Last week Tom Wright gave an excellent speech in the House of Lords which did not seem to receive any publicity at the time. I have to admit that the speech is rather dense (I had to read it twice) but it is a good example of a Christian engaging with pressing social issues.
- The nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies swept away the old moral certainties, and anyone who tries to reassert them risks being mocked as an ignoramus or scorned as a hypocrite. But since then we’ve learned that you can’t run the world as a hippy commune. Getting rid of the old moralities hasn’t made us happier or a safer. We have discovered that we do indeed need some guidelines if chaos is not to come again. But once the foundations have been eroded, where will you find firm ground on which to build new moral fences?…
- Whose freedom are we talking about, anyway? Notoriously, the freedom of my fist ends where the freedom of your nose begins;
I’m going to have to be careful: I’ve been nice about a bishop and a the pope recently. It does my baptist credentials no good at all!
I’ve just done a short exercise for my MTh course. Following on from some reading; the workbook asked, ‘which Biblical passages lead you to the heart of mission?’
I raised this question myself in a post a few months back, but my answer to the exercise today is different to the one I gave earlier. This could mean that I’m just forgetful, or it could indicate that I’m learning something. If it’s alright with you, I’ll go for the second one. So, which Biblical passages do lead me to the heart of mission? Actually, I had no hesitation in writing down two passages which are very key in my thinking and reflection: John 20:21 and 2 Timothy 2:2. Different influences and reading have brought me to consider these two verses as important, but I was surprised to see the way that they flow together when I wrote them down side by side:
He spoke to them again and said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
You have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others.
The Father sent the Son, who, in turn, sends the disciples who have the responsibility to pass the things they have learned on down the generations. There are a number of things that strike me as I read this.
Firstly, there is the way that these verses tie me into the history not only of the people of God, but of the Father himself. He sent the Christ, who spoke to the disciples, who passed on the message to others, and down through the centuries faithfull men and women have passed the word on till it got to my brother Phil, who told me all about it (thanks Phil!) and now it is my responsibility to keep the chain going.
I’m fascinated by the way that these verses emphasise how mission flows from God himself. It isn’t an invention of the Church, it is something that God did first. All he asks is that we carry on doing what he did first of all. Don’t they say that a good leader never expects his followers to do something that he wouldn’t do himself? Well, our God certainly doesn’t expect us to do more than he has already done.
I’ve also found real encouragement in seeing the way that mission is based in the character of God. 2 Timothy 2:2 has long been a major motivation for my work. Translating the New Testament into Kouya was a way of passing on what I’d learned to others, as was teaching language and culture learning at ETP. These days, I spend much of my time teaching and training others in all sorts of areas; I don’t get much of a kick out of doing things myself, but I love to see others learn and grow. Putting these two verses together seems to show that this cascade of knowledge and teaching of which I’m part begins with the Father and springs from him. I’ve been struggling over the last couple of years to know exactly what it is God wants me to do with my life when I grow up. I’m still not entirely sure about the specifics, but I do know that I’m part of a movement from the Father to the Son and down through the years to the Church. I can live with that!
I enjoyed these two quotes I heard this week – one serious, one not quite so…
I’m grateful to my colleague Alan Gibson for the following about Erasmus:
[In the Preface to his 1516 NT] Erasmus argued that Christian truth was not so complicated that it had to be hidden among a handful of men. Unlike other philosophies, Christianity suited itself to every need and person and was ‘within the reach of the lowest, just as it is the admiration of the greatest.’ The knowledge of Christ was the way of truth for all and Erasmus utterly condemned any restriction of the Scriptures to Latin. His plea that all should read them in the vernacular was eloquent:
I wish that even the most humble women should read the Gospel and the Epistles of St Paul. And these should also be translated into every tongue, so that they might be read and known not only by the Scots and Irish but also by the Turks and Saracens ….
…Would that the ploughboy recited something from them at his plough, that the weaver sang from them at his loom and the traveller whiled away the tedium of his journey with their tales, indeed, that the speech of Christian men were drawn from them.’
It is wonderful to see Erasmus’ setting out the need for mother tongue Scriptures. It is also interesting to see his attitude to both men and women reading and learning from the Bible. For a more contemporary take on this issue, you might want to look at Better Bibles.
This blog contains a number of links to the notes for sermons I’ve preached. By way of a change, here is an MP3 file of a sermon on Matthew 28:16,17 which I preached a couple of weeks ago at Merland Rise Church. The subject is mission and worship – I hope it proves helpful to someone.
Andrew Hamilton has an excellent post on the difference between incarnational and attractional ministry. As readers of this blog know, I am increasingly interested in the relationship between the incarnation of Christ and the translation of the Bible. In the incarnation, God took the initiative to reveal himself to humanity; Bible translation is a reflection or a continuation of God’s communication to his creation. Writing for an Autralian audience, Hamilton looks at how the church should be incarnational; actively taking God into the community rather than attractional; sitting back and waiting for people to come to it.
If Jesus were alive today and his mission was still to ‘seek out and save the lost’ what might he do?… Would he hire a building, set up a sound system, develop a music team, drama team, and then do local letterbox drops advising people that they could come and be part of his church on Sunday? Frankly I don’t believe this approach to mission would rate a blip on his strategic radar. The so called ‘attractional’ mode of mission centres its focus on the church service and is dedicated to producing an event that pagans will want to come to. The theory goes that the more professional the service is, the funkier the music, the better the coffee, and so on… the more likely the punters will come, hence the term ‘attractional’. As such the success of mission in this mode is almost always measured by the number who attend on Sunday…
I would argue that this ‘attractional mission’, while effective for a few, is actually a case of putting the cart before the horse. Deciding on a form of church and then trying to make it so that people want to come is mission in reverse. There is a growing awareness that pagan Aussies do not want to come to church and simply making the Sunday event more attractive is not the answer to this problem…
It is often said that the advance of Western culture means that minority languages around the world are being marginalised. I’m sure that this is true in the main, so it is nice to read about a situation where a Western import is having to adapt to the realities of a highly multilingual society. The BBC reports that the Ethiopian version of Pop Idol is allowing people to sing in anyone of 80 different minority languages. Great stuff!
Roger Welch, of Merland Rise Church (and Wycliffe Bible Translators) has an interesting sermon based on Acts 16 about supporting Bible translation in India. The sermon addresses issues of particular relevance to Merland Rise Church, but also looks at some of the bigger ethical issues mission support both for national missionaries and expats. The sermon is available as an MP3 download. Other sermons from Merland rise can be found here.