Welcome to Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and Missions.
This is episode 31 of Missions on Point. We're in the middle of a rather lengthy series on keys to effectiveness as a missionary. We've already covered some early ones. A strong ecclesiology having a clear biblical vision, knowing that end goal.
Number three is simple priorities, day-to-day, week to week, having an understanding of what really is priority and not getting lost in the mix of just trying to live in a cross-cultural situation.
Number four is knowing the audience, which has primarily to do with language and culture and really understanding your target audience.
Number five is theological discernment, and the one we'll deal with today is Bible knowledge.
Number six is Bible knowledge. You may be thinking, surely our missionary candidate or our missionary has good Bible knowledge, or they wouldn't even want to be a missionary. That's only partly true. It's very possible, and all too often happens that a young adult goes through college, has a great experience in college ministry, but never really studies and understands the storyline of the Bible and how it all fits together. They may meet their mission agency's minimum criteria for some Bible knowledge, but still not have a good handle on it. I jokingly say that you know you're in trouble when the missionary has to go to the table of contents to find one of the minor prophets. So this can become a problem specifically because the missionary is going to be involved in Bible ministry no matter what ministry they're in. They need to be a resource and have more Bible knowledge than the beginner Christians in their target culture. So besides understanding the gospel really well, and besides having a good handle on Christian terms in general, or Bible terms in general, they actually need to have a pretty good Bible knowledge.
This can be acquired through some Bible survey or Bible overview kind of courses, but to have an understanding of the storyline of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and how it fits together is a key to effectiveness. It's surprising sometimes how situations on the field or questions coming from non-believers or young believers on the field will cause the missionary to have to hit the books and try to figure out where is it in the Bible that a principle can be applied to their question or difficulty or counseling problem or situation. So having a great Bible knowledge is going to shortcut a lot of panic of study on the field because they'll have a better understanding of the general flow of the Bible.
What do we mean by the storyline of the Bible? Well, from creation, God's special creation of the universe and all that's in it, all the way through to revelation, there is a storyline that has to do with God's interaction with man, his desire for his glory through all things, and how the gospel is developed from the earliest elements in Genesis through the rest of the Pentateuch, into the life of Christ as the promised Messiah and Savior, and then into the church time in which all of these things unfold in a bigger way for all the nations of the world. So having an understanding of the storyline in more detail than I just said is kind of important.
Also, specifically having an under understanding of the gospel elements of that storyline. The gospel is not just the name of a genre of the four Bible books at the beginning of the New Testament. The gospel is not just the story of Jesus and his death and resurrection. The gospel is not just the appeal to men to have a response to God's gracious provision through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ for salvation and spiritual life.
It's not just that the gospel elements are woven throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament in terms of understanding God's view of sin and how covering is made for the penalty of sin through animal sacrifices and through a system of worship of God in which he is put at the center of our thinking and understanding and priorities all the way through to Christ and fulfillment of all of those Old Testament regulations in such a way that now salvation can be freely offered by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, in such a way that people from all nations can receive it. They don't have to be Jewish, they don't have to follow special regulations. Their works do not make them deserving of receiving the special gift of salvation.
To get a handle on that thread means that you have to understand something of the chronological development of the plan of salvation through the ages from Adam to Christ and into the New Testament era.
So all of those gospel connections can be made in such a way that people understand they are culpable for their sin. They do have a responsibility that their sin be paid for and it's going to be hell or Christ. So having that understanding and the exclusivity of the gospel through the whole Bible is very significant for any missionary, and it is a key to effectiveness.
On top of that, there's another layer of understanding that helps the missionary understand how the Bible is interpreted and applied, and in this we're talking about the art and science of hermeneutics or biblical interpretation for all the different types of scripture. That interpretation takes into account the context in which it's given, the historical setting, the audience, all of that for book by book, even paragraph by paragraph, dealing with how the author is addressing specific problems and issues and people and times and inspiration of God to write the things that are in scripture.
It's so important to know that only the Bible is God's inspired word. There may be other human literature that is inspiring in the sense that it is somehow uplifting or gives insight into the human condition or the mind or uplifts people with regard to having some hope in life. But no other writing is God breathes. No other writing has life within it. No other writing is promised by God to lead to salvation and understanding of him and his purposes. God promises to use his word to convict men of sin and draw them to himself. Only in God's word do we find everything we need for life and godliness. Only in God's word do we find his wisdom in propositional revelation that tells us what we need to know to honor him, to live for him, to find salvation. So of all resources available to the missionary, the Bible ought to be the first resource and the one in which they spend the most time understanding how to minister and what to say to people with regard to their ministry.
There are a number of dangers with regard to Bible knowledge that you ought to take note of. First is just missing Bible knowledge, missing Bible content. The second one has to do with application, which is related to interpretation. That is not taking Bible texts out of context, not allowing the Bible to be used in a way in which it is not intended, but using the Bible in a proper understanding and interpretation as applied to the various challenging issues on the field. Another problem is stepping towards what we talked about in knowing the target audience as a key to effectiveness, and that is beginning to understand and read and be able to apply the scriptures in the language of the people. We will talk about Bible translation and accessibility of the Bible in the heart language of the people, but even within the national language or the trade language. Eventually, the missionary is going to have to know the language well enough to be able to read and understand and interpret the Bible in the national language appropriately.
Another difficulty is typical of Western missionaries, and that is being quite bookish. In other words, having so many printed Bible references and tools, whether that be commentaries or handbooks, or even if it's digital, spending so much time in the tools to understand the Bible properly, that it's not reproducible by an indigenous Christian, by a local Christian. Local Christians don't have all those tools. The missionary needs to understand the Bible well enough that allows the Bible to interpret the Bible and uses similar passages from similar contexts to help explain and lift out the meaning and the practical application for the local Christians. If the local Christian can't just take his Bible as modeled by the missionary and find the answers to life's questions and application for the challenges and difficulties he has in life in ways that give him hope and solutions and a pathway toward overcoming sin in his life, then the missionary isn't explaining and using the Bible well enough.
It's not about third party resources and digital or printed materials outside of the Bible. It's about the Bible being the authority and the central reference for all that a Christian needs. I'm not saying by the way that other references are not good for a missionary to have available. Probably the easiest one volume reference that a missionary might have is a solid conservative evangelical study Bible that has lots of notes and maps and interpretive comments that are helpful to understand all in one volume. Other digital resources, particularly in high security situations, are very helpful, whether that be digital books or online Bible reference materials or software. So the follow-up question is how can this principle apply to us in our local church and in our Christian lives? The answer is pretty obvious. It's that our people need to know the Bible. They need to have opportunity to understand the Bible in not just a simple topical sampling form, not just a form of Bible study books that walk them through and they fill in the blank or they check off on the questionnaires.
Looking at the Bible and understanding it and how it all fits together, and being able to draw principles out from the sweep of scripture that are helpful in practical everyday life. Our local church people need to have that opportunity. We as individuals need to constantly be in the word of God as a daily spiritual discipline to be reading, thinking about, meditating on, praying the Bible and applying the Bible in our daily lives. Hearing the Bible, reading the Bible, studying the Bible, meditating on the Bible and ourselves teaching the Bible enables us to have a much better grasp and be able to use it for God's glory in missionary work, whether it is at home with our family or across the sea to people in a different language.
Please subscribe or follow this podcast and follow through this series. The very next topic or key to effectiveness is one of my favorite. It's the value for indigeneity, and you'll want to hear about that.
Thanks for joining us today on Missions on Point, the Propempo perspective on church and missions. I trust that you'll find more help and resources on the website, propempo.com. Please preferably consider supporting this ministry. Now to God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.
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