LCM DIRECTOR OF STUDIES ALAN BLACK BEGINS A SERIES ON HOW THE UNIFIED STORY OF THE BIBLE SHAPES OUR UNDERSTANDING OF MISSION
Renowned Missiologist and Missionary to India Lesslie Newbigin once gave the Bible to a Brahmin leader who came back to him saying “I can’t understand why you missionaries present the Bible to us in India as a book of religion. It is not a book of religion — and anyway we have plenty of books of religion in India. We don’t need any more! I find in your Bible a unique interpretation of universal history, the history of the whole creation and the history of the human race.… There is nothing else in the whole religious literature of the world to put alongside it.”
Lesslie Newbigin commented that the Brahmin had seen what many Christians do not see, that the Bible is a big story, the true history in the world in which we are to play our part
No end of people recognise that we are story animals, that we live our lives in a story, a story that tells us who we are, and what part we are to play. The story ‘we live in’ gives meaning to our lives and shapes the way we think and act, our attitudes and ambitions.
If we do not live in the story of the Bible, by default we will live in some other story, often the story of our own culture.
For example, you’ve heard people say, ‘You Only Live Once’ – YOLO. That’s the result of living in the naturalistic story promoted endlessly by our media, which is interpreted by many to mean there is no meaning to our lives other than the momentary pleasures we experience, so make sure you don’t miss out.
To restore people, you must re-story them, says James K. Smith. If we simply ask people to invite Jesus into their lives, they will carry on living in their own story, hoping Jesus will help them achieve their hopes and dreams.
As evangelists we have to encourage people not to receive Christ into their story, but to come to Jesus and into the true story of the world, of which he is the author, director and star. Then we will start to walk his way, and to seek his kingdom.
Similarly, we’ve tragically seen churches living in cultures shaped by human pride and bigotry, who simply represented a religious version of that culture. Think of German churches under National Socialism who adopted the attitudes of the Nazis to the Jews, or Apartheid churches in South Africa that were horribly racist.
However orthodox their theology, they had not been re-storyed. They weren’t living in the story where there was only one people of God regardless of race, class, culture (Galatians 3:28), who were chosen for God’s missional purposes to all humanity.
THE BIBLE’S BEEN DESCRIBED AS THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN SIX ACTS
- The story of creation
- The story of human rebellion
- The story of Israel
- The story of Jesus
- The story of the church
- The story of new creation and consummation
The Bible is the story of God’s missional purposes for all creation. The story of God commissioning humanity to bring the world to full maturity, and following the rebellion of humanity, the story of redemption. It is the story of God choosing Israel for his missional purposes (Genesis 12:3; Exodus 19:6), that climaxes in the story of Jesus, who then passes the baton on to his disciples (Matthew 28:18–20).
Our call is to be faithful to the story so far and to strain forward to what is still to come. That means the mission of God is central to who we are and why we’re here. The church, therefore, is missional in its very nature. For good or for bad, it cannot help but be missional.