by Jonathan J. Bonk, editor
The eleven essays in this volume review Christian missions in the twentieth century, though a few look back further, while others survey present trends.
Evangelical Missiological Society Series, No. 10. William Carey Library, P.O. Box 40129, Pasadena, CA 91114, 2003, 271 pages, $14.99.
—Reviewed by Timothy Paul Erdel, Bethel College, Mishawaka, Indiana; MK from Ecuador and former missionary to Jamaica (1987-1993).
We urgently need perspective on the present, but we can’t see the future, so we must glance back. The eleven essays in this volume review Christian missions in the twentieth century, though a few look back further, while others survey present trends. Each is very much worth reading.
The third chapter, by Gary B. McGee, retells the most exciting story in Christian missions in this past century, “Surprises of the Holy Spirit: How Pentecostalism Has Changed the Landscape of Modern Mission.” It stands in ironic contrast to surrounding chapters. The first two pieces, by Luis Bush and Todd M. Johnson, focus on praiseworthy efforts to formulate global plans and effective strategies, but those plans have lacked the spontaneous dynamism or dramatic impact of the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Third Wave explosion.
Paul E. Pierson then details the sad decline of conciliar missions infected by liberal theologies. An embarrassed modernism fueled the Pentecostal boom and its frank supernaturalism and unique truth claims. The chapter on Baptists by John Mark Terry is a shorter, tamer echo of McGee, while that on the demise of domestic missions by Charles L. Chaney parallels Pierson’s analysis.
No one asks harder questions about missions today than Jonathan J. Bonk. He does so again by thoughtfully challenging the appropriateness of Western models of theological education for many mission settings. Good answers are more elusive.
John Moldovan’s assessment of African American missions seemed a bit too pessimistic on several counts. For example, African Americans have sustained ministries in urban areas where mainstream evangelicals failed and fled.
Dwight P. Baker’s “William Carey and the Business Model for Mission” is a much richer essay than the title may imply, with wide-ranging applications to contemporary missions. Carey embodies many issues, from global planning and astounding innovation to personal tragedy (poor, mad Dorothy is not mentioned).
Bruce K. Camp tracks new paradigms and local congregations’ bold thrust toward more direct global mission involvement. Another essay might have more fully scrutinized the sharp growth in short-term missions. Is this the first major missionary movement carried out primarily for the personal benefit of the missionaries?
Michael Jaffarian closes the volume by highlighting religious demographics drawn from the World Christian Encyclopedia. Despite a few recent criticisms, that project offers a gold mine of information. Not least, it confirms that McGee’s account is right on target.
Check these titles:
Barrett, David B. and Todd M. Johnson. 2001. World Christian Trends, AD 30–AD 2200: Interpreting the Annual Christian Megacensus. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.
Burgess, Stanley M. and Eduard M. van der Maas, eds. 2002. The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Revised and expanded edition. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.
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