Here’s the quote behind my muze below, I find Guder’s writing to be among the most helpful pieces of missiology I’ve read;

 

Every document in the New Testament is written to a missionary congregation. They were all the result of missionary witness, beginning with Pentecost. They were all a fulfillment of the promise of Jesus to his disciples on Ascension Day: When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, second letter to the Corinthians. He is grappling with their faithfulness as witnesses to Jesus Christ in Corinth. He is not telling them to get involved in mission. They have no choice about that. That is why they exist. But they need constantly to learn how this translates into their daily living, their actions, their attitudes, their and to the ends of the earth. The congregations of the first generation did not look upon missions as one activity of many which they sponsored. They understood themselves to be missionary by their very nature. They were there to continue the witness that had brought them to faith and new life. And all the writings of our New Testament address that missionary vocation. They all deal with the way that each of these congregations, in its very particular place and with its very particular challenges, will continue the witness to Jesus.” Darrell L. Guder, God’s Letter to the World 2 Corinthians 3:1-3

 

Scripture must be interpreted and applied in light of its own nature, not a nature that we preconcieve it to have, but rather a nature that it itself bears testimony to. One aspect of that nature, a crucial aspect indeed, is its missiological character. As Guder points out above, “Every document in the New Testament is written to a missionary congregation.” For the Apostolic church ‘being missional’ wasn’t the hotest new trend in church programming, it was a non-negotiable attribute of the congregations of those who followed the way. And for them the scriptures held manifold missiological value and meaning. For them, the scriptures like the Spirit of their Lord, had a pilgrim quality to them…a pilgrimage that was inclusive to all the world because they realized that their great locative was “in Christ.” And this Christ had ascended to His Father’s right hand in order to fill all things.

 

The new testament was written in part to help these new congregations carry on the “witness that had brought them to faith and new life. All the writings of our New Testament address that missionary vocation.” That is why along with historical criticism and literary criticism, missiological criticism is a hermeneutical non-negotiable in reading scripture according to its own nature.

 

Missiological criticism of scripture begins by asking these questions:

  1. How does the text depict God as the great commissioner?
  2. What is going on in the life of the church as it engages its missional calling?
  3. How did the original writers curtail their messages to empower, admonish, and nurture the missional congregations in their local settings?
  4. How does the author view the missionary congregations in relation to redemptive-history, and what does the writer do with that perception in her or his paranesis?
  5. What does the wisdom of God demonstrated in their missional context mean for us in or missional context?

This list is by far not exaustive or even necessarily as orderly as it could be. As I mentioned in the heading of this post these were a few of the relfections I had as I read through Guder’s piece, and the quote I pulled out is just one of many helpful things he said in this particular article. You can find this article and many more by visiting and downloading for free several articles at the Gospel and Our Culture Network here.

 

(Photographic art by Stuck in Costums, piece entitled “The open road“)