In the library today I picked up Chris Wright’s latest book, The Mission of God’s People. So far I’ve only read the introduction, but I’m excited by how Wright seeks to bring together theology and mission, helping us to realise that God’s mission, the Bible and the church cannot be separated, but all rely on each other.
Wright explains in the introduction that
I am the son of missionary parents and I studied theology at Cambridge. But the two seemed to have little connection in my youthful zeal as a Christian. They certainly had no connection in my Cambridge theology studies, where (as far as I remember) “missiology” was not even a word at the time. Most of my Christian friends who were interested in supporting and praying for missionary work were not interested in theology, beyond weekly Bible studies. And the theology department certainly wasn’t interested in mission.
Theology, it seems, is all about God. It rummages around in what (mostly dead) people have thought and written about God, God’s character and actions, God’s relationship to the world, to human society, God’s involvement in the past, present and future, and the like. Mission, in happy contrast, is all about us the living, and what we (or some of us at least) believe we are supposed to be doing in the world to help God along a bit. Mission seems to be about helping God to get over those barriers of strange cultures and faraway places that he seems to have such difficulty crossing.
So, in mutual suspicion, theologians may not relish their theories being muddied by facts on the ground and the challenging questions thrown up by the messiness of practical mission. Practitioners of mission, in quick riposte, may not wish to see their urgent commitment to getting on with the job Christ entrusted to us delayed by indulgent navel-gazing about obscure long words ending in -ology.
And so the dangerous result is that theology proceeds without missional input or output, while mission proceeds without theological guidance or evaluation. […]
There should be no theology that does not relate to the mission of the church – either by being generated out of the church’s mission or by inspiring and shaping it. And there should be no mission of the church carried on without deep theological roots in the soil of the Bible.
No theology without missional impact; no mission without theological foundations.
Apparently The Mission of God’s People is more than just a shorter and easier version of the excellent The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (which I’ve blogged about a couple of times). Whereas Wright’s former book looked at the theme of mission running throughout the Bible, asking what it means to read the whole Bible from a missional perspective, this book assumes that mission is a major theme of the Bible and asks “so what?” What does it then mean for God’s people today to live in light of his missional nature, and his ongoing work of reaching out to all nations?
I’m reading a few other good books at the moment too, so I was thinking this one would have to wait but it’s doing its best to push to the front of the line…