I will be blogging through Christopher J.H. Wright "The Mission of God's People - A Biblical Theology of the Church's Mission."In the preface Professor Wright asks - "what is our mission?" A simple questions with a profound but not well understood answer. A simple answer might be - "to know God and make him know" - but if it was that simple why aren't more actually engaged in that mission. Wright unpacks this question and I want to understand the answer better so I have decided to blog through "The Mission of God's People." Today, I just want to set the stage for that journey which may require many weeks and I have no time table but will attempt to blog a chapter a week (there are 15 chapters). But I think it is vital we are able to answer the question well. Based on my prior reading of Wright I think he might have a good answer.
In 2008, after completing the Perspectives Study Program for the first time, I along with a few of my course mates ventured to read together Wright's earlier book "The Mission of God - Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative." It is a tome - which simply means, I my opinion, overly lengthy from a verbose though well informed writer. Wright's tome opened my eyes even further to the amazing story we are in - the story of God's glory and his mission to fill the earth with the knowledge of who he is. "The Mission of God" is a challenging but worthy read for any serious student of the Bible who wants to understand the "Grand Narrative" of scripture.
The fact is, that should be anyone who says they want to follow Christ because Jesus is the central figure of the Bible from beginning to end and he is on mission. In fact, I would say, it is inadequate to say "I am a Christ follower" without a at least a good understanding of the glorious story woven through Scripture because it is His-Story. I find it tragic that only 1 in 10 people who say that are Christians are said to have a Biblical worldview. If we don't understand what the Bible teaches us how can we live the life we're called to? But for those few who have what is considered a "Biblical worldview," however we define that, the fact is even fewer understand, in any depth, this Grand Narrative.
Why do I believe this is true? My involvement with the Perspectives Study Program tells me it is, at least anecdotally. I can't tell you the number of times Perspectives students have come to me after we complete the Biblical Perspective (the first five lessons) saying - "I have been in church my whole life, how come I have never been taught this before?" My simple response is, "because it is not taught." Perspectives, over 30 plus years, has graduated about 150,000 students, globally. There are possibly 100 million Evangelical Bible-believing Christians in the U.S. (about 30% of U.S. population). Do the math - only 1 out of 666 (0.15%) Bible believing Christians understand the story the Bible is telling us. Of course, this is a less than scientific analysis but it clearly shows we have much work to do in understanding what the Lord requires of us. Observation tells us this is true too.
Even for those who do live on mission many still do not know this Grand Narrative. This too has been my experience as many seasoned "missionaries," with years of living for God's mission, have their hearts and my minds expanded when they take Perspectives. As one of many examples, I remember one 30 year veteran of Wycliffe giving testimony that after completing the Biblical section she now saw her ministry in a whole new light because she understood the story she was in. There are many other similar stories. People become passionate about Perspectives because they become passionate about His-Story. But the Church simply has not done a good job of understanding the meta-narrative, God's cosmic tale, the story we are called to enter, live out and to go and tell. We may understand parts of the story but that is like seeing a single tree and missing the grandeur of the forest. We need a bigger vision!
The fact is very few local churches, therefore local pastors, teach the "Mission of God." They might teach elements of the Grand Narrative - favorite stories, or doctrines, principles and life applications from the Story. But if we don't teach Christ followers the "Mission of God" how can we expect them to live the "Mission of God's People"? Should it be any wonder then why so few do? Paul asks in Romans 10:5, "And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But you may protest - "I am not a preacher or a pastor or a missionary so this doesn't apply to me." Doesn't it though? I think that is what we'll discover as we better understand His-Story, the "Mission of God's People" and our role in it.
The first chapter of "The Mission of God's People" is entitled "Who are we and what are we here for?" Answering that question will go a long way in Living Sent Today. If you want to come along on the journey you can get the book here. Shalom.