Monday, April 20, 2015

The Importance of a Missional Reading of the Bible: Implications for Christ followers

1) Mission is central to Scripture. As Christopher Wright suggests there is less a biblical basis for mission than there is a missional basis for the Bible. For a primer on missional hermeneutics, here is a link to my essay "What is a Missional Hermeneutic?" published by Catalyst.

2) Christendom practices approached “Christian” education principally as learning what to believe and how to understand reality. It is vital to learn to think Christianly. But in today’s climate where the very claims of Christianity are not widely accepted or even understood, any approach to Scripture that merely increases the knowledge of insiders is in danger of making the Gospel itself more and more irrelevant to the rest of the world. A missional reading demands a reading of the text from within a context of mission in which Christ followers are engaged not merely with increasing their own grasp of their own faith but are actively engaged with the World in order to make disciples of Jesus. Christian education therefore needs to have as its goal the making of disciples in the biblical sense of the world: disciples who follow Jesus in the mission of making more disciples.
3) A missional reading or hermeneutic pushes the reader beyond a self-referential reading. If we constantly ask questions such as “How does this text shape my own understanding of what God is doing in the world?”or “What sort of persons do I need to become in order to live out the story in the text?”or “What type of community does this text assume and how does our community of faith measure up?”, we begin to ask questions that push us outside of a self-centered reading to connect our transformation with God’s mission. Our reading becomes revolutionary and catalytic for recapturing the sense of movement that characterized the earliest churches.
4) A missional reading pushes both the reader and his/her community of faith to seek constant alignment with God’s work in the world. Conversion is the goal of biblical interpretation.
5) A missional reading forces the reader to read Scripture from the frontier rather than in a privileged position of power. Just as the original recipients of Scripture found themselves a minority in the World (and often a disenfranchised and marginalized minority), communities that deploy a missional reading truly grapple with how to live in the world in a way that serves as a vital and compelling witness to the world.
6) A missional reading drives individuals and communities to action. Like respiration in which we breathe in and breathe out, we must read Scripture and take missional action.
7) A missional reading connects holiness (character), community, and mission. If God’s vision for the community of faith is to become a missional community that reflects God’s character to/in/for the world, then a missional reading is crucial because it understands essence of God’s people around three interlocking themes: mission, holiness, and community. Why does this matter? Because instead of isolating these, we see them in a vital symbiosis. We can talk about a missional holiness, a missional community, a holy community, etc. A community is not biblical unless it is missional and holy. God’s people are not missional apart from holy character and a community. God’s people are not holy unless they are missional and in community. Thus, a missional reading is ultimately not a fragmented way of reading Scripture but an integrated one which holds together the deepest themes of Scripture and allows them their voices to be heard again clearly.
What do you think?
© 2008 Brian D. Russell, Revised 2015

Looking for a missional curriculum resource? My book Invitation presents the biblical narrative from Creation to New Creation through a missional framework. It will instruct its readers in the biblical story and inculcate a missional DNA that includes a strong community and holiness emphasis in support of God's mission. Check out the first chapter and video lesson here.

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