Using henna to communicate the Gospel

Henna Stories websiteA couple of years ago I posted on a fantastic example of how the art of henna might be used in Bible engagement (you can read that post here: Henna storying the Bible). People still come across that post most days, which suggests the concept intrigues and resonates with them. I’ve also had the privilege of seeing a student submit some henna designs for an assignment on the Psalms here at Redcliffe.

Revisiting the topic I notice that there are now quite a few links out there on the subject. The Henna stories website is a good place to start, as is the section on Henna in the AfricaStories website. Two interesting articles can be found on the Indigenous Jesus blog: Contextualized Henna Art and Mehndi Gospel Paintings.

You may also like to check out a couple of videos: Creation to Christ and Henna and the Gospel.

What about your own context? What expressions of creativity are prized in your culture and how might they be used to convey the message of the Gospel?

Taylor University launches Center for Scripture Engagement

Taylor University in the US has established an initiative to promote Scripture Engagement. You can view the website here: Center for Scripture Engagement

The home page gives a rationale for the existence of the center, focusing on three factors:

1) Because Scripture Engagement Is The Cutting Edge of Evangelism

2) Because Engaging With Scripture Is The Catalyst For Transformational Discipleship

3) Because A New Vision Of The Power of Scripture Is Urgently Needed

 

It is worth noting that the language of Scripture Engagement can be used in both broad and specific ways, so it is always helpful to know exactly what a particular author or organisation means by the term (or its related terms, Scripture Use, Bible Engagement, etc).

Taylor’s Center for Scripture Engagement understands SE as follows:

Scripture engagement is interaction with the biblical text in a way that provides sufficient opportunity for the text to speak for itself by the power of the Holy Spirit, enabling readers and listeners to hear the voice of God and discover for themselves the unique claim Jesus Christ is making upon them.

It then identifies distinct (though related) categories of SE:

Personal – interacting with Scripture during one’s private devotions.
Small Group – interacting with Scripture along with others.
Liturgical – the public recital of Scripture during acts of worship.
Rhetorical – public proclamation of the message of the Scriptures.
Didactic – instructional learning from Scripture in an educational context.

Finally, the Center suggests what SE enables us to do:

  • Discover God.  As we engage with the Holy Scriptures, God – Father, Son, and Spirit – mysteriously and graciously meets us, speaks to us, empowers us, and leads us into the next steps in our journey of faith.
  • Discover Our Mission with God.  The world urgently needs to hear the biblical story of God’s mission to rescue and reconcile the human race from its plight of insurgency, brokenness, and self-absorption.  By indwelling the biblical story and telling others about the story, we become an integral part of the very story we are invited to live and tell.
  • Discover Jesus Christ.  The Bible is the means through which Jesus exercises His Lordship over us.  The Scriptures testify to Jesus as the giver of eternal life (John 5:39; 6:68).  Engaging with these Scriptures is a vital feature of Christian discipleship.
  • Discover the Mission of the Church.  Scripture engagement transforms, inspires and enables the Church to express its life in vibrant ways and to accomplish its mission in the power of the Spirit.
  • Discover Values for Life.  Transformational Scripture engagement by the Christian community is the most effective driver in advocating the adoption of biblical values in public life.

 

We wish the new Center well and look forward to seeing how their research and other activities develop. Thanks to the ever-brilliant Scripture Engagement website for making us aware of this new initiative.

Making a Biblical Studies programme missional, part 3

This is the third in a series of posts exploring the Biblical Studies side of the new curriculum at Redcliffe College. Specifically, I’m aiming to inform and excite you about the way we are trying to make our teaching of Biblical Studies a thoroughly missional activity. Check out part 1 and part 2 of the series for an overview and introduction.

Having established a missional approach to the Bible and a foundational survey of the books of the Old and New Testaments in the first year, we then focus on some key texts in year two. By this stage we want students to be deepening their understanding of the content, interpretation and application of biblical texts.

As well as a biblical language, students have the option to take the following modules:

Missional texts: Psalms and Genesis 1-11

The module aims to enable students to analyse important aspects of these two key Old Testament texts and consider how they relate to the thinking and practice of the church’s involvement in the mission of God.

This module covers:

  1. The function of the book of Psalms and Genesis 1-11 as part of a missional reading of the Bible;
  2. Key issues in understanding and interpreting Psalms and Genesis 1-11, including historical and cultural contexts, genre, structure, literary features and theological themes;
  3. Case-studies in exegeting Psalms and passages from Genesis 1-11;
  4. The contemporary application of Psalms and Genesis 1-11, especially in relation to the thinking and practice of mission.
For me, it is so important that students leave Redcliffe equipped with the Psalms. More than any other part of Scripture, the Psalms articulate life and give us a liturgy for all the experiences we may go through. We encourage the students to pray through the Psalms – a habit I hope they will adopt, enjoy and be shaped by. There are also some important and intriguing missiological questions in the Psalms, not least the role of the nations and the great eschatological visions of nations gladly worshipping the LORD.
Genesis 1-11 has often been treated as the background to God’s mission. In this module we explore the content of the text in depth and try to see how it can function missionally.

Missional Texts: Luke and Acts

The module aims to enable students to analyse important aspects of Luke’s contribution to the New Testament and consider how it relates to the thinking and practice of the church’s involvement in the mission of God.

This module covers:

1. The function of Luke-Acts as part of a missional reading of the Bible;

2. Key issues in understanding and interpreting Luke-Acts, including historical and cultural contexts, genre, structure, literary features and theological themes;

3. Case-studies in exegeting passages from Luke-Acts;

4. The contemporary application of Luke-Acts, especially in relation to the thinking and practice of mission.
The language of the descriptor is clearly very similar to the Psalms and Genesis 1-11 module. Luke and Acts was an obvious choice in that it spans at least two different genre, and is often referred to in the literature on mission.
Finally, in addition to these book-specific modules, we offer a hermeneutics module:
Interpreting the Bible in Intercultural Contexts

The module aims to enable students to analyse important aspects of historical and contemporary interpretation of the Bible, and consider biblical hermeneutics in relation to a variety of Western and non-Western cultural contexts.

This module covers:

1. Key periods and events in the history of Biblical interpretation (e.g. Jewish, early Christian, and Medieval exegesis; the hermeneutical impact of the Reformation and of the Enlightenment;

2. Major topics in contemporary hermeneutics (e.g. literary approaches and  the role of the reader;

3. Biblical interpretation in different cultural contexts (e.g. Latin American, Asian and African);

This is an opportunity for students to look at the bigger picture of biblical interpretation, but also explore issues of intercultural reading and contextualisation.

So, by the end of the second of their three-year bachelor’s degree in Applied Theology in Intercultural Contexts, students are delving deeply into some crucial biblical texts and becoming more sensitive and globally aware interpreters. Stay tuned for the final year…

Bible Engagement and Oral Culture

International Orality NetworkIn a previous post I highlighted the Cape Town Commitment’s inclusion of the key issue of communicating the Bible in oral cultures.

The Bible and orality is a theme I will be returning to with more frequency, not least because over the Summer we will be preparing a new final year module as part of Redcliffe’s BA Degree in Applied Theology in Intercultural Contexts on ‘Story, Song and Social Networks: Bible Engagement and Oral Culture’.

As a helpful orientation here are a couple of excerpts from the website of the International Orality Network. The first gives a definition of their understanding of ‘oral learners’ or ‘oral communicators’. The second gives some statistics and facts.

Those of us who have tended to learn through literate means simply must get to grips with what this stuff means. Not only will it make our efforts to communicate the Bible more effective. I would argue it would also enrich our appreciation and understanding of the Bible immeasurably.

Definitions 

An oral learner or oral communicator is:

1. Someone who cannot read or write.

2. Someone whose most effective communication and learning format, style, or method is in accordance with oral formats, as contrasted to literate formats.

3. Someone who prefers to learn or process information by oral rather than written means. (These are literate people whose preferred communication style is oral rather than literate, even though they can read.)

 

Statistics and Facts

1. Over 4 Billion people in the world do not read as their primary method of learning – either they cannot read; they do not read; or they will not read.

2. The vast majority of missions work has been done for a literate audience. Unfortunately the vast majority of the true audience is therefore not able to connect with the Gospel.

3. Oral cultures are very relational – they share their lives with one another.

4. Most oral cultures will communicate with one another in narratives, dialogues and dramas, proverbs, songs, chants, and poetry. When asked what he thought about a new village school headmaster, a Central African replied “Let’s watch how he dances”

This leaves us with some serious questions to answer: how different would our missionary efforts look if we truly took the phenomenon of orality seriously? What could we learn that would apply to a (if I can use this term) ‘post-literate’ society? How much to I base my efforts to communicate on how I would understand something, as if my preferred learning style is objective?

Lots to chew over in the coming months. In the meantime, check out ION’s website

The internet device boom and the future of Bible Engagement

BBC’s website published a news item this afternoon on a report by CISCO predicting an ‘internet device boom’. Here’s an excerpt from BBC’s report:

The number of internet connected devices is set to explode in the next four years to over 15 billion – twice the world’s population by 2015.

Technology giant Cisco predicts the proliferation of tablets, mobile phones, connected appliances and other smart machines will drive this growth.

The company said consumer video will continue to dominate internet traffic.

It predicts that by 2015, one million minutes of video will be watched online every second.

The predictions come from Cisco’s fifth annual forecast of upcoming trends.

Cisco’s Visual Networking Index also estimated that at the same time more than 40% of the world’s projected population will be online, a total of nearly three billion people.

What do these staggering statistics mean for the ways in which participate in God’s mission and engage people with the Bible? A few initial suggestions:

1. We need to take technology seriously and on its own terms. This isn’t just a sideline for a few interested people.

2. We need to work hard at ‘digital contextualisation’. Just as recording a text doesn’t automatically make it ‘oral’, so we must develop ways of engaging people with the Bible in the digital sphere that are not just ‘digitial’ versions of analogue engagement.

3. In particular, how might we harness video and the social networking that goes with it to greater effect?

4. Connected with issues of technology are issues of wealth and power. Technology will not lead us to a new utopia; what will be the particular ways that humanity finds to sin in the digital sphere? How will abuses of digital power be worked out in this context and how will the church respond biblically?

5. 40% of the world’s population being online is a huge number, though I’d like to know how ‘being online’ is defined. But that still leaves 60% who won’t be online. It would be interesting to see how oral cultures engage with  the digital boom. Is it the preocupation of literate cultures? Ironically, you could argue that technology is actually creating new oral cultures within literary ones as people’s preferred means of experiencing and sharing information changes. Also, let’s not get so preoccupied with the 40% that we forget the 60%.

Just a few thoughts to get the ball rolling. What would you add? Do you have any good examples of digital contextualisation or Bible Engagement. What you think the implications are?

Finally, given my context of preparing people for cross-cultural mission, I’d like to note a few ways in which we at Redcliffe College are seeking to ensure that our students are equipped to engage in this stuff. Here are some examples:

Students on the first year of our degree in Applied Theology in Intercultural Contexts they can take a module on contemporary communication skills, which takes a practical look at using technology;

second years doing Luke/Acts and/or Genesis 1-11/Psalms can opt to do a creative piece for their assignment that might involved writing a blog, making a video, or something similar;

third years have the option of doing our brand new module, ‘Story, Song and Social Networks: Bible Engagement and Oral Culture’;

finally, students taking the MA in Bible and Mission have to do a module in ‘Bible Engagement in Intercultural Contexts’, and can use this as an opportunity to explore Bible Engagement in a digital context.

Making a Biblical Studies programme missional, part 2

Redcliffe's web page for the BA(Hons) Degree in Applied Theology in Intercultural ContextsThis is the second in a series of posts exploring the Biblical Studies side of the new curriculum at Redcliffe College. Specifically, I’m aiming to inform and excite you about the way we are trying to make our teaching of Biblical Studies a thoroughly missional activity. Check out part 1 of the series for an overview and introduction.

The first thing to say is that we no longer have a module entitled, A Biblical Basis of Mission.

Yes, you heard me right! Traditionally, Bible Colleges have run courses in the Biblical Studies department called something like, Introduction to the Old Testament / Introduction to the New Testament, and then the Missiology/Theology department might have a module on a Biblical Basis of Mission.

But should these really be separated?

If, as I have contended on numerous occasions in this blog, the Bible is thoroughly missional, should not an overview course of the Bible take account of its missional character in a fully integrated way?

More than this, I would suggest that running separate modules is communicating something rather unhelpful to students; that you can have an introduction to the Bible separate to an introduction to Biblical mission.

So we now have modules in the first year called ‘A missional introduction to the Old Testament’ and ‘A missional approach to the New Testament’. These courses orient students both to the the context, content and contemporary significance of the books of the Bible, but also look at how the Bible is a product, record and tool of mission. This approach is an attempt to bridge the disciplines of Biblical Studies and Missiology. It also means that a students gain a solid foundation in the content, interpretation and missional nature of the Bible, and a thorough basis for understanding the church’s missionary identity and task.

To flesh this out in more detail, here is some course info.

In the first year students take two compulsory Bible-focused modules (though they can do a biblical language as well):

  • A missional introduction to the Old Testament
The module aims to introduce students to the background, content, interpretation and contemporary relevance of the books of the Old Testament. Questions relating to the thinking and practice of mission will be asked throughout.
This module covers:
1. An introduction to the missional nature of the Bible, particularly in relation to the texts of the Old Testament;
2. An overview of the books of the Old Testament accounting for issues such as historical context, genre, structure, contents, main themes, interpretation and application;
3. An exploration of the significance of Old Testament texts for the thinking and practice of mission.
  • A missional introduction to the New Testament
The module aims to introduce students to the background, content, interpretation and contemporary relevance of the books of the New Testament. Questions relating to the thinking and practice of mission will be asked throughout.
This module covers:
1. An introduction to the missional nature of the Bible, particularly in relation to the texts of the New Testament;
2. An overview of the books of the New Testament accounting for issues such as historical context, genre, structure, contents, main themes, interpretation and application;
3. An exploration of the significance of New Testament texts for the thinking and practice of mission.
Having build a solid foundation for Bible and Mission, the challenge for the second year is to see how that works when looking at particular texts in more depth. Next up, Missional texts: Psalms and Genesis 1-11; Missional texts: Luke and Acts; and Interpreting the Bible in intercultural contexts.

Making a Biblical Studies programme missional, part 1

Redcliffe's web page for the BA(Hons) Degree in Applied Theology in Intercultural Contexts

This post is the first in a series that I hope will inform and excite you about the way in which we have sought at Redcliffe to make our teaching of Biblical Studies a thoroughly missional activity.

Today I will give a broad introduction while subsequent posts will unpack what we are doing at each stage of the degree programme.

The world is changing fast so we need to constantly develop our training to meet the increasing complexities and new challenges and opportunities of mission. To that end, over the last few months at Redcliffe we have been working hard on a revamp of our entire undergraduate Applied Theology in Intercultural Contexts programmes.

One of my challenges as the main lecturer in Biblical Studies has been to see how the Bible-focused modules can reflect recent developments in the area of Bible and mission. Specifically, we have been more intentional about integrating (1) the missional interpretation of the Bible, and (2) the growth in Scripture Engagement across the curriculum. This reflects the values of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission where we look at both mission in the Bible/the missional nature of the Bible, and the Bible in mission.

In addition to Greek and Hebrew, these are the Bible-focused modules students can now do (It is worth noting that these modules are just one part of the overall training, so there are plenty of other modules students can do as well. And, of course, there is biblical input into other modules too).

First year
A missional introduction to the Old Testament
A missional introduction to the New Testament

Second year
Missional texts: Psalms and Genesis 1-11
Missional texts: Luke and Acts
Interpreting the Bible in intercultural contexts

Third year
Missional texts: Isaiah
Story, song and social network: Bible engagement and oral culture

One of the most interesting discussions and decisions is to drop the module we have traditionally taught called ‘A Biblical Basis for Mission’. I’ll explain more about that in my next post! If you can’t wait until then, drop a comment in the box below to suggest why we might have done that…

The process of Bible engagement

Harriet Hill, co-author of Translating the Bible into Action: How the Bible can be Relevant in all Languages and Cultures has posted a very helpful document on the Lausanne Global Conversation and Scripture Engagement websites.

It talks about Bible/Scripture engagement as a process covering:

  • Bible Availability – Do people have access to the Bible in a language and media that they are able to use?
  • Bible Awareness – Are people aware of the Bibles that are available? Are they exposed to them?
  • Bible Use – Do people choose to read or listen to the Bible?
  • Bible Understanding – Do people understand what they read?
  • Bible Engagement – Through interaction with the written word, do people encounter the Living Word (Christ)?

You can read the whole document here. She has invited feedback so why not have a look and then add your comments to one of the sites mentioned above?

Understanding and using the Bible in different contexts

SPCK sent through a review copy today of a very interesting looking book called Understanding and Using the Bible, edited by Chris Wright and Jonathan Lamb (both of Langham Partnership International). It is part of the SPCK International Study Guide Series.

About the series, Rene Padilla comments:

‘To be relevant to life, theology must be contextual. The International Study Guides are a tremendous help to people. They broaden their concept of the mission of the Church and their Christian responsibility.’

The contributors to Understanding and Using the Bible represent a variety of cultural contexts including the UK, Latin America, South and South East Asia, and Africa. Here are the blurb and contents:

The Bible claims to be, and the Church confesses it to be, the word of God, but what does this mean? Understanding and Using the Bible encourages you to take the Bible seriously, whether you are a student, pastor, lay leader or just an ‘ordinary’ believer. Packed with wisdom and examples from around the world, this helpful book shows how the Bible is being used creatively to transform lives – and how simple techniques of Bible study and exploration can be employed across countries and cultures.

The book is in two parts. Part One explores key Christian belief about the Bible and why it matters; encourages effective use and application of the Bible in different cultural and social contexts; teaches on right and wrong use of the Bible; models different possible ways of approaching and using the Bible with integrity; encourages readers to take the Bible as a whole and build a biblical worldview.

Part Two, Using the Bible, illustrates examples of applied Bible use in different contexts with contributions from a variety of authors.

Table of contents:

Part 1  Understanding the Bible
Introduction
1. Understanding the Bible as the word of God – Christopher J.H. Wright
2. Understanding the Bible as the words of human authors – Christopher J.H. Wright
3. Understanding the Bible as a whole – Christopher J.H. Wright
Selected reading

Part 2  Using the Bible
4. Using the Bible devotionally for life – Jonathan Lamb
5. Using the Bible in evangelism – Ajith Fernando
6. Using the Bible in groups – Catherine Padilla
7. Using the Bible in the context of Islam – Ida Glaser
8. Using the Bible in oral cultures – Steve Evans
9. Using the Bible with women – Emily Onyango
10. Using the Bible in the family as a guide for life – Anthony and King Lang Loke
11. Using the Bible in preaching – Jonathan Lamb