Developing a Strategy for Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Cultural Introduction

by John Mark Terry and J. D. Payne.

Baker Academic, P.O. Box 6278, Grand Rapids, MI 49516, 304 pages, 2013, $26.99.

Reviewed by Gerald Roe, associate professor, Intercultural Studies, North Greenville University.

It has been said that in times of conflict, enduring peace is not won by strategy alone; there must be action. Missions at its heart is nothing less than the engagement of the gospel in the ongoing conflict between Satan and the Kingdom of God—an engagement based on a call to human action: “go, teach, baptize.” Therefore, action based on sound mission strategy is essential to engaging the conflict and winning the peace. John Mark Terry and J. D. Payne provide an essential introduction to strategy development that will enhance missionary success and encouragement.

One of the key strengths of the book is the carefully thought-out presentation of the material. As Keith Eitel of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary points out, “The authors are thinker-doers.” The value of the authors’ “thinking-doing” approach is immediately obvious. Reflecting their instructional backgrounds, Terry and Payne lay out the material as teachers might in a classroom, moving from solid theory to practical, action-oriented application.

Chapter one provides definitions of terms and concepts vital to understanding the subject at hand. Chapters two and three make a sound case for the necessity of “crafting” a mission strategy based on missiological principles. Further, the authors candidly enumerate several contemporary objections to missionary strategy. Following these chapters, the reader is well prepared to move forward with discussions that include the historical background of strategy development (chap. 6-15); the use and practical application of demographics (chap. 16-18); receptivity, need, and vision (chap. 19-21); issues regarding team building, resource appropriation, and goal setting (chap. 22-24); and finally, appropriate methods, execution of the strategy, and the evaluation process (chap.25-27).

If there is any weakness with the book, it would be in the comparatively brief discussion of executing the completed strategy. While the authors make it clear, by quoting Larry Bossidy and Ram Charin in Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done, that “execution is fundamental to strategy and has to shape it,” the mere six pages given to the subject do not seem to convey the weight of that conviction. Perhaps this brevity is because, as the authors note, strategy is an effort to predict the future in a world that is always changing and “the details of change can rarely be predicted.” In other words, execution is the area of strategy development that requires the greatest amount of reaction, as opposed to pro-action. At the same time, however, it would appear that the certainty of change makes execution a subject requiring detailed attention.

In the final analysis, there can be little argument that strategic thinking and action in missions is essential. Terry and Payne have provided an excellent and thoroughly readable resource for mission students, academics, and field practitioners. As such, it has enormous value as both a text book and field manual.

Check these titles:
Beals, Paul A.  2012.  A People For His Name: A Church-Based Missions Strategy. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.

Van Rheenen, Gailyn. 1996. Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.


EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 372-374. Copyright  © 2014 Billy Graham Center.  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.



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