What Kind of God?

Photo credit: Rachel Wells

Photo credit: Rachel Wells

What Kind of God?: Reading the Bible with a Missional Church
Bret Wells

What kind of God is God? If, as the Apostle Paul claims in Colossians 1:15, Jesus is the exact image of the unseen God, then what is that God like? And how might the revelation of God in Jesus—God’s will, God’s nature, God’s action, God’s plan revealed fully in Jesus—change how followers of Jesus read the Bible?

One of our early challenges in developing Launch & Lead (when it was still referred to as “The Academy”) was finding an appropriate text for our course, “Reading the Bible with a Missional Church.” Over the years, many people have asked how a missional mindset or perspective impacts the way we read Scripture. Sometimes they want to know how we interpret a particular passage, or how we believe the Bible might speak to a specific issue in contemporary landscape.

Perhaps theirs is a question of efficacy, or maybe one of validity - there are as many motives for those questions as there are people asking. Yet, in one way or another, most simply want to know what a missional approach to the Bible looks like in practice.

Whenever possible, our response to such questions is, “Come and see.”

While there are several great academic texts addressing missional theology and the Bible, none of those we tried (for Launch & Lead) were able to consistently connect with our diverse group of students on a practical level. Those that did offer practical guidance tended to do so in an overly formulaic or narrowly defined manner. Eventually Elaine Heath and I decided that, since we couldn’t find the right book, perhaps we needed to write the right book.

So began the three-year process of developing What Kind of God?: Reading the Bible with a Missional Church.

We did not attempt to respond with critical exegesis or inductive Bible study. What Kind of God is not an academic study of the Bible riddled with footnotes, references to commentaries, or word studies (personally, I’m a fan of those things…but that isn’t the purpose of this project.)

Instead, through a meditative reading of several passages of scripture, informed by missional understandings of God and the church, we invite the reader to “come and see.”

Despite the church’s long history of biblical interpretations of God that have been too often violent, patriarchal, racist and exclusive, we are convinced that the real God is hospitable, present, loving, good willed toward humanity, wondrously creative, and determined to heal the cosmos. We believe this about God because of Jesus in the gospels. We believe Jesus is the interpretive key to the rest of the Christian Bible.

With Jesus in the gospels looking over our shoulders, in these pages we invite the reader to consider reading several familiar (and not so familiar) stories of the Bible with “missional eyes.”

Our hope for this volume is that it will help all of us grow closer to Jesus, who always compels us to join in with God’s mission in the world, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

One of the key principles of a missional approach is that the life of faith is meant to be experienced in community. In keeping with that conviction, when I began writing new chapters for the final version of What Kind of God, it seemed incredibly appropriate to ask the rest of the MWF Lead Team - Larry Duggins, Heidi Miller, and Denise Crane - to contribute new content as well. Reading the Bible is best engaged as a communal practice…the same has been true in writing this book.

What kind of God is God? What kind of people and what kind of community is God forming us to be? What does it look like to engage these questions in the midst of a missional community?

Well…come and see.

What Kind of God?: Reading the Bible with a Missional Church is one of several new books which will flow out of the Missional Wisdom Foundation in 2017 as part of brand-new “Missional Wisdom Series” published by Cascade.