Nitpicking Words for a Moment

Recently I have seen a couple of organizations that have as part of their vision statement that they seek to “fulfill the Great Commission.” When people say Great Commission, they are normally thinking of Matthew 28, starting in verse 18, but there are others. Actually, a lot of mission groups have similar statements, it just kind of struck me more

English: Folio 9 from the codex; beginning of ...

English: Folio 9 from the codex; beginning of the Gospel of Matthew (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

lately. Is there anything wrong with the statement? No… but… well no I guess… but… well… kind of. As I said above, this might be nitpicky, but words matter.

The term fulfill means “Bring to completion or reality; achieve or realize (something desired, promised, or predicted).”

The term fulfill is fine, I guess. The problem is that fulfill tends to center on the completion, not on the doing (I told you I am being nitpicky). What’s the difference? All of the versions (there are at least 6 in the Gospels and Acts) of the Great Commission (if I remember right) describe something one does, not something one completes.

Additionally, Jesus gave some relevant teaching as far as carrying out God’s work, such as Matthew 24:45-51. Jesus there compares two servants. The faithful servant was one who was found doing his job. The unfaithful servant was one who was trying to “time” the return of his master and so was found not doing his job. I can’t help but wonder whether the unfaithful servant, who said ‘My master is delaying his coming’ and so was lazy and irresponsible, came to that state after focusing too long on being ready for his master’s return, rather than being focused on his job.

Again, nitpicky. But I have seen too many groups come up with unreasonable goals (AD2000 movement anyone?) built on a fulfillment philosophy, groups that do sloppy Bible interpretation to justify a “fulfillment” philosophy (abuse of Matthew 24:14 comes to mind), and groups that use short-term strategies rather than long-term programs for change based on focus on some sort of short-term fulfillment (such as “saturation evangelism” versus community development and transformation).

If we knew for sure, if we could correctly time, Christ’s return date, the focus on fulfillment makes sense I suppose. But since Jesus made it VERY CLEAR that we can’t,  we should focus on the task of the Great Commission (based on our love for God and His Creation). Focus on the “Task of the Great Commission” or “Living out the Great Commission” I believe leads to less counterproductive thinking and acting.

Of course, words are just words. We can have all of the right words and still do poor ministry. We need a solid foundation of theology and motivation to be faithful servants of God. But leave the concept of having the Great Commission “fulfilled” to God.

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My Books

I added a new Page to this Website entitled “My Books.” Right now it has one book I recently wrote, “Theo-Storying: Reflections on God, Narrative, and Culture.” It also has my seminary dissertation (on medical missions). There is

 

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

Stack of books in Gould’s Book Arcade, Newtown, NSW, Australia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

also a rough-draftish book I wrote a couple of years ago on Wholistic Ministry. Even that book has some good stuff.  I will have to get around to cleaning it up sometime. Feel free to rummage around.

Just look for “My Books” tab at the top of the page.

In Missions and other Christian Ministry, we seek to develop and increase faith in others… but do we seek out healthy faith, or unhealthy faith?

Bukal Life Care

In Pastoral Care and Pastoral Counseling, it is generally believed that the faith of the individual can be a vital part of the healing process. This belief is built from a more fundamental assumption that faith is healthy. Yet, what is faith?

One of the best works I have seen on faith was written close to 40 years ago. Wayne E. Oates, a Christian Psychologist (and writer and seminary professor) wrote a book in 1973 called The Psychology of Religion. The final chapter (19) is titled “Toward a Psychology of Faith.” As a Christian, Oates valued faith. However, as a Christian Psychologist, he understood that some understandings of “faith” (both inside and outside of faith communities) may be psychologically destructive. So Oates sought to find a good understanding of the Biblical view of faith, informed by psychology, while avoiding unhealthy faith (or unhealthy things that are called faith by…

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God of the Story

<The following is the introduction to a book I am writing titled “Theo-Storying: Reflections on God, Narrative, and Culture.” Still working on it.  Hope to finish it in early 2013.>

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

This is how the Bible starts. The term “in the beginning” (b’ereshith) has a subtle mystery associated with it. The beginning of what? Here are a few possibilities.

  • The Beginning of God. This may appeal to a pantheistic understanding of God, but appears to be Biblically unsound. God and the world did not create themselves out of nothing.
  • The Beginning of the Heavens and Earth. This holds more promise, especially if you assume that Genesis 1:1 is describing creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) as opposed to giving structure to a formless dark universe. Still, one might question this due to its inherent redundancy. “In the beginning of the heavens and the earth, God created the heavens and the earth.”
  • The Beginning of Space-Time. In this era of Modern Physics, the interaction between space and time provides fuel for another viewpoint. God exists, and creates space-time. At one end of space-time is “THE BEGINNING.” The other end of space time is “ETERNITY.” Before (if that is a correct term) the beginning there was God and whatever was with God, but space-time, the universe we call our home, did not exist. In the fullness of time, space-time will end and we will have eternity, with whatever characteristics it will have.
  • The Beginning of the Story. Before Genesis 1:1, the story, or grand narrative, that is related in the Bible, has not started. The story starts with the creation of earth, with the associated heavens, and ends with the new heavens and earth, and eternity. Eternity, then, would not be the cessation of time, but the end of the Great Story.

I am not sure we always have to choose one interpretation. I certainly believe looking at the Bible as a story holds merit. A story is

an account of characters and events in a plot moving over time and space through conflict toward resolution.” <<<Gabriel Fackre, The Christian Story, rev. ed. Grad Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), 5>>>

The Bible obviously has characters and events, which takes place over time and space. It moves through conflict to resolution. To me, the bigger question is whether there is a plot. A plot to me suggests a couple of things. First, it suggests intentionality. A recording of stuff happening does not make a plot. A plot, for fiction, involves crafting of events in a coherent fashion so that the early events link, and mean something, within the timeline of the story. In non-fiction, history, events are chosen and displayed in (again) a coherent fashion to give the events meaning within a timeline.

Because the Bible has God, working within history, as the main character, the protagonist, the story of the Bible has aspects of both fiction and non-fiction. The story of the Bible is non-fiction in that it claims, on the whole, to describe what happened, is happening, and will happen. The story of the Bible is like fiction because God is more than a character in the Bible, but the author of history. Thus, the story is more than simply the collecting of events, but the crafting/creating of events for the plot.

The dual qualities of fiction and non-fiction are difficult for some. Some focus on the human character of the story where God becomes more of a character and less of an author. On the other hand, some focus on God as sovereign author to the extent that people become nothing more than characters in a play— props–, plot devices. It seems to me that the Bible works in “creative tension” between God as author and God as character.

Second, a plot suggests connectedness. On first reading, the Bible does not appear to be connected. It was written by different people over a long period of time utilizing different genres, in different languages, and set in different cultures. Does the Bible have a sustained plot with intentionality giving meaning to events, and connectedness giving causation of events?

I believe the Bible does describe a sustained and connected story/plot. The plot elements seem clear enough. The most basic flow of a story involves;

          -Normalcy

          -Conflict event

          -Building of conflict

          -Resolution event

          -Working out the resolution

          -Return to (New) Normalcy

The Bible as a story can be seen as

Paradise

Paradise Lost

Paradise Restored

Harmony between God, Man, and Creation

Disharmony/Chaos

Restoration of Harmony

Purity/Perfection

Sin/Imperfection

Purity/Perfection

and more.

The basic flow of the plot can be argued about to some extent depending on the perspective of the reader. Even the antagonist can be argued about. Many point to Satan as the antagonist. However, most of the Bible seems to focus on us as humans as our own worst enemy. Satan provides little more than guiding element in the chaos of rebellion.

However, the resolution event is more clear. It is the death and resurrection of Jesus. This event provides the clarity to the thread of God’s work in history. The divinity and humanity that is described as existing in Jesus brings the threads together. God is both author and main character of the story. Yet it is our story as well. We are characters in the story. We are also partly antagonist and protagonist. The divine and human are inseparably intertwined.

This book is a look at stories, not a look, primarily, at the Bible. But I believe it helps to start from the grand story and then work to the little stories within the grand story… including our stories.

As an added note, I use the term “narrative” at times, and “story” at others. I will use the definition that a narrative as “the presence of a story and a storyteller.” <<<Robert Scholes and Robert Kellogg, The Nature of Narrative (New York: Oxford University Press, 1966), 4.>>> One could argue the necessity of an audience. However, a narrative may still exist without an audience. Perhaps it is best to say that an effective narrative or an effective story has an audience.

Appreciating the Multi-cultural Church

Add your thoughts here… (optional)

Global Theology

Dr. Soong-Chan Rah of North Park Theological Seminary speaking at chapel of Fuller Theological Seminary on “The Next Evangelicalism: Appreciating the Multicultural Church” (November 7, 2012). Dr. Rah uses the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 as a model for understanding “a world that is becoming increasingly multicultural  and how the church responds to this very dynamic time in our nation’s, as well as our world’s, church history”.

The following is my summary and notes from his lecture.

The question is not whether the world is changing, but how Christian Americans will respond. (Click to Tweet)

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Article on the Bible and Crisis Care

Article that was originally published in “Bukal Life Care Journal” (2012 edition). Go down to the post listed at the bottom of this post if you wish to download the entire e-journal.

Elijah in Dialogue with Crisis Care” target=”_blank”>Divine Intervention: The Flight of Elijah in Dialogue with Crisis Care from Bob Munson