A Missional Reading of Scripture

Missional-HeaderOkay, so I geeked out a bit too much live tweeting the past two days at the conference A Missional Reading of Scripture at Calvin Seminary and Calvin College. It was the first conference I’d been too in years. And it was well worth it.

To tell the truth, the word missional gets tossed around a lot. In the past, I think I have rightly said that there is a difference between mission minded and missional. Mission minded is the fact that we must send others out to be missionaries into the world. Missional is saying that not only are you a missionary in your own personal world, you are sent in the name of God to do this every day. David Bosch in his book Transforming Missions says (and I’m paraphrasing here) as the Father sent the Son, so we are sent by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are sent ones. We who belong to Jesus are sent ones.

More than that, we are part of a bigger story. And that’s where the missional reading of scripture comes in. It is seeing scripture from a whole new perspective. It is seeing the fact that the Bible is a mission document. A document inspired by the Holy Spirit, written during a during time and place. And we are part of this story. We, now and today, are part of this bigger-than-our-selves story. We are rooted in this history and it is part of us. Reading it missionally places us in part of the story. It is our story. God’s story of sending his people is our story as well. And we see how it is lived out today.

As I’ve said in the past, church is a verb. It is something we do. We, as the church, need to be missional communities. Communities of people who live out this sentness of God through Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. And this is what the New Testament is about. With a missional reading of scripture, we see that these are missionary documents. Documents written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to tell of Jesus who came, who broke into history. God himself broke into history to have heaven meet earth and earth meet heaven in him.

And because Jesus is ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father, we have a bit of earth in heaven. And because God sent his Holy Spirit, we have the breathe of Heaven on earth. And as we read the New Testament, we read of these communities who have come together to worship God through Jesus. They have come together to be a new way of being. Following Jesus means doing humanity differently. It means being human differently. It is a whole new set of ethics of being different.

And in Paul’s letters, this is to whom he is writing, to these communities living differently than the rest of the world around them. Paul is writing as a missionary to these communities telling them how to live out differently, how to live a life worthy of their calling in Christ. How to live a life different representing the kingdom of God.

The church itself is to be a reflection of the kingdom on earth. We, who follow Jesus as our savior, are filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, God’s breath, and are temples unto the Holy Spirit, and to live this out in communities together as the church and be the representatives of Jesus, of God, of his kingdom here on earth.

Dude.

Totally theology geek here. I can go on and on about this but people much smarter than I spoke at this conference. People spoke who’ve studied this and have known this much more longer and deeper than I will ever go. They’ve forgotten more about this stuff than I’ll ever learn.

So what then? What’s the biggest thing about this all? We are to live as the church. We are to be these missional communities. We as the church must live together bringing, living the Gospel message of the indwelling of Jesus in our lives and the coming kingdom of God. We are to live this out in word and deed out of gratitude and the urgency of the Gospel needing to be spoken and lived.

God came and called to us. God came and sent his people to live differently. He came and dwelt among them in the wilderness and in their midst when living in the Promised Land. And Jesus came and dwelt amongst us. And is with us now, sending us as he was sent by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Dude. I can go on but I won’t. I might write more later as I process this all that I learned. But there is now an urgency in my mid to bring God’s word to His people in a much more urgent way to speak of the coming kingdom of God.

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5 Responses to A Missional Reading of Scripture

  1. eric schlukebir says:

    Josh,
    Good thoughts, and good things to remember. I wish I could’ve gone. I thought about trying to plan a trip to Michigan around the conference so I could check it out, but it didn’t happen. I might challenge the “church is a verb” language though. The church has a purpose, and a calling to live out, but that isn’t what defines who we are. Jesus Christ and what he did defines who we are. The Church is His people regardless of how well we do at living out our purpose. It wouldn’t be such a big deal, but this is a big cultural thing. We think “what we do= who we are, and our identity comes from what we do. The Bible says otherwise. Who we are comes from what he has done. I think one of the churches major problems isn’t that we think church is a noun, it’s that we think it’s a place. If Church is where we go, then what the church does, is put on events at the building.

    • Josh says:

      Thanks for your comment. When I say that church is a verb, what I’m saying is that living as the church, the body of Christ, we are to live in action not just as a thing. A verb is an action a noun is a person place or thing. If we just live as a thing, we just sit and do nothing. When we live in action, we live together in community, doing church rather than just being church.

      With a missional understanding of Scripture, we see that we are to live as communities come together for the purpose of living out the Gospel message and the in breaking of the kingdom of God. We are to reflect the kingdom of God in what we do and say. Therefore, we are to live as a verb.

      I hope that helps to clarify it a bit.

  2. Chris says:

    Josh, thanks for sharing your take on the conference. I really appreciate your emphasis at the end on God dwelling with us…
    “God came and called to us. God came and sent his people to live differently. He came and dwelt among them in the wilderness and in their midst when living in the Promised Land. And Jesus came and dwelt amongst us. And is with us now, sending us as he was sent by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
    I remember NT Wright starting to touch on this as well. My wife often says that the most incredible part of Rev 21:1-5 is not that death will be no more (something we long for, and can hardly believe), but that God will dwell with us (something that we haven’t even begun to imagine – I wonder at times if we even have the capacity to imagine it!). I wonder if a significant part of the missional calling is simply to announce that God has dwelled with us in Jesus, is dwelling with us in the Spirit, and will dwell with us in the fullness that is coming.

    • Josh says:

      Chris… one of the things i didn’t really dive into which is mentioned in the book Missional Church edited by Darrell Guder is that part of our calling as the church is to have the missional ecclisiology of proclaiming the eschatalogical significance of the in breaking of the Kingdom of God. That God has come into history through Jesus and will reclaim it all when Christ comes again. As the community (the church) we are a reflection of this in breaking of the kingdom showing that God dwells with us. I’ve also allowed things from Fuller Professor Wilbert Shenk and also missiologist David Bosch seep in as well into this post since much of what Guder, Chris Wright and NT Wright mention about being missional comes from Bosch and is interpreted by Shenk.

  3. Pingback: Breaking In, Going Forth | Spiritual Musclehead

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