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Mission as Transformation: Learning from Catalysts

by David Cranston and Ruth Padilla DeBorst, editors

Regnum Books International

Reviewed by JR Rozko, director of operations & advancement, Missio Alliance

I SPEND MOST OF MY TIME thinking about and engaging the realities facing North American church leaders as we endeavor to see our own context in missionary perspective. The longer I do this, the clearer it becomes just how impoverished our perspectives and skillsets are. This, I suggest, is due in large measure to a broad failure to listen to and learn from the voices and insights of our brothers and sisters from the Majority World. This is precisely what makes this book such a gift.

Mission as Transformation is a compilation of eight essays that came out of the inaugural “Stott-Bediako Forum on the Gospel and the World Today,” convened by the Oxford Center for Mission Studies in partnership with the International Fellowship for Mission as Transformation (INFEMIT). These essays survey and celebrate the lives and ministries of eight global theological practitioners. These portraits, “invite us to witness God’s work in and through men and women who, by God’s grace, effected transformation both locally and globally” (p. xi). I would add that they simultaneously hold forth a vision of Christian mission that is more reflective of Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God than models that have tended to dominate Western missions.

The individuals and their primary contexts surveyed in this book include: John Stott (United Kingdom), Kwame Bediako (Africa), David Gitari (Kenya), Catherine Feser Padilla (Latin America), Juan Jose Barrrda (Latin America), David Bussau (New Zealand/United States), Peter Kuzmic (Eastern Europe), and Ron Sider (United States). There is not space here to recount the important lessons to be learned from each of these figures. Rather, I offer three general “theses” that can be gleaned from these essays, which hold value for the “mission impact” of practitioners everywhere.

First, mission impact is narratively shaped. The most apparent aspect of these essays is the degree to which the influence and impact of each of these figures was shaped by their own life stories. Besides cultural contexts, things such as birth circumstances, family influences, marital decisions, kids, and career decisions are all part of the complex matrix out of which we engage in God’s mission.

Second, mission impact is relationally dependent. Relationships are central for shaping and supporting the impact of mission practitioners. What these stories bear out is that, whether strategic or serendipitous, the cultivation of substantive relationships—especially those that represent the crossing of cultural boundaries—is vital to the significance and sustainability of “mission work.”

Third, mission impact is God’s purview. Despite all their differences, the eight mission practitioners surveyed held this in common that “they were not interested in building their own kingdoms, but rather in building and making known the Kingdom of the King who rules by washing his disciples’ feet” (p. 75). This reflects a posture of humility where it is recognized that in the final analysis, “mission impact” is something God brings about in God’s timing and in God’s ways through our glad participation in God’s own mission.

Check these titles:
Greenman, Jeffrey and Gene Green. 2012. Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective: Exploring the Contextual Nature of Theology and Mission. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic.

Miller, Mary. 2013. Faces of Holistic Mission: Stories of the OCMS Family. Oxford: Regnum Books.

Padilla, Rene C. 2010. Mission Between the Times: Essays on the Kingdom. Carlisle: Langham Monographs.

EMQ, Vol. 51, No. 1 pp. 120-121. Copyright  © 2015 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.

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