Mission in the Twenty-first Century: Exploring the Five Marks of Global Mission

by Andrew Walls and Cathy Ross, eds.

These five marks sketch out the parameters of a holistic concept of mission and provide a starting point for on-going reflection.

Orbis Books, P.O. Box 302, Maryknoll, NY 10545, 2008, 219 pages, $25.00.

Reviewed by Dwight P. Baker, associate director, Overseas Ministries Study Center, New Haven, Connecticut.

Agreement on just how to parse the facets of Christian mission seems in short supply. Is there one and only one task—to preach the gospel—and everything else is something other than mission? Are there, as Roman Catholic scholar Stephen Bevans advanced in a thoughtful article (International Bulletin of Missionary Research, April 2003), six elements to be discerned within the complex reality that comprises Christian mission? Or should we expect, as the subtitle of the present volume suggests, to find five marks distinguishing global mission? Whether one looks to the life and ministry of Jesus (the missionary model) or to the historical record of what missionaries throughout the centuries have actually done, mission shows itself to be multidimensional. At the superficial level of entities, agencies, and activities, the conduct of mission has never been more complex than it is today. At the more profound level of mission as expressing in life, work, and word, the outflowing love of God for humankind and for all he has created, mission could only be an all-encompassing calling.

In her introduction to Mission in the Twenty-first Century, Cathy Ross acknowledges that the five marks offered do not encompass everything that should be said about mission. These five marks sketch out the parameters of a holistic concept of mission and provide a starting point for on-going reflection. They also stake a claim: mission may be, and is, larger than these five marks; however, it cannot be truncated into something smaller. The first half of the book consists of five sets of paired articles, between them offering both biblical/theological and experiential reflection on each of the five marks:

1. To proclaim the good news of the kingdom

2. To teach, baptize, and nurture new believers

3. To respond to human need by loving service

4. To seek to transform unjust structures of society

5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

The seven chapters of the book’s second half grapple with some of the larger challenges facing the Church in its witness today. The five marks of mission around which the present volume is structured emerged through a process of reflection within the Anglican Communion; however, the marks have instructive value beyond Anglicanism and these reflections do as well. One of the editors is Anglican; the other is not. Some contributors are from the wider Christian community as well. The crown jewel of the volume comes as an Afterword. In it, Andrew Walls provides a masterful overview of the interplay between the missionary movement from the West and the great European migration of the past five hundred years. Readers might want to read it first.

Check this title:

Bevans, Stephen B. and Roger P. Schroeder. 2004. Constants in Context. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.

Copyright © 2009 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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