It’s been a couple of months since I last drew together a compendium of some of the articles on the Bible and mission that I’ve been reading. Some of this stuff may well be familiar to you already, but hopefully, there will be something new.
I’ve often written that we need to learn from the way that Christians in other parts of the world demonstrate their faith in difficult circumstances. This letter from a pastor in Wuhan is a case in point.
believe this is the command of God calling those of us living in Wuhan. We are to seek peace for this city, seek peace for those who are afflicted with this illness, seek peace for the medical personnel struggling on the front lines, seek peace for every government official at every level, seek peace for all the people of Wuhan! And we can through online networks guide and comfort our friends and loved ones with the gospel, reminding them that our lives are not in our own hands, and to entrust their lives to God who is faithful and true.
For the last few years, researchers have credited the underground church in Iran as the fastest growing Christian church in the world. It has unique characteristics that defy comparison with churches in America and Europe, and in the opinion of some who know it well, the church in the West could learn by studying it.
This article about the church in Vietnam is well worth a few minutes of your time. Getting back to China, this article suggests that the government there is about to start issuing approved translations of religious texts, which will presumably include a version of the Bible more attuned to the Party’s ideology.
The yearly Gordon Conwell status of Global Christianity figures are now out. You really should download these and have them available for sermons.
Mission and Mission Thinking
The Gospel Coalition says that a revolution has come to world missions. I’m not convinced that a process which (as the article points out) has been going on throughout history is quite so revolutionary, but the article is better than the title.
Evangelical Christianity is more global than ever before. Most evangelical missionary heroes have been white, having come from positions of power with the good news shrouded in cultural practices. Today, many new missionaries aren’t white, they don’t have access to positions of cultural power, and they are eager to be viewed as equals by evangelical leaders.
While on the subject of migration, this graphic came up in my twitter feed:
The Western church doesn’t need more leaders who mimic shooting stars, briefly streaking across the skyline of conferences and podcasts. Instead we need farmers, who understand the seasons and know what it means to wait.
While the previous pieces looked at two particular situations this, one considers globalisation in mission.
Incarnational ministry in this global age requires a deep commitment to a respectful mindset. It is not just a matter of strategy, but an essential quality of missional spirituality and leadership. True identification with people from other cultural backgrounds starts with recognising the different realities. True ecumenism honestly recognises and accepts the essential differences and learns to coexist with them.
If you are looking for some provocative thinking (though not many answers) on unreached people groups, you might enjoy this article.
We cannot zap Jesus back by completing the great commission, as soon as the last tribe hears the last word of our good news presentation in their language. Mission is about far more than gospel presentations, Discipleship (Seeker) Bible Studies or responses. The great commission speaks of teaching people to obey all that Christ has commanded, and the New Testament develops the idea of God’s people – now, the Church.
Do formal equivalent translations reflect a higher view of plenary, verbal inspiration? It takes a bit of time to read the paper, but anyone interested in Bible translation should do so.
And lastly, three articles about the future. In the more immediate, Leith Anderson has bright hopes for the next decade in ministry. Perhaps a bit more remote; Ian Paul asks whether we should want to be Left Behind.
Being ready for the return of Jesus therefore encourages us to live the life of a disciple, rather than engaging in ‘end times speculation’, in line with the rest of Jesus’ teaching and what we find in the rest of the New Testament. In practice, most Christians in history have met their Lord and judge at the end of their earthly lives, so the promise of Jesus’ coming has always had existential rather than chronological significance. But this sense of hope and expectation should shape all of our life and our prayer, as we petition God our Father that ‘your name be hallowed, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…’
Finally, Time Magazine had an excellent article by Tom Wright on what the Bible really says about heaven.
The book of Revelation ends, not with souls going up to heaven, but with the New Jerusalem coming down to earth, so that “the dwelling of God is with humans.” The whole creation, declares St. Paul, will be set free from its slavery to corruption, to enjoy God’s intended freedom. God will then be “all in all.” It’s hard for us moderns to grasp this: so many hymns, prayers and sermons still speak of us “going to heaven.” But it makes historical sense, and sheds light on everything else.