Bible & Mission with Dr. Nick Shepherd

This morning Nick decided not to do a theology of schools work given it’s the first session of the year, but to look at how we can use the Bible more fruitfully in our schools work. As we do that it will help us develop our theology of schools work.

The Bible punctures the world of reality with God’s view on the reality of the world. Cf. How God Became King by NT Wright, he sees the gospels as showing the God has become king in all through Christ. Through Wright’s book Nick was encouraged to think afresh about the Gospels. That’s what we need to do today with the whole of scripture.

What is the point in schools work?
What do we want to do, or what do we actually think we’re doing? Try not to get depressed!?!?

  • Doughnuts!
  • Hope
  • Everyone goes to school, we’ve been to school, it’s a fundamental rite of passage
  • Give people a positive view of Christianity
  • The biggest unchurched church in the land
  • Putting in foundations in the world view thinking
  • Giving self-worth and pastoral care
  • Jesus is already there and we go where he is already active
  • Teach things about Christianity and the Bible accurately
  • Be salt and light
  • Help Christians live out their faith.

This makes schools work hard as it is always changing and has a wide variety of aims, so it is imperative to anchor our schools work biblically. It tends to evolve and be response driven to opportunities. It is also complex as the rules change – the ways we’re allowed to be involved, the ways schools want us to be involved in.

Some of the things we want to do, we can’t do. This is the impossible triangle of schools work:

  • Action: we start with action, we don’t think too much, we just get stuck in, we want to get involved on the basis of a hunch and this is great and something we need to keep doing. As we listen to their stories we learn about their context.
  • Context: so you begin to think what are we trying to do. Are we trying to convey a Christian view or are we trying to do something more. The context drives us to reflect on the purpose.
  • Purpose: so this then enables us to reflect on our action and what we’re doing.

None of the three corners can trump the other. Sometimes the purpose can be shifted by the context, e.g. we want to share the gospel, not just as another religion, but as we do that, we get asked to do reading support as you are fantastic at interacting with young people, so you’re in a context of not being able to share faith, do you say no as we’re purely evangelistic or do we shift our role as we’re more holistic. And either answer is valid.

If we’re going to retain something significant in what schools work is it is by nature undefinable and unique in the tension of mission and education, we’re involved in God’s co-work to pioneer in education settings.

Listening to scripture and allowing it inform our schools work is a challenge – we’re activists, we even think by doing. How do we make a decision in those few seconds when we have to decide what to do. Indwelling is immersing ourselves in scripture so that we dwell in the Bible in our actions. We don’t just have examples, but we have it within ourselves.

Love Deut. 6, a retelling of the Law, the most important use of the Bible is for us, it is good to teach it in engaging and exciting ways for young people and our team but not as important. In Deuteronomy they needed to understand who they were as the people of God – that is the same for us.

  1. The story of God’s people
  2. Creation to the coming of Christ
  3. The Early Church
  4. We live in the 4th Act
  5. The Second Coming

We have to be faithful to the drama we’re a part of, we have access to the first three acts, and we have the fifth act – so we improvise faithfully the fourth act. If we immerse ourselves in the story we can faithfully improvise how God’s world ought to be.

Tools to help us in this:

  • The Lectionary – provides a rhythm of going through scripture over 3 years, sometimes it is a bit atomised but over the longer term it works well.
  • Goals as a team to do thematic Bible study – just look at it as Christians, not how to prepare it for others.
  • Fantastic books such as How to Read the Bible for all it’s worth; God’s Big Picture
  • Do further training as a distance course at LST, St. John’s Nottingham, Spurgeons.

It is not believing in the Bible, but believing with the Bible.

Avoid using the Bible, a little bit random having just spent so long saying get stuck into it. Often we are very quick as Christians to mis-apply it, e.g. Bath YFC talked about how they were salt and light to explain how they ran school discos etc., but when they dug into the metaphor they were provoked by the “city hiding their light under a bushel” – they were focussed on salt, but therefore hid that they were Christian schools workers and so failed in the light area.

We need to avoid just using the Bible to justify our purpose, and instead use it to critique our purpose and what we do.

Read Psalm 139, many use it to justify activities that show peoples fundamental worth, it is a true justification, but if you read the whole Psalm you have questions as the Psalm also says there is no where you can hide from God alongside being fundamentally made – so we have to see God as the one who is there wherever we are.

The Bible gives us a fund to re-imagine the world in which we dwell. We need to own it to enable us to be Christian schools workers.

Married to the amazing Sarah and raising Jakey, Daniel, Amelia, Josh & Jonah in our blended family. Passionate for Jesus, social work & sport.

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