Holistic Mission: God’s Plan for God’s People

by Brian Woolnough and Wonsuk Ma, eds.

Regnum Books International, St. Phillip and St. James Church, Woodstock Rd., Oxford, OX2 6HR, U.K., 268 pages, 2010, £26.99.

Reviewed by Evvy Hay Campbell, associate professor of intercultural studies, Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois.

A key strength of this sparkling series publication of Edinburgh 2010 is the gap it fills for those seeking a solid text on holistic mission. The well-ordered sections of the book pull the reader forward, beginning with a definitional foundation for holistic mission, moving through the threads of its history, and then dealing with the complex issues which have shaped and characterized its implementation. The book’s concluding look toward the future is refreshingly practical, dealing with the implications of holistic mission for diverse parts of the Church—from individual Christians and denominations, to missionary societies, Christian NGOs, and theological training institutions.

Within that comprehensive framework, the reader can then browse through selected chapters without losing a grasp of the overall trajectory of the book. Thus, one can easily move from being prodded by Ron Sider to consider a biblically-based concern, such as “What if we defined the gospel the way that Jesus did?” to an aspect of personal professional concern, such as the role of Christian NGOs in holistic mission as framed by Glenn Miles and Ian de Villiers.  Published at the centenary of Edinburgh 1910, Holistic Mission explores changes since that era—both in the West and in the Majority World. Voices from Africa, Asia, North and South America, and the U.K. are all heard.

While edited texts can fall prey to a disorienting lack of a unified voice, the deeply-rooted experiences the nineteen contributors have had in their respective fields forestalls that difficulty. Additionally, there is a sequencing of chapters which moves the reader thoughtfully forward. For example, a chapter that reflects on the politics of poverty then gives way to another which focuses on the evangelical Church’s involvement with national politics.

A particularly compelling aspect of the text is the integral relationship between the life work of its contributors and the well-reasoned intensity with which they put forth their arguments. These writers do not simply understand that “the church must address the whole person in all their needs,” but are committed practitioners of that belief and have invested their lives in urging and helping others toward the same commitment.

Holistic Mission is not a comfortable read, but it is a stimulating, educating, advocating, and enabling text equally suited in its entirety for a classroom or for a study group through selected chapters. As a whole, Holistic Mission effectively assesses where the Church has been, is now, and ought to go with regard to a holistic gospel, and it engagingly welcomes all to join in the next steps of that journey.

Check these titles:
Ott, Craig and Strauss, Stephen J., with Timothy Tennent. 2010. Encountering Theology of Mission. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic.

Wright, Christopher J. H. 2006. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic.  


EMQ, Vol. 47, No. 3, pp. 382-383. Copyright  © 2011 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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