Saturday, 3 October 2015

Journal of Global Christianity

The Journal of Global Christianity, published twice a year by Training Leaders International, ‘seeks to promote international scholarship and discussion on topics related to global Christianity’, addressing ‘key issues related to the mission of the Church in hope of helping those who labor for the gospel wrestle with and apply the biblical teaching on various challenging mission topics’.

Two issues have been published so far (in five languages), containing a variety of essays along with several book reviews. The current issue is available here, from where individual essays or a pdf of the whole issue can be viewed or downloaded.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

David and Heather Jackman on Marriage

The latest Cambridge Paper from the Jubilee Centre is available online, this one by David Jackman and Heather Jackman:

Here is the summary:

‘The broad and pervasive “trend away from marriage” has far-reaching implications for society as a whole, as well as for Christians who come under pressure to conform to cultural standards. In contrast to the short-term and low-commitment relationships that have fast become the norm, the Bible holds out a positive vision for marriage, based on God’s covenant relationship with his people, and offers us the hope of communicating an attractive model of marriage to those who adhere to very different values.’

Monday, 28 September 2015

The Whole of Life for Christ (6): Whole-Life Hope

I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the penultimate in a series introducing themes explored more fully in the book, The Whole of Life for Christ: Enriching Everyday Discipleship, written with Mark Greene.

‘See, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.
But be glad and rejoice for ever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.’
Isaiah 65:17-19

The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.
Romans 8:21-24

In words that John will later pick up in Revelation 21, God – through Isaiah – lays out the goal of his redemptive work – nothing less than a new creation. Not an immaterial heaven, but heaven and earth combined in breathtaking renewal. A restored world washed clean of dirt and pollution, where weeping and crying will no longer be heard, where ugliness and scarcity will be overcome by beauty and abundance. Just pause to imagine such a world.

It’s not like that now (in case you hadn’t noticed...). Romans 8 is one of many places where Paul expresses the tension between how things are now and how they will be one day. And that tension between the ‘already’ and the ‘not yet’ is part and parcel of everyday discipleship.

The new age has broken into the present age, so that we enjoy ‘the firstfruits of the Spirit’ while awaiting the full harvest. The current experience of birth pains will give way to eventual relief. Paul depicts salvation as being set free from bondage, applying the imagery not just to women and men, but to the entire created order – yet one more reminder of the sweeping scope of God’s work in Christ, where such liberation is not simply ‘internal’ or ‘spiritual’, but the ‘redemption of our bodies’, and of creation itself.

The Bible tells the story of God’s work of redemption, which is a gloriously comprehensive rescue – ‘far as the curse is found’, as the old carol puts it. To be sure, biblical passages use figures of speech in their descriptions of what the future looks like, but they all underline not the removal of creation but its renewal, not its ruination but its restoration.

In this time between the times, our discipleship – in keeping with what will be – is all-embracing, as we make known and live out God’s rule over the whole of life. Seeking to avoid both defeatism (claiming too little) and triumphalism (claiming too much), we can testify to the wide-ranging sweep of God’s renewing power in politics and parenting, in economics and education, in art and athletics – being realistic about current ‘bondage’, but all the while looking forward to the complete restoration of what was originally declared ‘good’.

Such is our confidence and expectation – our hope – a hope of the full disclosure of God’s gracious reign that shapes each of us in the here and now.

Friday, 25 September 2015

9Marks Journal 12, 3 (2015) on Multi-Ethnic Churches

The latest issue of the 9Marks Journal, available here as a pdf, is devoted to the topic of ‘Multi-Ethnic Churches’.

In the Editor’s Note, Jonathan Leeman writes:

‘[C]hurches today too often mimic their host culture’s ethnic rivalries, whether in South Africa, India, or America. Or at least, too often they forget they possess a resource for overcoming racial or ethnic strife that the world does not have: the gospel.

‘Most evangelicals recognize that possessing the righteousness of Christ means “putting on” that righteousness in every-day decisions. Yet the same is true of the reconciliation we share with one another in the gospel (see Eph. 2:11-22). We are to “put on” that reconciliation. If we do not put on that righteousness, and if we do not put on that reconciliation, we call into question whether we have been declared righteous or “one new man.”’

Thursday, 24 September 2015

International Bulletin of Missionary Research 39:4 (October 2015)

The latest issue of International Bulletin of Missionary Research is a collection of essays written in honour of Jonathan J. Bonk.

In view of the ongoing refugee crisis, it might be worth noting that the issue features articles around the broad theme of ‘Engaging Mission: Hospitality, Humility, Hope’, with a number of the contributions addressing issues related to migration, assimilation, and hospitality.

The whole issue is available as a pdf here.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Talking Jesus

‘What do English adults know and believe about Jesus Christ? What do they really think of his followers? How often – if ever – do Christians talk about their faith in Jesus? How do both Christians and non-Christians feel about those conversations?’

A joint initiative by the Church of England, the Evangelical Alliance, and HOPE commissioned Barna Group and ComRes to conduct some research on those and similar questions, in order to investigate perceptions about Jesus, Christians and evangelism in England.

More information is available here, including a downloadable report here, and a short animated video here.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Whole of Life for Christ (5): Whole-Life Mission

I contributed yesterday’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the fifth in a series introducing themes explored more fully in the book, The Whole of Life for Christ: Enriching Everyday Discipleship, written with Mark Greene.

‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD,
‘and my servant whom I have chosen...
And now the LORD says...
‘It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob
and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.’
Isaiah 43:10 and 49:5-6

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: the Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.’
Luke 24:45-48

It’s all too easy to focus on the ‘command’ element of the commission passages in the gospels without noticing the promises which accompany them, promises which reflect God’s amazing plan for the world. That may explain why we often see witness as an add-on duty rather than as core to our identity as God’s people.

Mission doesn’t start with Christ’s commission to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). It has always been God’s mission to bless all nations. We see it in his original design for creation, in his promises to Abraham, and his calling of Israel – later reiterated through the servant figure in Isaiah who is chosen, made to be a light to the nations.

So it is that Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 24 that the Scriptures promise not only that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise again, but that repentance and forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name to all nations. The biblical story both points to Christ as the one who stands at the centre of it and nurtures the missional identity of the disciples as they take their place ‘as witnesses of these things’ in the forward movement of that story, God’s ongoing plan for the world.

This is the unfinished story Luke starts to tell in Acts, which begins with a restatement of the disciples as Jesus’ witnesses. Here again, Acts 1:8 – ‘you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’ – is not a command so much as a declaration, a promise even. In line with Isaiah’s prophecy, they are God’s ‘witnesses’, the servant community who will bring the message of salvation not just to Israel but to the ‘ends of the earth’.

For us too, being witnesses is less an assignment and more an identity – the overflow of the gift of grace to us and, amazingly, the means by which God reaches others. Seen this way, evangelism is not a ‘bolt on’ Christian activity, but is organically connected to the whole of life – a fusion of presence and proclamation, the message of our lips matching the message of our lives – the outflowing of who we are in Christ, equipped and sent by him as witnesses in his ongoing mission to the world.