How to Advance God’s Kingdom
In this session, we look at how our theology effects how we do mission.
Speaker: Andy McCullough
Andy is a church planter, writer and regular speaker on theology topics.
Nimrod versus Abraham
- “each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations”.
- Nimrod: Genesis 10.8-10
Genesis 11 – one language, one city, one temple
“To accept the new language meant to deny everything that gave meaning to their lives – stories, traditions, “the naming of things”, the music of words, the sounds of love. To keep their own language, however, meant to be a stranger in their own land, to be outside the law, to be unable to negotiate and to understand the language of power.” Jose Miguez Bonino
- It’s foundations?
Where you stand affects how you read
“So when the people in the present case, who had been dignified with similarity of language, used the privilege given them for evil purposes, [God] put a stop to the impulse of their wickedness through creating differences in language.” St. John Chrysostom
Jose Miguez Bonino, Argentinian context.
Genesis Context – Abram
- Genesis 12:1-3
- Nimrod sought to make a name for himself (11.4). God promised Abram that he would make a name for him (12.2).
- Babel was characterised by the imperative “come”. God told Abram to “go.”
- Babel’s founders “settled” (11.2) (Genesis use of yasab is generally negative), Abram was called to an un-settled life.
- Nimrod built one temple, Abram built altars wherever he went (12.7-8).
- To leave his “country and kindred and father’s house” (12.1)
- Nimrod, through building, sought to mitigate his own need for honour and for protection. Abram was called to abandon both.
The story of Abram is the paradigm of a new people through whom all the families of humankind are to experience blessing, not by surrendering their ethnic identities but by being embraced within the saving purpose of the God who rejoices in the diversity of the creation. Bernard Anderson
Big/ virile Small/ barren
Settled Never settles
Conform to one temple Build altars wherever you go
Built a city Left a city
‘Make a name for ourselves’ Entrusts his honour to God
Resists fear of being scattered Embraces fear of unknown
Nations enslaved Nations blessed
Canonical Context – Honouring of Language
- Pentecost (Acts 2), is like Babel all over again.
“The sin of Babel was its quest for unity — one interpretation, one reading, one people — which was an abandonment of creational diversity and plurality in favor of exclusion and violence.” Karl Moller
- “The Babel story, as traditionally interpreted, has been an obstacle to developing a theology of pluralism.” Bernard Anderson
- Revelation 5:9-10
- Born in a tiny, insignificant place (Bethlehem) not a great city
- Born vulnerable
- Like Abram, Jesus is itinerant. Never settles.
- Does not conform, lives as a “called out one” – integrity
- Embraces fear and risk and the unknown and danger, becomes of no reputation, doesn’t seek a name for himself.
- God does not save the world by sending someone big and impressive like Nimrod but by anointing someone small and marginal like Jesus.
Implications for Christian Mission
- Christianity was never supposed to have a centre.
- God loves diversity The Babel story contains a peculiar dialectic. Human beings strive to maintain unity, God’s action effects diversity. Human beings seek for a centre, God counters with dispersion. Human beings want to be safe with homogeneity, God welcomes pluralism. Anderson
- Mission should be centrifugal not centripetal because of the power differential
- Mission is scary
- The goal of mission is indigenous expression of ancient truth: contextualisation is vital!
- Foundation, Confrontation, Multiplication
- Reaching the unreached is slow, expensive, inefficient and requires our best people