Global Mission: Reflections and Case Studies in Contextualization for the Whole Church

by Rose Dowsett, editor

William Carey Library, 1605 E. Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA, 91104, 2011, 277 pages, $17.99.

Reviewed by Craig Ott, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.

What do you get when you bring together thirty-three authors from nineteen nations to write thirty-one chapters on one of the most controversial subjects in missions today—contextualization? You get a unique, horizon-expanding, thought-provoking, question-raising, sometimes frustrating, but always fascinating collection of essays. Students and teachers alike could hardly wish for a more diverse and stimulating menu!
Global Mission is the more practical companion volume to the theoretical Local Theology for the Global Church, both publications of the World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission. Chapters range in length from four to twelve pages and, with few exceptions, are written in a straightforward, non-academic style. Some contributions are of a broad, general nature; others zero in on specific issues. Each chapter is followed by helpful discussion questions.

The book is divided into three parts: Part 1, “Reflections and Foundations,” provides a solidly evangelical theological basis for what follows. The more valuable contribution of the text comes in Part 2, “Contextualization at Work.” Twenty-nine case studies from around the globe illustrate the practical challenges of contextualization as it looks on the ground. The cases cover a wide range of applications, such as contextualization of evangelism, teaching, theological reflection, social change, traditional practices, and ethics. My favorites include “A Korean Memorial Service” (Lee) and “Maupay and the Biblical Shalom” (Gorospe).  Divergent views of contextualization among Muslims are represented. Part 3, “Final Observations,” consists of a brief postscript.

Especially welcome is the fact that so many voices from the Global South can be heard in a discussion too often dominated by westerners. Nowhere else will readers find such a diversity of authors, topics, and perspectives in one volume. Teachers will discover a cornucopia of instructional options. The brevity of the individual contributions makes them readable and keeps the text moving. However, the strengths of such a volume are at once its weaknesses. The diversity of authors and perspectives yields no overarching or coherent approach. The quality of the contributions varies. Many of the case studies are nicely suited for in-depth analysis and discussion, but the usefulness of others is limited by their brevity.

I highly recommend Global Mission as a colorful supplementary textbook for contextualization courses, missionary training, and pastoral practice. Readers are invited through the eyes of practitioners to engage the concrete realities of local culture with the renewing and transforming power of the gospel.

Check these titles:
Cook, Matthew, Rob Haskell, Ruth Julian, and Natee Tanchanpongs, eds. 2010. Local Theology for the Global Church. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.

Kraft, Charles H., ed. 2005. Appropriate Christianity. Pasadena, Calif.: William Carey Library.

Moreau, A. Scott. 2012. Mapping Evangelical Contextualization. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel.


EMQ, Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 371-372. Copyright  © 2012 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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