At the beginning of his book, The Mission of God, Christopher Wright makes his case for the Bible as the unfolding story of God’s missional purpose. He summarizes the way in which that purpose is actualized through the people and situations introduced and described in the pages of the Bible.
“What we have to offer, I contend, is a missional hermeneutic of the Bible. . . . The Bible which glories in diversity and celebrates multiple human cultures, the Bible which builds its most elevated theological claims on utterly particular and sometimes very local events, the Bible which sees everything in relational, not abstract terms, and the Bible which does the bulk of its work through the medium of stories. All of these features of the Bible— cultural, local, relational, narrative— are welcome to the post modern mind.”
These features of the Bible that Wright introduces–cultural, local, relational, narrative–are deeply embedded in the SRD-ARA methodology. Let’s explore some of the ways in which that is done.
The biblical narrative of God’s plan to restore all things through Christ is made up of many stories of communities being given the tools and opportunities for change to a better way—God’s way. God has chosen that we learn about Him and His ways through these stories. The stories of exile and divine rescue deeply affected the stories of communities that came after. Similarly, today’s stories can also be deeply affected by the wealth of biblical stories.
The development of SRD-ARA learning tools starts with a situation faced by one or a number of communities. Let’s use the example of communities in which wives are abused by their husbands. This is a story that is experienced with variations by many women in these communities. The issue is more complex in a church setting where wife-abuse is also common. In understanding the stories of women in these communities a clear picture emerges of the extent and nature of the abuse. The causes of husband-to-wife abuse are surface. It also brings home the important fact that the problem is endemic and not limited to a few incidents.
A key element of SRD-ARA learning design is to connect these current stories of abuse with the biblical stories in which we see parallels and also how God sees the issue and how people responded at that time. Examining the biblical stories in relation to present-day stories enables reflection and insights to be formed on how to think and act to change the story of the abused and the abuser.
Even though the problem of wife abuse may be common in multiple communities there are often differences in the nature and causes of abuse in a particular local community. SRD-ARA takes this into account through its use of orientation activities that help learners to discover the specific situation in their local community. Helping learners gain a deep understanding of their own community situation with abuse is also critical for them to develop responses that are relevant and more likely to effect a change in the situation of abused wives.
People who are from within the culture in which the situations exist develop SRD-ARA learning–not outsiders. Insiders may not know all the specific issues around wife-abuse but they have the general cultural knowledge that informs them about how local people think, make decisions and communicate with each other. They know how the community hides and defends unpleasant realities.
Individuals don’t solve entrenched community problems. It takes a community to understand the dynamics of a situation and it takes a community to develop and implement a response that will lead to a better outcome. Of course, individual gifts and talents and experience are needed but they are more effective operating as a group. Consequently, SRD-ARA emphasizes a community engagement in all phases of learning response development and implementation. Similarly, the learner has to be part of a learning group and each learner is required to form a small group who will also learn and be engaged in developing responses that change the situation in the local community.
Learning that is relevant, and engages with real situations faced by real people can bring change in the story written by our communities. To achieve that it needs to be developed and implemented by God’s people who live in and come from the communities needing change. Learning and change is a community activity and when the community is engaged in change in appropriate ways, the opportunity to write a better story will be attained.