I had the good fortune of studying missiology at Fuller Seminary. I wanted to know all that anthropology and sociology and church growth experts had to offer about how to help people know Christ. I took a course on the Theology of Missions only because it was required. It was my least favourite class. But it has turned out to be the one that has had the most lasting and profound impact.
The central idea was that mission is God’s mission, not ours. God’s love for the world is what is fuelling the missionary movement, not ours.
If mission is rooted in God, then his revelation of himself in his Word is key. And his Word is powerful. It speaks to people of all cultures and of all times. It calls them to God in ways that other voices cannot.
This is not to say all contact with the Word is energizing and profound. We all have experiences of finding Bible reading to be boring, a rote discipline—no voice calling to us through it. I grew up in a home where we read a chapter from the Bible as a family after every meal—a Dutch tradition. All 8 of us kids sat around our huge dining table and endured it, just waiting for it to be over. Not highly engaging. But how is it that we can engage with the Word in ways that engage us?
We can dwell in the Word. We can place ourselves in the story—using all our senses and imagination to hear, feel, smell, taste, and see the action. We can try to silence our overactive minds and get quiet inside. We can spend time in silence listening for how God is calling to us through his Word.
This all sounds like not doing much at all. But the kicker is that that seems to be what it takes—us getting quiet and creating spaces where we can hear God’s voice. He does not disappoint. For example, at a devotional time in a group last week, we read a Psalm. Then we were thrust into groups of two and told to pray for one another. Not knowing this person very well, I took the Psalm as the guide and prayed the lines of the Psalm for this person. When we finished, we both knew we had experienced Gods presence in a very special way. Holy ground. Holy Spirit.
How does this relate to mission? We can’t give what we don’t have. Mission starts with us experiencing God’s mission to us—his huge love and embrace and all that goes with that. Then we can invite others to join the experience. We can create spaces for people to come around the Word and listen. What will God say? What will he do? Unpredictably risky business. Excitingly out of our control.
Check out these sites:
Harriet Hill serves as the SIL International Scripture Use Coordinator.