Accountability in Missions: Korean and Western Case Studies

by Jonathan J. Bonk, editor

Wipf & Stock, 199 W. 8th Ave., Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401, 360 pages, 2011, $40.00.

Reviewed by Gilles Gravelle, PhD, director of research & innovation, The Seed Company—a Wycliffe USA affiliate.

This book is a collection of papers by twenty-five authors, including responders. It is the result of the Korean Global Mission Leadership Forum held at the Overseas Ministries Studies Center in February 2010. The forty-eight participants met to “discuss mission and church accountability, and to examine several cases exploring strategic continuity issues.”

The papers cover a wide variety of areas the authors believe should be subject to accountability. These topics include power, leadership, administration, resources, training, and partnership. There are also discussions about accountability for planning, cultural sensitivity, integrity, generosity, child care, missionary care, awareness of the times, and trust, to name a few.

The book begins with a helpful and sobering historical review of Korean mission history. It is sobering in that readers are reminded of the difficulties and suffering Korean believers experienced in establishing their home country mission and eventually overseas mission. Their resilience in the face of adversity has been remarkable.

Space doesn’t allow for even a glimpse of so many accountability topics, but some of the more salient and recurring themes can be highlighted. The Korean authors relayed why Korean power and leadership accountability is one of their biggest challenges. As Bahn Seok Lee explains, accountability is often challenged by “culturally bound administrative structures.” This results in low accountability in several areas. He, along with other Korean contributors, call for a system of transparency and mutual accountability counter to traditional Korean mission leadership practice.

Accountability models in general is another recurring theme. For example, both Korean and Western authors suggest following a biblical accountability meta-narrative presumably found in scripture. Another author asserts the existence of scripture’s universal principles of accountability, and yet another describes a biblically-based model that applies to all cultures. Some Korean authors are not reserved in criticizing a Western template mode of accountability. Assuming differences in cultural hermeneutical communities, it leaves the reader wondering if such a global biblical model can even be found in a monolithic sense.  

The Forum was for Korean and Western partnerships, but readers of this compilation will likely also view the content through the lens of twenty-first century mission practice in general.

Does the book’s content accomplish the goal mentioned at the beginning? Several cases are examined. The contributors are generally frank and honest with self-assessment, which reveals a great deal about their humility in leadership. If examination is all they were after, then they accomplished their goal. However, I was left with the impression that the Korean and Western mission accountability paradigm was only tinkered with. Two authors (Green and Jung), however, are stand-outs in the area of intentional change. Without their contributions, the book’s content may have come across as mired in talk with no greater purpose other than fixing things here and there.

Check this title:
Ott, Craig and Harold A. Netland, eds. 2006. Globalizing Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.


EMQ, Vol. 48, No. 4, pp. 495-497. Copyright  © 2012 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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