Missionary Methods: Research, Reflections, and Realities

by Craig Ott and J. D. Payne, editors

William Carey Library

Reviewed by Patrick Krayer, executive director, Interserve USA

AS MISSIONARIES CROSS social, ethnic, and religious boundaries, they encounter new contextual realities. Adapting to the context, they may digress from well-established norms in their first culture. Digression can ignite a backlash, which in turn moves the Church to evaluate these new methods. This assessment is essential if the Church is to remain faithful to the Lord as it seeks to make disciples of the nations (p. xv).

What is not readily acknowledged is that this assessment is an ongoing, iterative process involving scripture, methods, and context (p. xvi). Missionary Methods: Research, Reflections, and Realities shows this process in action by those in the North American Church.

This book is a selection of papers submitted at the 2012 EMS annual meeting, marking the 100-year anniversary of the publication of Roland Allen’s classic work Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours. The editors divided these papers into two sections, the first addressing theological issues and the second looking at various “suspect” contemporary mission practices.

The theological section begins with an excellent reflection on Roland Allen’s perspective of Paul’s missionary methods. Robert Gallagher points out that Allen’s position was drawn from a limited number of passages in Acts and Paul’s epistles. Thus, Allen failed to see the full teaching of scripture and recognize or value all that the Church had accomplished over its two thousand years of missionary enterprise. Gallagher concluded by providing an insightful theology of mission engagement from Luke-Acts.

In some circles, it had become inapropos to view the incarnation as a missiological model. David Hesselgrave and Andreas Kostenberger, in particular, objected to this model, asserting that the incarnation referred to God becoming flesh. Working through the Gospel of John, Cheong neutralizes these objections and resurrects the incarnation as a viable and powerful missiological model.

The papers in the second section assess various contemporary missiological practices and perspectives. For example, Gary Corwin analyzes a number of practices that have been used in the USA over the last century. He groups these practices in five streams (power, science, organizational, ecclesiastical, and biblical). Hesselgrave shows how first-culture attachments can impact perspective and subsequently shape one’s presentation of the gospel. Anthony Casey reflects positively on the current trend of orality in gospel transmission and biblical education. Robert Bennet shows how reintegrating miracles and God’s power over evil spirits impacted church growth and discipleship in two animistic societies in Haiti and Madagascar. Sociologist Joel Thiessen points out how the tools of sociology can positively inform and help shape mission practices.

Roland Allen’s seminal work and the papers included in this book demonstrate how the missionary’s first-culture attachments and host cultural contexts can positively or negatively impact mission methodologies and their effectiveness. These papers also show that allowing context to impact methodology presents the Church with new realities that can challenge traditional assumptions. By God’s grace, the Church has the scriptures to guide it as it crosses these boundaries.

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EMQ, Vol. 51, No. 1 pp. 121-122. 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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