Comprehending Mission: The Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and Prospects of Missiology

by Stanley H. Skreslet

Orbis Books, P. O. Box 302, Maryknoll, NY 10545-0302, 2012, 243 pages, $30.00.

Reviewed by David R. Dunaetz, assistant professor of organizational psychology, Azusa Pacific University; former church planter in France.

Stanley Skreslet, dean of faculty at Union Presbyterian Seminary and former missionary to Egypt, has successfully created a new type of introduction to missiology. Whereas other introductions either focus on mission theology or preparing students for missionary service, this textbook seeks to present a brief, but scholarly overview of the entire field of missiology—“the systematic study of all aspects of mission” (p. 12).

I have to admit I was skeptical. My conservative evangelical values made me doubt the value of a textbook claiming to be a scholarly introduction to missiology which included Catholic, ecumenical Protestant, and evangelical perspectives. However, my skepticism quickly faded as I soon understood the value of Comprehending Mission.

The book is addressed to both scholars (including missiologists and non-missiologists) and practitioners, presenting a summary (or at least a representative sample) of the research that has been done on this field. It is written from a relatively objective academic point of view. Such a perspective is important if missiology is to be considered a worthy field of study in both secular and diverse Christian contexts. The book not only covers mission-oriented research by historians and theologians, but also by social scientists, including anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, linguists, and organizational scientists.

Skreslet organizes the book around six themes: the Bible and mission, history of mission, theology and culture, mission and world religions, the means of mission, and the missionary vocation. The section on the Bible, for example, includes an overview of the many facets of how God’s word is related to mission, including mission in the Bible, biblical contributions to the theology of mission, and the role of the Bible in the practice of mission (such as Bible translating and evangelistic ministries).

As a textbook, Skreslet’s goal is not to present new, groundbreaking information, but to provide readers with an overarching framework to understand the existing state of the field, perhaps motivating them to contribute to it through their own mission-related research. Most missiological research in the past has been done by historians and theologians. There has been far less done by social scientists, most of which has been descriptive in nature, rather than focusing on discovering the relationships between various beliefs, practices, and outcomes. However, Skreslet notes that the social sciences have been playing a more important role since the 1970s, but this research has not been fully integrated into the theological research.

Students of missiology at the ThM or PhD level will undoubtedly find this book quite beneficial in shaping their understanding of all the field encompasses. I would strongly recommend this book be included in either an introductory or capstone course in such programs; I personally would have greatly benefitted from the integration that it brings to the field. However, at the undergraduate, MA, or MDiv level, the scholarly perspective might not be fully appreciated by many students primarily concerned with preparing for ministry. However, those who put in the time and effort necessary will greatly appreciate it.


EMQ, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 115-117. Copyright  © 2013 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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