It’s two years and two days since I last posted a summary of blog posts on Bible and Mission. I probably can’t catch up on the backlog; I’m not even going to try. However, I will try and post this sort of thing more regularly in future.
In the meantime, here is some good stuff that you might have missed:
Probably the biggest news about the Bible over the past couple of weeks is that Newsweek did a cover story about the Bible and the people who read it:
They wave their Bibles at passersby, screaming their condemnations of homosexuals. They fall on their knees, worshipping at the base of granite monuments to the Ten Commandments while demanding prayer in school. They appeal to God to save America from their political opponents, mostly Democrats. They gather in football stadiums by the thousands to pray for the country’s salvation.
I’ve come across a couple of good, thoughtful responses to this article. Mark Ward posted five responses to Newsweek, closing with a very telling couple of paragraphs:
Not everything Eichenwald said was wrong, although he managed to come pretty close. I think American Christians bear significant blame for their compromises with civil religion, for example. And his piece opens with a charge that rings true: most Christians don’t read their Bibles.
I say that the best way for the average layperson to be inoculated against Eichenwald’s attacks is just to read his Bible enough to know it better than Eichenwald does…
Another response that I found helpful was from Simon on Facebook. I can’t link to it, but here is a sample of what he had to say:
I really appreciated this article. I’ve seen a lot of Christians respond to it, and the way that they’ve responded has basically validated the whole point of the article: attack, attack, defend, defend defend – attack the author, defend their current practice. I’ve seen very few Christians *listen* carefully to anything this article might tell us; at the very least, tell us about how the world sees us; at best, tell us what how Bible judges our Christian culture – and it does.
… Yes, he gets some details wrong, yes he leans heavily on liberal theologians, and yes, he’s a journalist not a theologian. But we can still listen. We can use this as an opportunity to circle wagons, or an opportunity for self-introspection. Which is the Christian response?
Meanwhile, over at ThinkTheology, there have been a couple of excellent posts on the Bible. In the First, Brad suggests that we need to reserve the phrase ‘The Bible says so’ for times when we are actually quoting Scripture and not giving our views on it.
Another excellent post looks at the Bible as oral literature; something we’ve touched on here from time to time.
In these days of guest speakers, podcasts, conferences, radio bible teachers, crusades, and Christian TV preachers, we tend to miss what much of the Bible really is. It is, in the simplest terms, written communication that is intended to be spoken aloud in front of a gathering of people, large or small. It is not that reading the Bible by ourselves is a sin. It’s just that embedded into the very structure of the text of the Bible is the presupposition that the words will be read aloud, heard aloud, read publicly, heard publicly, and applied publicly.
Churches and Mission
Having quoted Simon’s FaceBook page, it is only fair that I should direct you to his blog as well. Simon sums up his thoughts on measuring success in church planting in his usual robust fashion:
Actually, I don’t give a damn if this model of church is sustainable long term or not, because I take no responsibility for the long-term wellbeing of the congregations I establish. None whatsoever. That’s not my responsibility to take. Those people belong to God, who loved them before I arrived and who will love them long after I am gone. Their eternal wellbeing is His concern, not mine. He knows their needs far better than I do, and He can lead them to other disciplers in precisely the same way that He led them to me in the first place. My job is not to set them up for life; my job is just to disciple them as best I can for the time that He has given me with them, and after I am gone, I trust Him to provide them with what they need.
Rollin Gramms has some excellent thoughts on what would happen if Timothy came to visit a successful church today.
Timothy continued, ‘When this church hired your head minister, they said that they were looking for a pastor for this church. Then they interviewed various persons and eventually hired someone who is not a pastor at all. In this, your church failed. You hired a gifted speaker, and he tries hard to deliver sermons that speak into people’s lives. He does very well at this—so well that you start other churches and beam his talk into those assemblies through your amazing, modern technology. In that way, he is able to speak to a great many people. He is also trying to pastor people in this way, although it should be patently obvious how difficult this is to do through telecasting.
It is gratifying to see that according to Cranmer’s blog, Canon Andrew White leads the list of 100 UK Christians.
“For ministering to his Baghdad flock in the most difficult circumstances, despite his own personal challenges. The man is a true Christian hero. Prophet, saint, humble servant, courageous in the face of persecution and evil, generous and forgiving. I can think of no greater living English man, Christian or otherwise.”
“Actions speak louder than words and the Vicar of Baghdad’s actions shout much louder than any sermon. He has shown exceptional courage and devotion to both God and his flock. He had to overcome his own personal health problems to fulfil his duties, but has not flinched from his purpose even though he is constantly surrounded by death and personal danger.”
I have no quibble with Canon White receiving this accolade. However, it is worth remembering that his is no instant rise to fame. He quietly ministered in Bagdad for many years, before the limelight was thrust upon him in a most horrifying fashion. There are many other unsung heroes out there, working in scary places and sharing the love of Christ in word and deed. Of whom the world is not worthy.