by George Patterson
William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104, 414 pages, 2012, $24.99.
—Reviewed by Garrett Matthew East, missionary with Churches of Christ, headed for Tabora, Tanzania.
Come Quickly Dawn is a hybrid manual/novel for missionary training. Set in the context of a small Central American town called “Bat Haven,” it tells the story of Tiger Garcia and his attempt to revitalize an unhealthy evangelical church and thereby transform the town and its surrounding villages. Throughout the story, Patterson highlights guidelines and principles that his characters discover in the process of leading the church and evangelizing their neighbors.
Each chapter concludes with a recap of the missional or pastoral principles identified in the chapter and a section for readers to evaluate their own leadership on the basis of these principles. The book concludes with two appendixes: one with a checklist of all the ministries Patterson believes churches are responsible for and the other with an index of the leadership tasks that recur throughout the story.
Patterson’s principles start from the beginning of the life of a disciple: the first principle is to “take the first step to become a leader of Jesus’ followers—know Christ” (p. 6). Throughout the novel, Patterson’s principles oscillate between such simple, sometimes platitudinous, phrases (e.g., “avoid bossiness with family, friends, and flock” [p. 252]) and more challenging missiological concepts, such as employing simple, reproducible models of church and ministry, centering churches on obedience to Jesus’ commands in scripture, establishing mentoring chains for church leaders, evangelizing the head of a household first, and forming cells within a church that can reproduce rapidly.
Despite what David Garrison says on the back cover, Come Quickly Dawn is neither filled with “riveting prose” nor a riveting story. The narrative lacks nuance, the dialogue is often superficial and cheesy, and the characters lack depth. Having said that, Patterson accomplishes something through storytelling that cannot be accomplished through textbook-style prose alone: he speaks to both the propositional, logical side of our brains and to the imaginative, creative side. My hope is that other missiologists and novelists will follow his lead in crafting training novels for missionaries. Patterson’s novel should be seen as a path-breaking work, blazing a trail for others to follow, although his work is unlikely to endure as the best example of this genre.
Come Quickly Dawn is for missionary practitioners who are passionate about ministry but who do not enjoy picking up a textbook on missionary methods. It would also serve well as a textbook for undergraduate mission courses.
Check these titles:
Ott, Craig, and Gene Wilson. 2011. Global Church Planting: Biblical Principles and Best Practices for Multiplication. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.
Smith, Steve, with Ying Kai. 2011. T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution. Monument, Colo.: WIGTake Resources.