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Prairie and its Place in the Mission of God – Part 1

Prairie Bible Institute - Student Body 1923

One thing that stands out about Prairie College’s 100 year history is its rich mission heritage. It would take too long to share all the stories of Prairie’s contribution to Christian mission.  Prairie’s story that very quickly becomes only one small chapter in a much larger story. It is that large story, that master narrative, that needs to be sketched out in order to give Prairie’s story a situated and meaningful place. 

From the beginning God's plan to bring life out of death involves going, movement, migration...

 

The mission of God goes as far back as Genesis 12 with God’s call to Abram to leave his home in Ur and go to a land that God promised to give to him and his descendants. The land known as Canaan. However, the land is only a means to a much bigger goal – this is part of a much grander strategy: God says not only will he make Abram a blessing, but those who bless Abram will be blessed, and all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through him. Not only is this Abram’s journey, but it is the journey of salvation, the redemption of the world from sin, death and the evil one. From the beginning God’s plan to bring life out of death involves going, movement, migration – ideally of a voluntary nature, but at times also forced.

 

This journey of salvation is continued by Abram’s descendants being led out of Egypt by Moses out of slavery, into Canaan via a 40 year pilgrimage in the wilderness between those two regions. Israel’s entry into and occupation of Canaan finds its earliest success under the leadership of King David, who manages to unite the fractured tribes of Israel under his rule and invest Jerusalem as his capital city. When the Ark of the Covenant is safely transported to Jerusalem – it’s resting place – it seems that the mission is on track. David writes a celebratory song for the occasion which recalls God’s covenant with Abraham, his protective presence on Israel’s journey to Canaan, and the summons to spread the good news of this God to all the nations:

Sing to the Lord all the earth, 
Proclaim his salvation day after day
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvellous deeds among all peoples.

Jerusalem - as the home of God's presence - was to be a launch pad for global missions

 

The words of David do not sound like they mean for Israel to simply sit back and carve out a secure national boundary in Canaan. Israel’s journey had not come to a stop. Jerusalem and all it represented as the home of God’s presence was to be a launch pad for global mission. The proclamation of God’s saving grace among the nations. However, as we know, Israel did not do that. They paid the price for their loss of faithfulness by being conquered and then deported. 

When a remnant of diaspora refugees returned to Palestine 70 years later and managed to rebuild Jerusalem and put up a new temple, not much seemed to change. Outside of a brief period of self-rule they were overrun and dominated by rival powers from all points of the compass it seemed. Palestine’s strategic location at the intersection of the major trade routes of the world made it highly desirable real estate. It seemed that God had left the building, abandoned or given up on Abraham’s descendants. Yet, after almost 400 years of despair, perplexity and doubt, the prophetic voice of God among the conquered people of Judea is heard calling the people to make way for God’s promised deliverer. Of course we know this Messiah is Jesus. 

God is on the move to reinvigorate his saving mission by sending His own Son

 

Subjugated under the thumb of Rome, exploited by the ruthless regime of the Herods, and weighed down by the oppression of their own priestly rulers, Israel is given a message of hope and call to repentance. God is on the move but not to satisfy the limited political aspirations of Israel’s leaders, but to reinvigorate his saving mission by sending his own Son to bring life, to conquer sin, death and the devil once for all. He does this by a most unlikely means – death on a cross. As we all know death is defeated, sins are cleansed and forgiven, and new life that is freed from the chains of sin and death in Jesus’ own resurrection is not to be proclaimed, not just to the Jews, but as David sang way back in I Chron 16 – to the nations. And so another journey begins, moving out from Jerusalem to all points of the compass, Jesus’ followers begin to proclaim the good news of Life in his name. Just as it was the case from Abraham to Jesus, the journey was fraught with danger and crisis. It was no walk in the park. Satan may have lost the war, but he was still capable of trying to practice a scorched earth policy. If he couldn’t be victorious he is going to drag as many with him down to defeat. However, out of this, the first generation of Christians began their migration to spread the good news to the nations.  

And so another journey begins, moving out from Jerusalem to all points of the compass, Jesus' followers proclaim the good news of life in His name

 

This is Part 1 of “Prairie’s place in the mission of God”, read part 2 here

Rev. Dr. James Enns,
Humanities Program Coordinator

James Enns is a native ‘Three Hillsean’, born here in 1959. However just eighteen months later he was a resident of West Germany, where he and his three older siblings grew up. James’ parents moved the family to Germany to work for Janz Team Ministries (now TeachBeyond) in evangelistic outreach to German-speaking Europe. As a Third Culture Kid, he graduated from Black Forest Academy in 1977 and went on to earn a B.Ed from the University of Calgary in 1983. That same year he found himself back in Three Hills, teaching in the High School division of Prairie Bible Institute. Here he met his wife Anne, also a high school teacher. In 2000 James earned an M.A in History and moved across campus to begin teaching History in the Bible College. He has taught at Prairie College since then, taking an extended leave from 2005 to 2008 for PhD studies at the University of Cambridge.

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