MISSIONS FEST 2019 AND BIBLE STUDY
Dr. Ken Radant - Associate Dean and Associate Professor of Theology
Every January, Vancouver is host to Missions Fest – one of Canada’s largest and most influential annual missions conferences. It’s a wonderful event. There are opportunities to learn about, and connect with many different mission agencies, to take in seminars, participate in sessions, and mingle with hundreds of brothers and sisters who share a common passion for the church’s mission.
This year, Carey didn’t attend Missions Fest in an official way, setting up a booth or making any formal institutional presentations. Some of us were able to attend individually, though, and it was a positive experience, as always. The year’s theme was especially interesting to those who work in the seminary world, since it all centered on discipleship. I had the privilege of presenting in one of the small parallel seminar sessions during the weekend, and have been asked to share a little about the goings-on.
So what does a professor of biblical and systematic theology talk about at Missions Fest? My colleagues who teach intercultural studies and mission have the opportunity to speak regularly, because they’re so well equipped to talk about the most recent trends and needs in global mission, because they have such excellent insights into ministry strategies, and because they continually ooze passion for worldwide evangelism. I care about all these things, of course. But they’re not the topics I present about most often. This year, however, the festival theme intersected beautifully with a subject that does come up regularly in my teaching: the matter of biblical study and the need for the church to ground its ministry in a solid understanding of Scripture. And so I found myself presenting a session called “Teaching the Word – Why Effective Discipleship Must Include Serious Bible Study.”
In some ways this was a “motherhood and apple pie” presentation. Of course Bible study is important! If the Bible really is God’s word, our guide, and a life-giving source of the Spirit’s truth to us, then certainly we need to be engaging it well. Every seminary student knows that! It provides the historical foundation for our faith. Without it we don’t have a gospel to present to the world.
But we live in a culture that likes things to be easy and quick. Doing the hard work of study for ourselves is no longer a widely-embraced cultural value (just ask Alexa!). And Evangelical Christianity is notoriously pragmatic and impatient, eager to jump into “doing something” without laying the foundations of careful preparation. In too many circles we have also bought into a misguided understanding of what it means to be “led by the Spirit,” as though somehow God’s Holy Spirit of Wisdom prefers always to work in opposition to careful preparation and reflection rather than in tandem with it.
So it seemed to me that the topic was worth exploring. (Apparently some others agreed, as we ended up with a room full of folk when it came time to start.)
What did we cover? I won’t repeat the presentation here, but these are a few of the highlights.
- I offered reminders of the things we believe about Scripture and its importance.
- I also reminded the group that our mission is not to make converts, but disciples. Disciples are, by definition, “learners,” and Scripture clearly instructs us to make them by “teaching them.”
- We took a little time to reflect on what it does, and does not, mean to do “serious Bible study.” It isn’t necessarily formal, stuffy, academic work. But neither is it the same as devotional reading or lectio divina. It’s very different than what happens in many Bible studies across the city each week (which tends to be rather passive and low-level in too many cases). It’s not listening to someone else’s study—but rather, learning to study for oneself. And it isn’t the only way we engage Scripture. But it’s one of the essential elements.
- I emphasized the benefits of this kind of study: for each of us individually, for the church, and for our mission.
- And I encouraged the group. They were willing to come and be part of the conversation, after all. They didn’t need to be nagged, just supported.
It was encouraging to see a room full of people who chose to go out of their way, on their own time, to talk about the need for biblical study in the context of our mission and ministry. I know that enthusiasm exists. I see it all the time at Carey, and greatly appreciate it in our community. Still, it’s always helpful to be reminded that the same passion is present much more widely in the church. May it continue to multiply!
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ABOUT THE FACULTY
Ken Radant is Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning and Associate Professor of Theology at Carey Theological College in Vancouver. Before joining the Carey team in early 2017, Ken was Principal, Academic Dean, and Associate Professor of Theology at the ACTS Seminaries of Trinity Western University. He has also served as Associate Dean and Associate Professor for Ambrose Seminary, and as Dean and Professor at Prairie Graduate School. Ken was raised in the Christian and Missionary Alliance church. He studied at the C&MA schools in Regina, then moved to greater Chicago to complete his MA and PhD studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He returned to Canada to begin teaching at PGS in 1990.
Get in touch with Dr. Ken: [email protected]