by John Bailey
WestBow Press, 2015.
—Reviewed by Bob Bagley, Africa Area director, Global Partners, the missions division of the Wesleyan Church.
The first thing I did after reading John Bailey’s book was to order a dozen copies to give to churches that partner with our work in Africa. It is unfortunate that his book on local church engagement in mission is unlikely to be widely read in evangelical missions circles. It is unfortunate, because coming from the perspective of a local church missions mobilizer, Bailey seeks to respond constructively to many of the criticisms leveled at local church involvement in missions to outline a ‘better’ approach to such engagements.
Bailey challenges readers to reconsider how they do missions by carefully considering the models they adopt, the true motivation behind their engagement, and their relationship with others in pursuing the mission. Rejecting many of the models common in evangelical missions, Bailey urges a model that proceeds from a position of weakness to build capacity in those to whom we go to serve—a model that closely resembles “Asset Based Community Development.”
As we check our motives, Bailey urges that “we need to recognize that the mission is not ours, it is God’s”; and in so doing “issues of territory, credit, and ownership fall away.” Bailey concludes with a strong appeal for high levels of partnership and unity in mission efforts. His strong warning against churches engaging in mission on their own without the accountability provided by partnerships with local believers and long-term missionaries and agencies is especially refreshing and timely. Missions pastors, local church missions committees, and members of short-term missions teams will find much fodder for thought in this book that goes a step further than simply a recognition of the harm that has often been done in the name of local church missions.
However, the book does seem to fall short in several significant ways. For example, in adopting a developmental model for missions, Bailey fails to distinguish between economic development activities and evangelistic activities and to explore whether the model he proposes is equally valid in both situations. Also, the final chapter discusses three levels of church engagement (review and disperse, projects, partnership) as if each stage is superior and should replace the previous stage, rather than being cumulative, building on each other—a much healthier and holistic engagement model.
This book will probably be perceived as intended primarily for those within the Wesleyan tradition and the subtitle might suggest a theological/ecclesiastical arrogance in assuming that “Wesleyans do missions better.” That is not the author’s intent, but rather he simply wants to be explicit about how his thinking is derived from his Wesleyan tradition.
One might question whether he has been successful in that attempt or whether he has simply shown that his proposals are consistent with Wesleyanism. Either way, the unfortunate result is that the scope of impact of the book is likely to be much more limited than the content deserves.
Check these titles:
Corbett, Steve. 2014. Helping Without Hurting in Short-term Missions. Chicago: Moody Publishers.
Lederleitner, Mary T. 2010. Cross-Cultural Partnerships: Navigating the Complexities of Money and Missions. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.
Whiteman, Darrel L. and Gerald H. Anderson. 2009. World Mission in the Wesleyan Spirit. Franklin, Tenn.: Providence House Publishers.
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EMQ, Vol. 52, No. 2 pp. 220-221. Copyright © 2016 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.