A Bible Study on "The Theology of Mission"
The following Bible study by Dr. Catherine M. Akale titled “The Theology of Mission” was presented at the United Methodist Women Leadership Training Event for newly elected conference leaders, November 21, 2010. Dr. Akale is from Cameroon and is one of United Methodist Women’s Regional Missionaries. She serves in sub-Saharan Africa.
Her ministry focuses on leadership development, gender justice and capacity building. Her work with the women of Cameroon includes combating human trafficking, specifically child trafficking and its global connections. Her work also includes bringing children and families out of poverty to prevent the sale and trafficking of children. (See “Christian Witnesses to the World” in the April 2010 edition of response magazine, pp. 34-35.)
What You’ll Need
- The Bible in a couple of different translations.
- Dr. Catherine M. Akale’s Bible study in hard copies. (Link to PDF provided below.)
- The United Methodist Hymnal, Hymn #569 “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nations.”
- YouTube video of Harriett J. Olson’s words on God’s Kingdom to newly commissioned Deaconesses and Home Missioners in April 2010 before the United Methodist Women Assembly in St. Louis, Mo.
- Maps from Atlas of Global Christianity website. Exact sites provided below.
The following verse is written by Jorge Lockward, Kathleen Masters and Lisa H. Katzenstein and is sung to the tune of the hymn “We’ve a Story to Tell to the Nation” (#569). You’ll sing this verse later in the study.
We’ve a story to hear from the nations that shall turn our lives upside down,
a story of strength and struggle, a story of hope and light, a story of hope and light.
For our arrogance will turn to sharing and our blindness to full clear sight;
and Christ’s great kin-dom will come on earth, the kin-dom of love and light.
Start the Bible study by singing the hymn “We’ve a Story To Tell to the Nations” (#569 United Methodist Hymnal) stanzas 1 and 2. Dr. Akale’s presentation is on mission theology and a call to continue our United Methodist Women commitment to the work of women, children and youth.
Theology simply means God-talk. It is “our effort to reflect upon God’s gracious action in our lives. In response to the love of Christ, we desire to be drawn into a deeper relationship with the ‘author and perfecter of our faith.’” (“Our Theological Task,” 2008 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church ¶104, p. 74).
Theology depends on the context of a community. Therefore it is contextual. Christian mission is demonstration of God’s love in action through the ones who have experienced that love in Jesus Christ. Mission is context-specific, too.
Mission theology is God-talk about “prophetic neighboring.” It is about God transforming us in order that we may be engaged in the transformational work of God. Being co-workers with God!
Dr. Akale’s message combines the timeless and context-specific aspects of Christian mission. This study divided Dr. Akale’s message into parts and provides questions about these segments. In small groups, read the following sections of Dr. Akale’s presentation.
Why the Theology of Mission Now?
Mission: The Goal of Theology
Look at the world map and regional maps of the spread of Christianity posted on the Atlas of Global Christianity website, available here:
- In looking at these maps, where do you see the growth of Christianity?
- Where is the center of gravity of Christian mission now?
- According to Dr. Akale, what does the future of mission depend on?
- What does Matthew 28:18-20 mean to you today?
- What does John 10:10 mean to you today? Is “fullness of life” good life? Why? Why not?
- Read John 10:10 aloud in a couple of different translations of the verse and spend a minute silently reflecting on this verse.
What Is Mission?
Read the subsection “Mission is about the Kingdom of God.”
- How does Dr. Akale define mission?
- Are there ways of connecting Dr. Akale’s concept of mission with the Lord’s Prayer, particularly “Thy kingdom come”?
- Listen to the message of Harriett J. Olson on God’s Kingdom given to newly commissioned Deaconesses and Home Missioners in April 2010 in St. Louis, Mo., available on the United Methodist Women YouTube website: www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7vlP7KLzFA.
- Where do you see God’s mission transforming and changing your attitudes and actions?
- Recite the Lord’s Prayer slowly, and spend a couple of minutes quietly reflecting on it. If you are with persons who speak languages different from your own, invite them to recite the Lord’s Prayer in their mother tongues.
Read the subsections “Mission is integrating” and “Mission is about unity of purpose and communion with God.”
- What are some of the things that work against the integration of spiritual growth and social justice issues?
- What is holistic mission for you?
- Read John 15:1-17. How does Jesus describe unity? Is unity the same as uniformity? Why?
- Share how we as members of United Methodist Women must collectively engage in mission.
- Give examples of community-based missions you are aware of.
Read the subsections “Mission is about relationships, about love” and “Mission transforms.”
- Why does relationship matter in mission?
- What is the impact of a mission that is authoritarian?
- If mission is about love, does it lead to shared power? Read the story of Elizabeth and Mary in Luke 1:39-55. How do these women embody God’s mission?
- How does Mary’s Song of Praise lift up mission as transformation?
- Who are the powerful today? Who are at the margins or victims of the system?
- What is it to stand in solidarity with the poor and the powerless today? Give an example of United Methodist Women’s mission as solidarity with those who are victims of the system. (Sing the verse “We’ve a story to hear from the nations.”)
Read the subsection “Mission is communion. And it is a two-way process.” Answer the questions Dr. Akale poses.
The Theology of Mission in My Story
- What are the things that surprise you in the story of Dr. Akale?
- How does she describe the rural women whom she serves as our Regional Missionary?
- What are the lessons that she learns from those whom she serves?
- What draws the poor, overworked and illiterate women closer to Jesus? How does their faith derive comfort from Jesus?
- Is it the same Jesus whom we, Christians, worship in North America? The Jesus for whom there was “no room in the inn?”
- How can we live our faith as followers of the One who was given no room in the inn, even Jesus Christ?
- Close in prayer.