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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Introducing World Missions" (A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee)

TITLE: Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission)
AUTHOR: A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015, (336 pages).

Recently, the wife of a modern missionary, Jim Elliot, passed away. She was passionate about missions. She experienced it, spoke, about it, and died with missions very much in her heart. The world has lost another missionary but the work of missions continue. What are contemporary missions? How has it changed over the years? This textbook provides a comprehensive introduction to what world missions is about. Aimed not just at missionaries to be, the authors want to share not only the importance of missions but also to educate more about this important work of the Church. The first of a series of eight books on missions from an evangelical perspective, this book covers a broad overview of:
  • Missions Primer
  • Missions in Scriptures
  • Missions in History
  • Missionary Candidates
  • Being Sent Out and becoming a Sender
  • Missions in the Contemporary World
The eight volumes of the "Encountering Missions" series are:
  1. Introducing World Missions (2004, 2015)
  2. The Changing Face of Missions (2005)
  3. Encountering Missionary Life and Work (2008)
  4. Christianity Encountering World Religions (2009)
  5. Encountering Theology of Mission (2010)
  6. Developing a Strategy for Missions (2013)
  7. Effective Intercultural Communication (2014)
  8. To be confirmed.

Riding on the popularity of the first edition, this missions primer is a must have for anyone desiring to plunge into the other volumes 2-8. Readers may be wondering why a second edition needs to be published after only ten years. That is because there has been a dramatic rise in "ideas, practices, challenges, and opportunities in mission," with several "insider movements" to be shared. This is supplemented by four additional sets of materials: 1) case study; 2) numerous sidebars; 3) Academic resources for professors and students; 4) Visual resources.

There are tonnes of resources in this book. The key terms help explain and define common terms to guide newbies into the world of missions. Words like "10/40 window," "diaspora," "contextualization," "ecumenical movement," "All Nations," and so on are explained with clarity. Quips are included to give the readers a sense of how missions are being integrated into the mission of the Church. Theology is extensively dealt with from a biblical perspective from both the Old and the New Testament. The word mission is not simply limited to cross-cultural ventures into foreign lands. It includes both local and foreign, inside and outside the Church, both business as well as non-profits, and many more. For the words "All nations" are very inclusive. Many of the sidebars can be used as a discussion starter, even a whole study in itself! I appreciate the one on "Meditating on Discipleship Failure" which is a blunt look at how Jesus' disciples had failed consistently during Jesus' time, and how we can avoid falling into the same potholes. Theology and mission are tightly intertwined and not to be treated as some kind of a specialized option. The mission of the Church and world missions are integral parts of the Missio Dei (All that God does to build the kingdom).

Historically, the authors assert that missions have not ended with the end of the biblical times. Instead, it has grown and expanded. The history of the Church is directly related to the history of missions. In the Premodern Era (AD 30-1500), believers often risk their lives to spread the gospel to faraway lands. From the Pentecost moment, believers were scattered from Jerusalem throughout Rome, toward North Africa, Asia Minor, and other lands. John Mark Terry and J.D. Payne give seven factors that spurred the growth of the church, but also persecution. After the Pax Romana, the decree to make Christianity the official religion in AD 313, the status of Christianity became enshrined in the Roman Empire. We learn about the Era of Discovery and Colonialism (AD 1500-1900) which bring out both the best and worst of doing missions. As the good news gets preached to many lands, missionaries often had a tough time, many being killed for their efforts. There is the rise of mission societies and organizations to address the lack of urgency among mainline churches. The authors include the era 1900-2000 to discuss the 1910 Edinburgh mission conference, rise of Protestant missions and their evangelical counterparts, Pentecostalism, and Vatican II initiatives.

For missionary candidates or those seriously considering mission work, there are three chapters that speak to that need. It provides helpful guidelines on discerning the call. Here, the authors share their testimonies about their own experiences. Another helpful aspect is to look at the misunderstandings of what the missionary call means. What is important is that we are all called to missions, but it is the specific overseas cross-cultural missions that will require a specific discernment to the call. Assuming the candidates are called, the chapter on "Missionary Preparation" covers training, character traits required, spiritual disciplines, ministry skills, pastoral care, professional expertise, and learning to anticipate and adjust to changing circumstances. Another chapter covers the other aspects like choosing a missions agency, short-term mission trips, tent-making, and many more.

With regards to the actual missions, ample space is allocated for both the sent as well as the sender. This is important as mission involves both. The missionary is responsible to serve out there in the field while the sending agency or the Church is responsible to maintain a line of support. The chapter on personal preparation is one of the most important to prepare missionaries for person and family issues. This also includes language learning, teamwork, singleness, and dealing with loneliness. Strategic and ministry issues like understanding what church and mission is, how to channel limited resources to the areas of calling, and money matters. There are instructions on building relationships with target groups and to maintain connections with the sending church or agency.

On the contemporary world missions, we see a lot more new material with regards to constant engagement with pluralistic worldviews, different kinds of communications, relational skills, conflict management, missions trends and paradigm shifts. There is a lot more wisdom with regards to short-term missions and how to ensure that mission teams do not become a burden to the locals or missionaries. More churches are doing their own missionary sending instead of relying on traditional mission agencies. Partnerships are more common. The part on technology is unfortunately too brief. I would have hoped for more in this Google generation.

I am quite pleased about this book. Just combing through the chapters has highlighted to huge amount of work and considerations that needed to be done. Missions is not simply sending a person out. It needs preparation, training, knowledge, experience, and teamwork. Anyone who wants to be a good disciple must encounter and be involved in missions in one way or another. Unconvinced? Try reading this book, and then tell me again.

Rating: 5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Academic and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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