MissionSHIFT: Global Mission Issues in the Third Millennium

by David J. Hesselgrave and Ed Stetzer, eds.

B&H Publishing, 127 Ninth Ave. N., MSN 14, Nashville, TN 37234-0002, 312 pages, 2010, $26.99.

Reviewed by Donna R. Downes, School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary.

A cohesive, consistent, focused, theologically deep, missiologically broad and contextually appropriate Evangelical missiology has not yet emerged for this new century,” writes missiologist Charles Van Engen, in the first essay of this three-part collection of essays examining key issues in the theology and practice of mission—past, present, and future. Van Engen’s effort to suggest a contemporary definition of “mission” (albeit a very lengthy one) provides an appropriate beginning for this compendium which includes seventeen of America’s leading missiologists and theologians.

The first part of the book is devoted to exploring the historical development of mission theology, theory, and practice in a bid to define what “mission” is (or perhaps should be) today as the authors interpret scripture in the context of contemporary ideas about missional ecclesiology,  Trinitarian theology, appropriate contextualization, Christocentric vision, and scriptural authority. Ed Stetzer concludes by pointing to the danger of trying to capture mission in one definition.

The second part of the book is devoted to the current practice of mission and is anchored by an essay from the late Paul Hiebert, who reminds us that one of the key needs in all ministry continues to be critical contextualization of the gospel in our globally connected, but religiously pluralistic and ethnically divisive world. Of course, the extent and degree of such contextualization is always controversial and the five authors who respond to Hiebert do not disappoint as they vigorously debate current approaches.

The final part of the book is devoted to the future of missions in a postmodern, pluralistic, secularist context where rapid urbanization, technological advances, increasing gaps between rich and poor, global injustices, and a host of socioeconomic and political issues demand that we frequently revisit the ongoing conversations about holistic, Christ-centered mission. The late Ralph Winter provides the anchor essay, urging evangelicals toward wider engagement in pre-evangelistic ministries that address human needs. David Hesselgrave writes the concluding essay with his own overview of the various perspectives presented in this book.
While MissionSHIFT offers interesting, and sometimes divergent, views on pivotal controversies in mission today, it was surprising that only one of the many contributors (Enoch Wan) provided a Majority World presence. In a book that promises to provide insights into “global mission issues in the third millennium,” it would seem that Majority World missiologists and theologians like Lamin Sanneh, Tite Tienou, Timothy Park, Wonsuk Mah, Sam Escobar, or Vinoth Ramachandra might have contributed their voices. Mission after Christendom by Ogbu Kalu, et al., has a similar theme but a more ecumenical and culturally diverse approach. It might provide a good balance to the primarily Western evangelical perspectives offered in MissionSHIFT.


EMQ, Vol. 47, No. 2, pp. 247-248. Copyright  © 2011 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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