God of MissionMarch 22nd, 2010
Neill McGregor, the former director of the National Gallery of Art in London, noted a few years ago that roughly one-third of the greatest European paintings in the collection depict an explicitly biblical theme. This reflects the obvious historical impact which Christianity has had on western civilization. The irony emerges in that the vast majority of Europeans who daily file past these magnificent displays of art today have no idea what biblical scenes are being depicted. The once-familiar Biblical narrative which winds its way along the Grand Canal of creation, fall, redemption and new creation has receded into the background, leaving in its place only the vaguest notions of a distant, monadic God who has neither a name nor biography. In a post-Christendom world, we can no longer take for granted that the English word “God” has any necessary association with the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible.
It must, therefore, be an amazing experience for new readers of the Bible to encounter the Living God who has revealed himself in those sacred pages. From the opening chapters of Genesis, all of the vacuity of the generic ‘God’ which, even if tentatively, inhabits the consciousness of the contemporary world is powerfully swept aside. Instead, we are confronted with a personal God who is not silent, a God who acts, and a God who sends. God has engaged human history with a mission. This is why missions is ultimately not about what we do, but about who God is. Our actions only emerge as we are enabled to enter into and are called to participate in His grand, unfolding narrative.
 Neill MacGregor, The Image of Christ (London: National Gallery, 2000), 6 as quoted in David Smith, Mission After Christendom (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2003), 1.
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