A Historian’s Hunches: Eight Future Trends in Mission, #4

A Historian’s Hunches: Eight Future Trends in Mission, #4 February 9, 2016

This is the fifth installment of a ten part series by Dr. Scott Sunquist on what trends in missiology we can expect in the coming years.

Trend #4: Scripture
Scott W. Sunquist

One of the strongest lessons of the past ½ century in mission is that missionaries are part of the larger missio Dei, but God’s mission is carried out in a myriad of ways with or without apostolic figures. One of the ways his Kingdom is spread is simply through the availability of the Bible translated in local languages and linked with literacy efforts. Movements have been started by people hearing the Word read over radio, but more effectively and importantly, when they read the Bible for themselves in small groups or families. Families and even villages come to faith through the reading and study of the Bible. Small groups reading the Bible in Mao’s China were the main cause of the survival and then the surprising revival of Christianity during a period of 30 years when there were no missionaries serving in China. Small groups studying the Bible in Latin America have connected the liberating work of Jesus Christ with local contexts. Pentecostalism and liberation theology mixed creating indigenous Christian movements throughout Latin America.

Hand with Bible, by Elvert Barnes. Flickr Commons.
Hand with Bible, by Elvert Barnes. Flickr Commons.

The formula that has emerged is a simple one: Christian growth and development (“evangelization”) simply requires access to the Bible in a local language with increasing cross-cultural Christian contacts.  Without either one of these (Bible and ecumenical contacts) Christianity does not develop, or it will develop into a cultic expression. Ecumenical, or cross-cultural Christian social intercourse, is a necessary element for healthy Christian development. This contact may be missionary contact (receiving or sending), migration, periodic conferences, or other such regular contact.

In the past we have assumed much more was required in the form of specific missionary teaching or preaching. What we have learned is that the Bible understood by local indigenes, has power to transform and convert. Linked with some of the prior themes, it is clear that we must continue to place Biblical translation and availability as a major theme for the future.

Dr. Scott W. Sunquist is the dean of the School of Intercultural Studies and professor of World Christianity at Fuller Theological Seminary.

This blog post was taken from The State of Missiology Today by Charles E. Van Engen. Copyright (c) 2016 by Charles E. Van Engen. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426.www.ivpress.comPre-order the full book here (expected October 2016).

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