As I have been helping my mom prep for her move, packing and unpacking came to my mind. I’ve moved a lot in my life. I bet I have likely achieved pro status! Maybe I should write a book about it. Just kidding! This post has nothing to do with moving. It actually has to do with the phrase, “unpacking the Gospel” or “unpacking Scripture” used in the contemporary relevant church. It also has to do with something a speaker from New Tribes Mission said this past Sunday at church.
When I think of the term “unpack” I think of taking something out of a box. It’s been carefully wrapped to protect something in transit. My hubby and I recently found a package in our mail from “The Fulfillment Center”. Hmmm. Neither of us ordered something from said place. Our curiosity piqued. But it was addressed to us, so we opened it up. Neatly packaged was a bag of Dunkin Donuts coffee! Inside was a message from our insurance agent thanking us for our business and wishing us the best as we enjoy the coffee. I told him with a grin, “I feel FULFILLED!” Being a non-coffee drinker he retorted, “I am NOT fulfilled!” Sometimes we are happy with what we unpack and other times we aren’t.
When a pastor or Bible study leader talks about unpacking God’s Word, he or she is referring to explaining it in a manner that makes sense to us so we can live it out. The connotation to me, though, is that it is packed away. The only time we get out our Bibles, or Bible apps, is on Sunday morning so someone else can “unpack” it? So, has it been in a box or on our shelves untouched all week? How many of us have Bibles, but can’t find them? Do we bother to take it to church with us at least so our pastors and Bible study leaders might “unpack” for us? I hope not!
A missionary from New Tribes Missions was sharing about the work in Papau New Guinea translating the New Testament into tribal languages that doesn't have a writing system. Then they are able to share the Good News that Jesus came to offer the people New Life. One native was asked if he liked having the missionaries come share God’s Word with them. He replied that he was tired of hearing that question. He then took his blow gun and etched four letters into the sand. The T stood for his tribe. He erased it and said that his tribe didn’t need it because they already had the Gospel. He asked when will our people give up our vacations and sleep to come share the Gospel with the other three tribes represented by the remaining letters. Sadly, the missionary had to tell him that there weren’t any yet. Those tribes need the Gospel unpacked for them.
Here is my point: We don’t need the Gospel unpacked for us! We already have it. What we need now is to open it up and go on a treasure hunt with the pastor or Bible study leader. It’s because we don’t open up our Bibles that only 1% of Christians in churches send missionaries out, instead of the 10% from the 1960’s-80’s! We would rather be entertained than share Jesus with people who haven’t heard who He is and what He’s done for them.
Before the USSR was dismantled, Christians would take the only Bible in their possession as a group, tear out the pages, and pass a page to each person. When they secretly met, they had the entire Bible. They also memorized it, so if they were captured, they could mentally recite it. In Jeremiah’s time, the Scriptures were rediscovered after Israel had been in exile for a long time in 2 Chronicles 34. The Word of the Lord was unpacked that day and they rejoiced! They had God’s Word and their place of worship restored to them after a long time of rebellion against God. Why is it when we lose something that we finally grasp it’s value? May that situation never happen to us!
We are told to “rightly divide the Word of Truth” in 2 Timothy 2:15. Another translation says to "correctly handle the'Word of Truth'”. This isn’t unpacking. It’s learning to understand what God’s Word says to us today. It may take looking at the history of the time it was written, the quirks of the original language, the customs and even the geography of the area so what we read makes more sense to us. If we at least read it, we find a lot of gems of wisdom on the surface. When we use Bible study tools in our treasure dig, we find more and better gems of wisdom deeply hidden that mean something to us today. May we treasure God’s word and hide God’s Word in our hearts that we might not sin against Him!
I love the contemporary church and it’s ability to reach more people for Christ and to disciple them. But it’s more than coming in for our mocha lattes and the worship team’s up–to-date music. I'm not picking on pastors or Bible study leaders for using that phrase. I am challenging you! It’s all about our relationship with God and sharing it with others. Unpack your Bible so you can go on a treasure hunt with your pastor’s wise leadership. Then be willing to share it with others.
May God bless you!