Surprised by NT Wright

NT Wright

NT Wright

NT Wright is probably the leading New Testament scholar of our generation. He's certainly the most prolific. After examining the Ressurection of Jesus here's what he concludes is central to the church's mission:

Thus the church that takes sacred space seriously not as a retreat from the world but as a bridgehead into it will go straight from worshipping in the sanctuary to debating in the council chamber— discussing matters of town planning, of harmonizing and humanizing beauty in architecture, in green spaces, in road traffic schemes, and (not least in the rural areas, which are every bit as needy) in environmental work, creative and healthy farming methods, and proper use of resources.

If it is true, as I have argued, that the whole world is now God’s holy land, we must not rest as long as that land is spoiled and defaced.

This is not an extra to the church’s mission. It is central.

Politics, town planning, architecture, green spaces, traffic flow, environmental work, farming methods, proper use of resources? Really. Central? This is what Jesus did? This is why he died and rose again? This is what he sent his disciples into the world to do?

Turn the fruit of the gospel into the gospel itself, and we lose the gospel. 

What did Jesus do? What did he train the disciples to do? What does the risen Lord continue to do in the Book of Acts? Keep that central.


Out of the missional fog with Donald McGavran

Donald McGavaran

A voice from the past to help us navigate our way through the missional fog.

Donald McGavran, the great pioneer of a movements approach, describes the goal of Christian mission:

The goal of Christian mission should be to preach the gospel and, by God’s grace, to plant in every unchurched segment of mankind a cluster of growing churches.

By the phrase “segment of mankind” I mean an urbanization, development, caste, tribe, valley, plain or minority population.

The goal is not one small sealed-off conglomerate congregation in every people. Rather, the goal should be, a cluster of growing congregations in every segment.

How can this be achieved? Not by a one-by-one approach but through people movements. 

To find out how you’ll need to read the whole article.


Who are "the least of these my brothers"?

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
I was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.
— Jesus

Our series on the Great Commission is concluded. Before we leave Matthew I’d like to take a look at Jesus’ teaching on the sheep and the goats (Matt 25:31-46).

When the Son of Man comes in his glory he will judge the nations. Eternal life and eternal punishment will depend on how the nations care for the least of his brothers.

Most scholars understand “the least of these brothers of mine” to refer to all who are hungry, distressed, needy. The basis of acceptance into the kingdom is by deeds of mercy and compassion.

They identify the least of Jesus’ brothers with anyone who is poor and needy. Yet elsewhere in Matthew Jesus’ brothers are his disciples (Matt 12:48-50; 28:10).

In Matthew 24 Jesus told his disciples that before the end of the age comes, the gospel of kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations/peoples (Matt 24:14). They will be persecuted and put to death. They will be hated by all nations because of him. There will be wars, famines and earthquakes. In the face of persecution many will fall away from the faith and even betray other believers. They will be deceived by false prophets.

In this setting Matt 25:31-46 is a reassurance to Jesus’ true disciples, his brothers, that God’s enemies will not triumph. The nations will be judged on the basis of how they treat the messengers whom Jesus sends to proclaim the gospel.

Jesus’ “least brothers” are his disciples who are to proclaim the gospel to all nations, despite persecution (Matt 10:32-33; 24:9-14; 28:18-20). Their treatment determines the fate of all men. Those who receive them receive Christ; those who reject them reject Christ (Matt 10:40-42; cf Acts 9:5).

Jesus’ brothers are his disciples. The fate of the nations will be determined by how they respond to Jesus’ followers, who are charged with spreading the gospel and do so in the face of hunger, thirst, illness, and imprisonment. Good deeds done to Jesus’ followers, even the least of them, are not only works of compassion and morality but reflect where people stand in relation to the kingdom and to Jesus himself. Jesus identifies himself with the fate of his followers and makes compassion for them equivalent to compassion for himself.

DA Carson concludes, We must not think that the Bible is unconcerned for the poor and the oppressed (Deut 15:11; Matt 22:37-40; 26:11; Gal 2:10). But that is not the center of interest here.


UPDATE: Ian Paul comes to the same conclusion.

Great Commission - I am with you

The Great Commission ends, not with a command, but with a promise. Jesus says “I (emphatic) will be with you”. His name is Immanuel (Matt 1:3) — God with us. In the Old Testament when God called people to a task, he promised to go with them (Ex 3:12; Jos 1:5), The risen Lord now makes the same promise.

This is a promise, not just to be present, but to be active on their behalf as they obey his Commission. He is not working with them, they are working with him. Jesus still leads the way.

He will be with them always, literally “the whole of every day.” He will be with them always, and to the end of the age. This Commission is not just for the original disciples, but for all those who will follow, until the end of history.

The kingdom has come, but the present evil age continues until the mission is complete — making disciples of every people group, baptizing and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded. Do this and the risen Lord promises you will never be alone.

The series so far:

Great Commission — all peoples

The Meaning of Ethne

The Meaning of Ethne

“All power . . . everywhere . . . all nations . . . all that I have commanded.” — it is impossible to conceive of anything more inclusive than this.
— Johannes Blauw

Making disciples is a global challenge which cannot be fulfilled without going. The Gentiles are to be gathered in. The church has become a holy nation (ethos) God’s own people (2 Pe 2:9).

“All the nations” (panta ta ethne) is used four times in Matthew (24:9, 14; 25:32; 28:19). When we hear “nation” we think of nation-states which may be comprised of many ethnicities. But ethne also includes “tribes,” or “peoples.”

The aim of Jesus’ disciples, therefore, is to make disciples of all people everywhere, without distinction (Carson)

[ed. I wish I could make it more complicated than this! Anybody can understand it unless they are lost in the missional fog.]

Great Commission series so far:

UPDATE: The Meaning of Ethne in Matthew 28:19

The Great Commission — Make disciples

Ask eighteen missional experts what they think mission is and only half of them will identify the making of disciples as the essence or heart of the mission of Jesus.

Ask Jesus what it means to be missional and he’ll point you to his example and his teaching.

In the Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) all mission activity is directed towards the main verb — make disciples. Making disciples is characterized by going, baptising and teaching them to obey everything Jesus has commanded.

To be a disciple is to be called to make new disciples. Multiplication is built into this Commission.

We are called not to get decisions but to make disciples in the same manner in which Jesus made disciples.

What is a disciple?

The whole of Matthew’s Gospel is a commentary on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Disciples are those who hear, understand, and obey Jesus' teaching and follow his example.

It couldn’t be clearer …. unless you listen to a missional expert.