by Paul Borthwick,
—Reviewed by Dennis J. Horton, associate professor of Religion and associate director of Ministry Guidance, Baylor University, Waco, Texas
Some of the most significant books come from those who—after years of research and practice—share their accumulated insights in a concise, readable format. Paul Borthwick offers his readers such a volume in his most recent publication, Great Commission, Great Compassion. He draws from his many years of study and experience to provide a solid, biblical basis for missions, together with helpful recommendations for a missional lifestyle.
In the first section of the book, Borthwick lays the biblical foundation for “following Jesus and loving the world.” He clearly explains how each of the four Gospels and the Book of Acts convey the Great Commission with slightly different emphases. These insights are helpful but also fairly standard in most books about missional living.
The ingenuity of Borthwick’s perspective arises from the way in which he joins the commissioning of the disciples with their need to care deeply for others. Many Christians have begun to emphasize the importance of combining word and deed in missions, but Borthwick provides a striking biblical justification by linking these two components together with the phrase: “all the nations/ethnicities.”
Jesus uses this phrase as he describes the absolute necessity for his followers to meet the needs of others as they go to all the different people in the world. Such compassion requires great empathy that moves us to action. The author includes practical guidelines in his “takeaways” for fulfilling the Great Commission and the Great Compassion.
The second part of the book supplies pragmatic advice for reshaping our lifestyles to obey these two inseparable commands. Borthwick filters his advice through eight “lifestyle imperatives.”
Some of these, like the imperative to pray, are well-traveled paths in Christian literature. Others, such as advocacy, will be less familiar to some readers. In each of these imperatives, Borthwick never fails to provide concrete examples and recommendations. The pragmatic advice becomes a key strength of the book, enabling readers to readily incorporate specific actions into their daily living.
The imperative to serve cross-culturally includes an especially helpful section on short-term mission trips and how to make them as effective as possible. Borthwick does not avoid the tough issues; instead, he confronts our struggles with materialism, busyness, and ethnocentrism. He then draws from his experience and offers practical actions to combat such barriers that hinder us from fulfilling Christ’s commands. Borthwick even includes an appendix with one hundred ideas for implementing a Great Commission/Great Compassion lifestyle.
Because of its readability and practical nature, this book would serve as an excellent textbook for undergraduate ministry students and for entry-level seminary students. Small groups in churches would also find it to be a valuable resource, especially the lifestyle imperatives. Any Christian seeking to understand more fully what it means to be follower of Christ and a caring witness to others will benefit from the book’s sound theology and pragmatic advice.
Borthwick, Paul. 2012. Western Christians in Global Mission: What’s the Role of the North American Church? Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Books.
Stearns, Richard. 2009. The Hole in Our Gospel. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
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EMQ, Vol. 53, No. 2. Copyright © 2017 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.