Discovering the Mission of God

by Mike Barnett and Robin Martin, editors

InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426, 640 pages, 2012, $35.00.

Reviewed by Richard R. Cook, associate professor of church history and missions, Logos Evangelical Seminary, El Monte, California.

The global missionary movement is multiplying and transforming at a breakneck pace, especially in the last ten years. Discovering the Mission of God is published in order to bring contemporary voices to the table of mission studies. The book includes articles by both well-known authors, such as Christopher J. H. Wright, John Piper, Jerry Rankin, John Mark Terry, A. Scott Moreau, David Garrison, Tom Steffen, and Ed Stetzer, as well as lesser-known younger missionaries still serving on the mission field. The book is intended as a primer for aspiring missionaries, an inspiration for lay people, and a refresher course for veterans of global missions.

The well-designed book contains over thirty-five articles (an additional sixteen chapters are available in the original e-book) and is divided into three major parts. Part One, “The Mission of God in the Bible,” comprises ten articles, including Wright’s “Word and Mission of God” and Piper’s “The Supremacy of God in Missions through Worship.” The historical section, “The Mission of God in History,” is brief. With only seven articles divided into two subdivisions, “Ancient Eras” and “Missionaries and Movements,” Part Two overlooks entire swaths of history and is disappointing. Part Three, “The Mission of God Today,” with four subsections and twenty-one articles, is the strongest section. The section includes Moreau’s “Comprehensive Contextualization,” Garrison’s “Church Planting Movements,” and Stetzer’s “The Trouble with Our Jerusalem.”

The sprawling book includes a variety of perspectives, with missionaries who have served in all part of the world. Many of the authors, however, seem to have some connection with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. As is common in an edited book, the quality is uneven and the work lacks unity and a single voice. Most startling, however, in a book designed to bring fresh voices to the missionary movement, is the lack of authors from the Global Church. While this book seems to be primarily written by Americans for Americans, I long to find a similar book authored by, for instance, Koreans, Brazilians, and Nigerians.

For a tightly organized, yet comprehensive introduction to missions, students of missions might prefer Moreau’s (soon to be updated) Introducing World Missions. However, as a Reader on missions, Discovering the Mission of God compares favorably with Winter and Hawthorne’s fourth edition of Perspectives (2009), as it contains the same richness and diversity and yet feels more up to date. Editor Mike Barnett successfully leads readers on a complex and exhilarating journey of “Discovering the Mission of God.”

Check these titles:
Moreau, Scott A., Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee. 2004. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.

Schnabel, Eckhard J. 2008. Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies, and Methods. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic.

Tennent, Timothy C. 2010. World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel.

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