Reading the Bible Missionally with Tony Stiff – Part I
Today starts a new series of blog post by Tony Stiff on Reading the Bible Missionally. If we are going to make sense of our sacred text, we must learn to read it missionally and this short series will give us some meaningful ways to do that. You can learn more about Tony and his vocation at the bottom of each entry. Here is the introduction to the series.
“It is not enough, however, just to say that mission has a solid biblical foundation, we also need to see that the Bible has its roots in mission. That is, the Bible is the product of God’s engagement through God’s people in God’s world for God’s ultimate purposes for the nations and the world…So from beginning to end, the Bible is missional, by its very existence and by its comprehensive message. Mission then has to be a prime hermeneutical key for our own Bible reading and teaching.” (Wright 2003:3)
What is the missional conversation all about?
The missional conversation is connected to a new situational and theological awareness that Christians in the West are coming to. The situational awareness is tied to the ever declining presence and inﬂuence that the Church in the Western world is having and how that is causing Christians in the West to rethink what it means to be the church sent – the missional church. Darrell L. Guder, editor of perhaps the most well known work on the topic called The Missional Church, sets up the problem facing the Church in the Western world today; “Rather than occupying a central and inﬂuential place, North American Christian churches are increasingly marginalized, so much so that in our urban areas they represent a minority movement. It is by now a truism to speak of North America as a mission ﬁeld.” (Guder 1998:2)
The theological awareness that is spreading across the Church in the West is that God himself is missional. God is sent and we as his people must see our churches as sent. Again, Darrell L. Guder ﬁlls this out when he says; “We have come to see that mission is not merely the activity of the church. Rather, mission is the result of God’s initiative, rooted in God’s purposes to restore and heal creation. Mission means sending, and it is the central biblical theme describing the purpose of God’s actions in human history…We have learned to speak of God as a missionary God. Thus we have learned to understand the church as a “sent people.” (Guder 1998:4) As Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:12)
The West has been growing more and more Post-Christian but for a God who is missional, and for a church who because she is made in His images is also missional, this shift to a more Post-Christian setting in the West is a huge opportunity to be what by nature she is called to be. A sent people.
What is a missional church?
“A missional church is characterized by a great deal of respect for people who don’t believe. In other words a missional church understands what its like not to believe.” (Keller) What that means is that missional churches give great consideration to how they speak both corporately in preaching and teaching, as well as in smaller community dynamics like small group discussions because they view themselves as a sent people. Missional churches are well versed in their surrounding culture’s stories and they know how to retell them in a way that contextualizes the Gospel. What this means for missional churches reading of Scripture is that it is marked by cultural sensitivity. They are able to see how it is a word for them, for their community, centered upon how Christ has already and is yet to bring God’s Kingdom agendas to bear on the brokenness of their world. Missional churches don’t stop here though, they are not only self-reﬂective about their faith and mutually- respecting of their unbelieving neighbors, but they also actively seek to equip each other for service in the public arena.
Why read the Bible missionally?
Without a missional hermeneutic (a way of reading, understanding, and applying text) it is impossible to be a missional church. There is, however, an even more important reason why we should read the Bible missionally. A reason indicated in the opening quote by Christopher Wright, “So from beginning to end, the Bible is missional, by its very existence and by its comprehensive message. Mission then has to be a prime hermeneutical key for our own Bible reading…” (Wright 2003:3) We should read the Bible missionally because the Bible is a missional book that”s not to be only studied, but to be read as a word from Him to empower His mission through us.
The following series of posts will explore what it means to read Scripture missionally by learning to read Scripture in light of its missional origin, its missional narrative, our missional context as readers, and the missional engagement Scripture makes in our culture.
|Tony Stiff is a pastor seeking to make sense of an ever changing ecclesial landscape while continuing to bring God’s Kingdom to bear on a global/local world. This is almost as daunting a task as loving my wife as Christ loved the church, and raising my child to have her moms strengths rather than her dads weaknesses. I am currently searching for a pastoral calling in a city. My resume website is tonystiff.com.|