mission in Global-local Perspective.
    (by Al Tizon; Regnum Books)
  • Book Review 2:  Understanding and Using the Bible.
    (edited by Christopher J.H. Wright and Jonathan Lamb; SPCK)


Defining missional

A Light to the Nations by Michael Goheen

‘Mission’, ‘missionary’, ‘missional’. I can imagine that if I taught at an art college I’d spend a lot of time asking students, ‘what is art?’. Well, teaching at Redcliffe College, one of only two specifically mission-training colleges in the UK, causes me to ask the ‘mission’ question of myself and students on a regular basis.

I’ve been reading Michael Goheen‘s new book, A Light to the Nations: The Missional Church and the Biblical Story. Here’s how he

approaches the term ‘missional’:

The employment of the term “missional” includes the superficial along with the profound, the culturally captive alongside the richly biblical. But the popularity of “missional” language suggests that something has struck a chord with many Christians…

At its best, “missional” describes not a special activity of the church but the very essence and identity of the church as it takes up its role in God’s story in the context of its culture and participates in God’s mission to the world. This book is an attempt to describe “mission” as the role and identity of the church in the context of the biblical story.

So, Goheen is saying that whatever activities we may label as ‘missional’ are all secondary and subsidiary to the missional identity of the church in our participation in God’s mission.

Michael Goheen on Bible and Mission – lots of resources and a new book

A Light to the Nations by Michael GoheenMichael Goheen, a key writer in the field of Bible and mission, has just brought out a new book, which I’m looking forward to reading very much. In this post I want to do two things: highlight A Light to the Nations, and make you aware of other useful resources by Goheen that will aid those engaged in the thinking and practice of Bible and mission.

1. A Light to the Nations

There aren’t many book-length treatments of a missional hermeneutic of the Scriptures (exceptions would be Chris Wright’s The Mission of God, Bauckham’s The Bible and Mission,  Beeby’s Canon and Mission, and Brownson’s Speaking the Truth With Love), so Goheen’s book is a very welcome addition to the growing body of literature on the subject.

One of the interesting (albeit overly-simplistic) questions to ask of anyone writing on Bible and mission is, ‘Is this a biblical scholar with an interest in mission, or a missiologist writing about biblical studies?’. Goheen is Geneva Professor of Worldview and Religious Studies at Trinity Western University and his doctorate was on Lesslie Newbigin’s missionary ecclesiology. Check out two volumes he has co-authored with Craig Bartholomew on the Biblical story and worldview, The Drama of Scripture and Living at the Crossroads.

Here’s the blurb and contents for A light to the Nations from Baker Academic’s website:

There is a growing body of literature about the missional church, but the word missional is often defined in competing ways with little attempt to ground it deeply in Scripture. In A Light to the Nations, Michael Goheen unpacks the missional identity of the church by tracing the role God’s people are called to play in the biblical story. Goheen examines the historical, theological, and biblical foundations of missional ecclesiology, showing that the church’s identity can be understood only when its role is articulated in the context of the whole biblical story–not just the New Testament. He shows that the Old Testament is essential to understanding the church’s missional identity. Goheen also explores practical outworkings and implications and offers field-tested suggestions, putting Lesslie Newbigin’s missionary ecclesiology to work in shaping the contemporary church. The book is written at a level easily accessible to students in missions, pastoral, worldview, and theology courses as well as pastors, church leaders, and all readers interested in the missional church.

1. The Church’s Identity and Role: Whose Story? Which Images?
2. God Forms Israel as a Missional People
3. Israel Embodies Its Missional Role and Identity amid the Nations
4. Jesus Gathers an Eschatological People to Take Up Their Missional Calling
5. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus and the Church’s Missional Identity
6. The Missional Church in the New Testament Story
7. New Testament Images of the Missional Church
8. The Missional Church in the Biblical Story–A Summary
9. What Might This Look Like Today?

A Light to the Nations is sure to be an important text in this whole area. I’ll blog about it in more detail as I read it over the summer.

2. Other Michael Goheen resources on Bible and Mission

Goheen has a fantastic array of resources freely accessible online. The best thing to do is go to the allofliferedeemed website, which has all the links. Here are a few highlights:

‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’: J.E. Lesslie Newbigin’s missionary ecclesiology‘ [a full script of his doctoral thesis]

Notes Toward a Framework for a Missional Hermeneutic

Continuing Steps Towards a Missional Hermeneutic

The Urgency of Reading the Bible as One Story

Reading the Bible . . . and articulating a worldview

A Critical Examination of David Bosch’s Missional Reading of Luke


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)

The Bible as the true story of the world

Under this heading in their book, Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic Books, 2008), Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew make some important points about the reality that is rendered in the Bible. This is a reality with profoundly important missional implications. This is a lengthy quote, but it will take you less time to read it than it took me to type it 🙂

When Jesus came, he announced that he was himself the goal of this redemptive story, the climax of God’s dramatic activity. Such a claim was completely astonishing. Jesus was not simply another rabbi offering some new religious or ethical teaching by which to enrich one’s own life. He claimed that in his person and work the meaning of history and of the world itself was being made known and accomplished. He warned that all people must find their place and meaning within his story, and no other.

When we speak, therefore of the Bible as a story, we are making a normative claim about the story told in the Bible: it is public truth. It is a claim that this is the way God created the world; the story of the Bible tells us the way the world really is. Thus, the biblical story is not to be understood simply as a local tale about the Jewish people. It begins with the creation of all things and ends with the renewal of all things. In between, it offers an interpretation of the meaning of cosmic history. Christopher Wright puts it this way: “The Old Testament tells its story as the story or, rather, as part of that ultimate and universal story that will ultimately embrace the whole of creation, time, and humanity within its scope. In other words, in reading these texts we are invited to embrace a metanarrative, a grand narrative.”

Thus our stories, our reality-indeed, all of human and non-human reality-must find their place in this story. In Mimesis, Erich Auerbach makes this point in a striking contrast between Homer’s Odyssey and the biblical story: “Far from seeking, like Homer, merely to make us forget our own reality for a few hours, [the Old Testament] seeks to overcome our reality: we are to fit our own life into its world, feel ourselves to be elements in its structure of universal history…. Everything else that happens in the world can only be conceived as an element in this sequence; into it everything that is known about the world… must be fitted as an ingredient of the divine plan.” Normally, when we read myths and novels, or when we watch movies, television, or plays, we are meant at least in part to gorget about our own world and to enter and live in the fictional world for a time. When the story ends, we emerge on the other side , return to our own world, and resume our own lives. We have indulged in a kind of escape from reality into fiction, perhaps hoping to be informed, enriched, or at least entertained while we have been “away.” Some of us will seek to carry back some nuggets of truth or wisdom or beauty as souvenirs from the world of artifice, giving us perhaps some new (but admittedly limited) insight into an aspect of our lives in the “real” world. But it is not that way with the biblical story. The Bible claims to be the real world. The story, among all stories, claims to tell the whole truth about the way our won world really is. Here, inside this story, we are meant to find the meaning of our lives. Here we must find a place in which our own experience was meant to fit. Here we are offered insight into the ultimate significance of human life itself.

Thus, the gospel is public truth, universally valid, true for all people and all of human life. It is not merely for the private sphere of “religious” experience. It is not about some otherworldly salvation postponed to an indefinite future. It is God’s message about how he is at work to restore his world and all of human life. It tells us about the goal of all history and thus claims to be the true story of the world. (pp.3-4, their italics)