Necessity of a Missional Reading of Scripture: Some Reflections
The Western has lost its faith in the shadow of church steeples. – Alex McManus
Why a missional reading? What is the rationale for a missional hermeneutic?
1) Mission is central to Scripture. Christopher Wright in Mission of God talks about shifting from reading Scripture for a basis for mission to understand that there is a missional basis for the Bible. The Bible is the testimony of God’s mission. God gave us Scripture to guide & shape us to live in the power of the Holy Spirit as the people whom he created us to be.
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 followers of Jesus 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. 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. Erwin McManus (Unstoppable Force, 72) wrote, “A theological construct for interpretation finds success in the attainment of knowledge. The more you know, the more mature a Christian you are thought to be. And yet knowledge of the Bible does not guarantee application of the Bible. To know is not necessarily to do. When the construct applied to the Bible is missiological, you engage the Bible to discover the response required of your life.”
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 are forced beyond “morning devotions” or “quiet time” as an end in itself. 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 (re)alignment with God’s work in the world. Conversion is the goal of biblical interpretation.
5) A missional reading presses 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 without being of the world.
6) A missional reading drives individuals and communities to action. If we read the Bible only for the church, we will engage only the church. If we read the Scripture for the World, we will continue to engage the world.
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 in and 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?
© 2007 Brian D. Russell (Revised and expanded 9/2010)