The Great Story and the Great Commission [a review]
Christopher J.H. Wright is easily one of my favorite theologians. There are very few like him who are able to so deftly integrate theology and practice. On the one hand you have theologians who can wax eloquent about the nature and character of God and yet scarcely seem to realize that the work of theology is supposed to relate to how human beings live their lives on this planet. On the other hand you have theologians who are so invested in being practical and concrete that they barely have any time for theological anything.
Still others try to uphold the importance of both right doctrine and right practice, and yet it's as if the left hand isn't aware of the right. It's as if they'd love to go on and on about divine truths but we need to cut that short so that we can get to this other thing God commanded us to care about: mission. Wright was the first theologian I read who seemed to see past this dichotomy. I read his book The Mission of God's People years ago and it was the first time I saw the concept of mission not as a kind of interim necessity imposed upon the New Testament Church, but as the defining trait running all the way through Scripture. First and foremost, God himself is on a mission to bring life where there is no life, and only secondarily does he graciously invite his people into that mission. It's such a good book that I've read it multiple times. The problem is that it's pretty intimidating for most readers.
Wright's newest work, The Great Story and the Great Commission, is aimed less at breaking new ground and is much more about synthesizing and distilling some of his key ideas down into a more accessible work. Weighing in at only 9 chapters, his goal is to provide a quick overview of how to read Scripture with a "Missional Hermeneutic" and then show how viewing Scripture as one single, cohesive narrative of God's mission illuminates the why behind what the people of God are called to do in this world. As you can tell from the title, he views the work of biblical theology and the missional work of the Great Commission as intimately linked together.
Though the word "mission" often conjures up a specific image in people's minds, Wright takes great pains to explain the breadth of the mission God is inviting his people to join him in. Though it involves what is traditionally thought of as "missions" and evangelism overseas, it also involves the work of teaching theology in the Church. It also involves the doing of compassionate social justice. It involves cultivating and caring for creation. The people of God engage in the mission of God in many diverse ways, but at the end of the day they all are ways that we participate in his work of bringing life to the world.
There are certainly parts of the book that I could quibble with but for the most part I found it to be an extremely encouraging, helpful work. More than anything it's his ability to integrate aspects of the Christian life that feel disparate that I find most useful. He thinks in ways that masterfully cut through all the nonsense of the Evangelical world by bringing his theology to bear. A good example is his reorientation of how we think about mission: "It is not so much that God has a mission for the church as that God has the church for his mission." I'd heartily recommend this book to ministry leaders and even church members who want to get a clearer understanding of how to think about mission in a holistic, integrative way.
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of a fair, unbiased review.