by Roger L Dixon and Jan B. Dixon
Create Space Independent Publishing. 2014.
—Reviewed by Gerald Roe, former pastor, missionary, and mission administrator; chair, Intercultural Studies, North Greenville University.
The last three decades have been encouraging for the increased interest in the missionary enterprise. One of the features of this heightened interest is a renewed emphasis on cross-cultural church planting, and especially the commitment to plant churches among unreached people groups. Yet, some agencies report as high as forty-seven percent of their personnel leave the field in the first five years, and many never really succeed in planting a viable church. While politics, religious opposition, and emotional stress are partly to blame, the greatest problem seems to be a lack of developed skill in cross-cultural church planting.
In Cross-Cultural Church Planting for Probies, authors and veteran missionaries Roger and Jan Dixon approach the issue of training for cross-cultural church planting with what might be called an “extended view.” The title of the book gives some hint of this approach to training. The key word here is “Probies,” a slang term based on the word probation.
The authors teach that in some form or fashion, the planter is always a probationary. Every day brings new challenges and questions to the planter, questions for which there are no ready, available answers. Consequently, learning of every type—biblical, cultural, and daily experience—must never stop; there is just too much to learn. Further, the Dixons make it clear that in addition to lasting a lifetime, the learning process begins long before arriving in the host culture. Time, they insist, must be given to such disciplines as theology, church polity, linguistics, and communication theory. All of which seem dry when compared to field service, but are very necessary once on the field.
The authors have organized their material into what they term as the eight “phases” of cross-cultural church planting, beginning with preparation before deployment and ending with “closure and ongoing involvement.” The material discussed is extensive as well as thorough.
However, many readers, particularly those who have read other books in the genre, might find themselves asking, What is new here? To a large degree, the
issues addressed in the book have been discussed by numerous other authors. The Dixons, however, do something with the material that few others have done: they offer the information as numerous self-guided lessons that engage and involve the reader as a learner, more than as mere consumer. Engaged properly, the book could easily become both a record of the planter’s self-discovery, and an indispensable, very personal reference guide. Remember, the Dixons are writing with a view to lifelong probies.
This book is one of few that I regard as a must read—and a must have. The Dixons fifty years of missionary cross-cultural church-planting experience, combined with their extensive classroom experience, make it an engaging, informative, and enjoyable reading experience. As one of my students remarked, “It’s like I’m a complete amateur having a conversation with an accomplished and caring teacher who has planted cross cultural churches for a lifetime.” The Dixon’s would insist that even the teacher would have much yet to learn.
EMQ, Vol. 51, No. 4 pp. 454, 456. Copyright © 2015 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.