How does a missional approach to Scripture influence preaching/teaching? Here are some of my thoughts:
Birthed in prayer from beginning to end.
Prayer is indispensable. Apart from the God’s work through the person of the Holy Spirit, preaching is in vain. It is never simply an exercise in human rhetoric and persuasive techniques. It the Holy Spirit who helps the missional preacher to shape her or his message. It is the Holy Spirit who unleashes the creative word from the preacher in the delivery of the message. It is the Holy Spirit who opens the ears and heart of those who receive the message. Pray, "Lord, astonish me anew with the richness of your word so that through my words others may likewise be astonished. Amen."
Rooted deeply in the biblical text.
Scripture is the fuel for missional preaching. The story of the Scriptures must be the content of the message. Scripture is the basis and the boundaries for the message. The Church and World deserve a message that permeates with the heartbeat of the biblical text.
Delivered from the borderlands.
The communicator in missional preaching stands between the Church and World. This is the point of missional engagement. The God of mission is always moving toward the world on mission. It is only in the borderlands that the Word is truly unleashed for both insiders and outsiders. The Word calls from the borderland to the people of God to draw them toward the borderland in order to participate fully in God’s mission. The Word calls to the World to draw them toward the people of God in order to find their true humanity as part of God’s missional community as it seeks to embody and reflect God’s character to and for the World.
Text becomes an access point to the world that God desires for humanity to inhabit.
Missional preachers are not worried about being relevant as much as they are interested in allowing the biblical text to come alive in its portrayal of the world that God is calling all people to inhabit. In other words, it is not enough for preachers to apply the text to contemporary situations. Rather, the text itself must be permitted to describe a New World. It’s story must become my story, your story, and our story.
Theologian Robert Jensen observes:
Scripture’s story is not part of some larger narrative; it is itself the larger narrative of which all other true narratives are parts. Biblical exegesis is reading sides and prop lists and so forth for the drama that God and his universe are now living together. Do not when reading Scripture try to figure out how what you are reading fits into some larger story; for there is no larger story.
Call to conversion
Missional preaching centers around God’s call to insiders to realign themselves to the ways of God and God’s call to outsiders (seekers) to align themselves to the ways of God. In other words, the outcome of missional preaching is conversion. The Bible seeks to convert women and men to God’s mission. This involves the triad of mission, holiness, and community.
I have heard different communicators describe this conversion in different ways. Bill Hybels argues that every message ought to involve a call to think and/or act in ways consonant with the text. Erwin Raphael McManus suggests that the biblical text calls us to shift what we care about. I would insist that the call of the text may even be deeper. It is a call to total devotion. God created humanity to serve as a missional community that reflected his character to/for/in Creation. In the post-Gen 3-11 reality in which we live, God calls his people to recapture the essence of their humanity in terms of mission, character (holiness), and community. Missional preaching thus calls people home to a life of total devotion. Here are key questions to help in delineating a text's call to conversion:
Insider: How does this text envision God’s work in the world? Where do God’s people fit into this mission? How do God’s people need to change to participate more effectively with God’s work?
Seeker: What sort of world is this text inviting me to spend my life working to create? What would my life look like if I joined this mission?
Insider: What does this text tell us about the character or ethos of God’s people? What are God’s people supposed to become? How do God’s people need to change in order to more profoundly reflect the character of God?
Seeker: What sort of lifestyle/character is this text inviting me to embody? How would my life be enriched by aligning my character with Jesus’?
Insider: How does this text envision the corporate life of God’s people? How do God’s people need to change in order to embody the portrait of community assumed by this text?
Seeker: How is this text inviting me to participate in a community that exists for something greater than my own wants and desires?
What do you think?
© 2015 Brian D. Russell
© 2015 Brian D. Russell