Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies

by Gailyn Van Rheenen, with Anthony Parker

2nd ed. Zondervan. 2014.

Reviewed by Birgit Herppich, with Fuller Theological Seminary and WEC International; former missionary in Ghana.

For Gailyn Van Rheenen the major tasks of missions are “planting churches through evangelism, nurturing new Christians to maturity, and training leaders to continue the process” (p. 343). His textbook aims to “equip present and future missionaries, both domestic and foreign, with an understanding of the theological, cultural and strategic foundations on which effective missions is based” (p.17). He brings to the task thirteen years of church planting experience in rural Kenya (1973-1986), eighteen years of teaching missions in Texas, and having started a missional church initiative in 2003.

While the perspective is often that of foreign cross-cultural missionaries, the interwoven fictional story of “Jim and Julie”—a young couple who gets enthused for missions on a short-term trip to Haiti, but then works as youth pastors in North America while training for missions—creates links to the Western context as a mission field, and the primary audience, American students. 

“Jim and Julie” as well as eight new chapters and many revisions are additions to the 1996 edition of this mission textbook. Thus, this second edition is substantially revised, expanded, and updated to address changing contemporary issues.

Missions: Biblical Foundations and Contemporary Strategies has been used by many as an introductory textbook for missionary training and college courses for good reasons. It is a basic investigation of biblical-theological foundations and motivations for missions, various aspects of cross-cultural missions (from entering as learners and overcoming superiority feelings to cross-cultural communication), selection criteria for new endeavors, and strategies for church planting. The “Missionary Cycle” outlines the phases of missionary careers from initial commitment to reentry. 

Prominent among the added material is a focus on spiritual formation, substantial chapters on missional church planting in North America, historical expansion of Christianity (making the case that “missions has been key to the survival and growth of authentic Christianity”), and chapters on the use of money and short-term missions. Finally, there is an outline of different types of missionaries. Anthony Parker made considerable contributions towards three of the new chapters (missionary typology, history, and short-term missions).

The longest addition is Van Rheenen’s outline of church planting, disciple nurturing, and leadership training in North America. He builds on the widely-known “missional church” movement that responds to Western contexts of post-Christian, individualist, and fragmented culture. Van Rheenen acknowledges this influence and outlines the specifics of his Mission Alive Initiative (see www.missionalive.org). 

The engagement with the West as a missionary field and the “Missional Helix” are the most significant new contributions of this edition. The Missional Helix describes an interactive process of theological reflection, cultural analysis, historical perspective, and strategy formation within the context of spiritual formation. It sees theology and ministry as mutually interacting, undergirded by spirituality. The latter is also enhanced by the end-of-chapter reflection questions and “Personal Inventory” encouraging personal engagement with the contents.

. . . .

EMQ, Vol. 51, No. 3 pp. 349-350. 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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