“The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner.”
If you read the original post, you will see that I have a number of reservations about Townsend’s famous quotation. However, Mike Goheen, adds an angle that I did not think of.
God works out his redemptive purposes in this story by choosing a people to make known to all where history is leading. Jesus does not write a book to transmit the good news to succeeding generations. Instead, he chooses, prepares and commissions a community to make the goal of universal history known. This gathering work is central to his kingdom mission, and it begins in the early days of his ministry. Following the central events of the salvation story – his death and resurrection – Jesus commissions this small community: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21). Here the nucleus of the community we now call “church” is commissioned to make known what God has done for the whole world in Jesus Christ.
Bible translators, quite rightly get excited about the Bible. However, we need to constantly remember that Jesus did not write a book, he called a community. The purpose of the Bible is to equip and shape that community to be the people that God wants them to be. The community is the purpose, not the Bible.