Keep the Bible Front and Centre
September 15th 2021
To state the obvious, we must let the Bible shape what we do as mission leaders. That means that we need to keep on constantly thinking about the priority that we give to our personal reading of the Bible, to our use of the Bible in our day-to-day ministry and to the way that we apply the Bible as we think through what is happening in the world today.
I’d like to encourage you to do two things:
1. Keep the Bible Front and Centre
As mission leaders, we need to keep on feeding our souls. It’s very easy in the busyness of so many ministry demands to let this core activity slip. We need to prioritise self-care as we feed on the Word of God each day. Why do we read the Bible? One of the primary reasons is to know God better. Through the Holy Spirit, God uses the Bible to shape us to be more like Christ. As we become more like Christ, we can better serve others. That means that our daily Bible reading needs to be substantial.
There are a few books on the market with a title along the lines of Five Minutes a Day in the Bible”. Five minutes? How in the world did these books ever get published? No one would survive eating food for just five minutes a day! What makes us think that reading the Bible for five minutes a day is sufficient? Our Bible reading needs to be like eating a meal that we savour, that takes time to eat and leaves us well-satisfied at the end.
We need to keep on thinking about what the Bible teaches about cross-cultural mission and we need to think more broadly than Matthew 28 and Acts 1:8. Earlier this year I read Isaiah alongside Alec Motyer’s brilliant Isaiah by the Day”. What a feast! However, I was struck afresh with the way that cross-cultural mission is woven so richly into the fabric of Isaiah.
On my shelves I have many books on the history of mission, and plenty of books about how to do ‘this’ and how to do ‘that’, but alongside those books we need books that help us to mine the rich treasures of the Bible’s teaching on mission. I’m thinking of books like ‘Salvation to the Ends of the Earth’ (Andreas Kostenberger and T Desmond Alexander) and ‘Paul the Missionary’ (Eckhard Schnabel) and ‘The Mission of God’ (Christopher Wright). We need to keep on learning, reflecting and growing in our grasp of what the Bible teaches.
We need to consciously keep the Bible front and centre in our lives and in the ministry which God has given us.
This means that we also need to keep it front and centre at Missions Interlink events otherwise we’ll just assume its teaching and slowly drift away from it — and sadly I’ve seen that happen to a number of parachurch organisations.
2. Read Church History
I love church history since it teaches us the way that God works throughout history for the glory of His name, from the exciting days of the European Reformation to the battle for the authority of the Bible in the 20th century. I have found that reading church history from a mission perspective has been an exciting ride.
Last year I read Christian Mission: A Concise Global History” (Edward L. Smither). It gave me a fresh appreciation for the sweep of mission history in the last 2,000 years. However, it was the chapter on ‘The Global Century of Christian Mission [1900-2000] that really caught my attention. For many of you, this will not be new. Smither writes:
‘This period, marked with upheaval and change, has been referred to as the unexpected Christian century” for global mission. In 1910, the average Christian family” in the world was an English family attending a Sunday service at an Anglican church in London. By 2000, this family would still be Anglican, but they were now African Christians attending an Anglican service in Nigeria or Rwanda. In 1910, about 95 percent of the world’s Christians lived in North America or Europe. By the end of the twentieth century, only 40 percent of the world's Christians lived in the West… By the end of the twentieth century, the centre of global Christianity had shifted from Europe and North America to Latin America, Africa, and Asia.” [pp164-165].
It’s exciting to hold the Bible in one hand and read the words of Jesus And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14), and in my other hand hold a history book like Smither’s which spells out how the words of Jesus are being fulfilled in our lifetime. What a privilege it is to witness what God is doing and play our small part in this thrilling task!
Kevin Murray has been a Presbyterian minister for 35 years having served in the parishes of Narrandera, Strathfield and Hurstville. He is currently the National Director of Australian Presbyterian World Mission (APWM) which is based at Christ College, Burwood NSW.