If you’ve been reading this blog for more than three years, you might remember that I used to regularly post links to interesting articles about the Bible and mission (well, I thought they were interesting). However, when I started work on my PhD, I found that I was reading more material than I could cope with and so the series dried up. Now that the PhD is behind me, I can get back to what used to be normal service, so here goes.
I owe a massive debt to Chris Wright for his work on the Old Testament, in particular, the way in which the OT helps develop our understanding of mission. This article, which looks at the different horizon’s of OT prophecy is absolutely excellent:
A frequently challenging part of Scripture for many Christians is the Old Testament prophets. Sometimes, understanding their message can be a little confusing. Especially, when that message might apply (or is applied) to the New Testament. When the prophets do look into the future that God revealed to them, what do their words refer to?
I find it helpful to think of three major possible horizons of their vision. That is to say, as the prophets launch their words into the future, we can see three places where their words land, three places where their words are relevant and fulfilled—or still will be…
… Through all these horizons, there is a missional dimension to the prophets’ vision of hope for the future. They see that, because God’s promise to Abraham always envisaged God’s blessing extending to all nations, there must come a day when people from other nations beyond Israel will be gathered in to be part of God’s covenant people.
Another must read article from Christianity Today suggests that while the opponants of missionary work misunderstand it, so do many evangelicals. The article is a lengthy review of a book, God in the Rainforest: Missionaries and the Waorani in Amazonian Ecuador, which unfortunately will set you back an arm and a leg. However, you can read this excellent review for free and anyoe who is interested in the history of mission, missionary biographies, or the work of Wycliffe and SIL should read this. There is no excuse not to, and it is important.
American evangelicals have often celebrated inspirational stories of missionary sacrifice, while mission critics tend to revert to dark stories of colonialism and cultural imposition. Both narratives have been deeply embedded in American culture for more than two centuries. And both, for different reasons, are incomplete and sometimes misleading.
This is why we need Kathryn Long’s book, God in the Rainforest: A Tale of Martyrdom and Redemption in Amazonian Ecuador. Long, a retired professor of history from Wheaton College, gives us the most thorough account yet written of the aftermath of the deaths of Jim Elliot and the other four missionaries. Mission critics may discover that missionary engagement with the Waorani was not quite what they had imagined. For different reasons, evangelicals may discover the same.
If the primary attraction of the Christian faith was the possibility of worldly success, and if ‘conversion’ resulted in new habits and lifestyle habits that led to hard work and business success, then the very thing that led a person to the church has become the very thing that leads them away from the church. God has served his transitionary purpose in achieving success. If you can achieve success on your own now, who needs God?
Taking a different tack on a similar issue, Alan Roxburgh (in rather elaborate prose) questions how the churches in the West can be delivered from materialism and find the answers in the world church.
Modernity’s wager has demanded commitment to the nation state, aspiration to upward mobility (consumer capitalism) and a commitment to personal growth (the self) but has not delivered on its promises. As western cultures unravel, the euro-tribal churches who bought deeply into the consumerist individualism of modernity’s wager have nothing to say to people who have lost faith in the promises of the modern west. But the theological conviction of Practices for the Refounding of God’s People is that God’s Spirit is at work in the midst of this unravelling. A ‘fermenting and bubbling’ of the Spirit can be discerned which points towards a future that God is shaping in the unraveling. The question is how do the euro-tribal churches learn a responsive posture which will involve the risk of learning to ‘make the road as we walk on it’ rather than managing outcomes. In the European context, this sort of improvisation can occur in the context of migration and the multicultural church. Martin feels that these churches have the chance to model new-European communities drawn from every nation on Earth. This transition may occur only gradually in the immigrant church, but will come as churches become sensitive to the needs of their children and grandchildren. It is this generation who could bring a transforming influence to western culture.
The last link for now is from the FIEC blog and looks at how we cope with change. There is some good, practical, advice here and may be of help to anyone going through a major (or minor) transition in life. What the artcile doesn’t set out to do (so I’m unfair in complaining) is to look at how organisations can cope with change; churches, mission agencies and others are going to go through massive changes in the years to come whether they want to or not. The environment in the UK will force that to happen and we need to be prepared corporately as well as individually.