Friday, April 01, 2005

The Role of Scripture in the Missional Church

I want to offer a couple more reflections on missional church gleaned from The Continuing Conversion of the Church. Guder offers this assertion about what an effective and mission oriented church will look like:

The Holy Spirit shapes God’s people for mission through the continuous encounter with the Scripture. Continuing conversion happens as the community “indwells” Scripture.

He goes on to say:

Rigorous biblical learning must be the missional congregation’s priority. The congregation intentionally commits most of its time together to biblical study….This means that the members are learning to think Christianly; they are learning how to see the world through the eyes of Jesus’ they are becoming biblically literates in order to be effective translators of the gospel into their world. [160]

Here! Here! I know there are several good and faithful ways to handle Scripture in a service and in a congregation (exegetical vs. topical preaching, etc.), but this statement of Guder’s has the ring of truth to me. I have personally stuck with verse-by-verse teaching myself because of this conviction, and I know that there are plenty of faithful pastors and congregations that “indwell” Scripture through a more topical way of preaching and teaching. But I have also noticed that many times when a pastor says they preach topically, what they mean is, “I preach a kind of pop-psychology, self-help gospel.” The point of their preaching is taken more from the latest TV show or book written by an NBA coach than from Scripture.

If we are to be salt and light, if we are to be the kind of witness people recognize as distinct from the outside world, then Scripture must be our focus and our text, no matter our style of pulpit ministry. How else are we, the flock of God, to learn what our God desires of us? If the church does not hold up the standard of Scripture, who will?

As a kind of side note, as I read more on the emergent church I read conflicting views on this kind of thing. At one moment I read where some in the EC believe that because of the pomo rejection of authority, pastors should “step out of the way” and let Scripture do the talking; they promote an exegetical style of teaching and preaching. At the same time and for the same reason, I read that the community should therefore be the primary translator of the Christian life, and that the text of Scripture is just another example of the cultural incarnation of the Spirit in that time and place.

Obviously I think the first option is a life-saver for the emergent church, and the second is a death-knell. Are there any readers out there who see the EC as leaning one way or the other?


Public Theologian said...


Remember that Guder is from the Presbyterian Church USA which is one of the last denominations that still requires ministers to learn both Greek and Hebrew. For me this is the problem--pastors can't teach their congregations what they don't know. Personally I am weary of pastros who talk about how much they love the Bible and what a high view of Scripture they have when they haven't bothered to study the languages long enough to find out what it says for themselves. That's why there is so much blather coming from pulpits on Sunday mornings--the three steps to this, the four keys to that, the five ways to the other--none of which have anything to do with the Scripture.

Public Theologian

Milton Stanley said...

Outstanding article. I wrote about it this morning at my blog. Peace.

Phil Steiger said...

Blogger has not been sending me the notices that I have been getting comments-sorry if I am late to respond.


Thanks for the kind words-I appreciate them!

Public Theologian-

I have a great deal of respect for what you are saying. Too many denominations and churches consider biblical education a hinderance to the ministry instead of the tremendous, equipping help it really is. I have had too many encounters with people to recount(of all positions in the church) who discount me and others who have a Seminary or higher degree simply because we have a degree.

I don't think the church will thrive because we dumb-down the pastorate and the pulpit ministry; thriving will mean exactly the opposite.

Kevin said...


Great thoughts here brother! This issue has occupied a great deal of my thinking over the past several years.

I linked this on my blog this morning as well:

Anonymous said...

I was looking for something online to see if I could find a church in Colorado Springs that was heading for missional.

I didn't even know what that meant until this last week. My pastor suggested reading "Missional Renaissance" by Reggie McNeal. Finally, I have a voice and the words for something I haven't been able to describe or put into words for the last ten years.

I could go on and on, but recently, I have felt the overwhelming need to find out the Greek and Hebrew words for the scriptures. Talk about abiding. By studying, I find so much knew information and a way to understand the Word in a way I was never able to before.