River of God: An Introduction to World Missions

by Doug Priest and Stephen Burris, eds.

Wipf & Stock, 199 W. 8th Ave., Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401, 292 pages, 2012, $32.00.

Reviewed by Stan May, PhD, former missionary and mission professor; pastor, Immanuel Baptist Church, Olive Branch, Missouri; president, Chronological Bible Teaching Ministries.

How does anyone write about the complexities of reaching the world to students who’ve never been to the world? Doug Priest and Stephen Burris, former missionaries and now co-workers at CMF International, have edited River of God to introduce world missions to undergraduate students. This compilation includes contributions from missionaries and theologians. Tetsunao Yamamori’s Foreword offers a five-section overview: Biblical/Theological Exposition of Missions, Expansion of Christianity, Cross-Cultural Understanding, Mission Strategies, and Urban Missions.

The editors immediately commit themselves to holistic mission. Influenced heavily by Christopher Wright, William Dyrness and James Engel (Changing the Mind of Missions), and Arthur Glasser, Priest and Burris assert, “It’s okay to just feed someone in the name of mission or evangelism. We don’t have to feed them and baptize them all ourselves, as this isn’t about us or our egos, it’s about God’s plan for them; all actions are still evangelism” (p. 3). The editors emphasize the ultimacy of evangelism, rather than its priority (borrowed from Wright).

Several fine chapters stand out. Paul McAlister’s chapter on Old Testament missions (“The People of God and His Purpose”) argues unapologetically for a view that accepts Genesis 1-11 as “indispensable for the unveiling of the biblical worldview and recognition of the mission of God” (p. 41). Robert Kurka’s “Missiological Reading of the New Testament” compliments McAlister’s chapter nicely; he weaves a majestic tapestry of a “kingdom vision of reality” that summarizes the heart of Christian belief (p. 49).

Mark Moore’s “Teach Them to Obey All That I have Commanded” employs the next-to-last phrase of Matthew’s commission to elicit from the four Gospels 110 commands of Jesus that he separates under five headings: Following Jesus, Religious Piety, Money, Treatment of Others, and Preaching and Persecution. This powerful section is blunted by Moore’s questioning of salvation by faith alone; he argues that the word “faith” be translated “faithfulness” in order to avoid the “sharp dichotomy” he sees in “some branches of Christian theology” between faith and works (p. 63).

Stephen Burris’s two-chapter history of missions identifies both individuals and trends by which the gospel spread to the nations. Priest’s chapters on anthropology overview the subject theoretically, but never seem to fully answer the “so what” question. Donovan Weber and Bill Weber critique short-term missions, illuminating missiological cautions about the practice as well as showing genuine benefits. Janice Lemke’s delightful chapter reflects a practical turn in her forthright discussion of culture shock; her insights are both scriptural and helpful.

Overall, the work is a readable, standard introduction to the field. Although more scholarly than Roger Greenway’s Go and Make Disciples, the work lacks Greenway’s breadth as a good student work, but will challenge readers to deal with contemporary mission issues.

Check these titles:
McGavran, Donald. 1966. How Churches Grow: The New Frontiers of Mission. New York: Friendship Press.

Moreau, Moreau, Gary Corwin, and Gary McGee. 2004. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker.


EMQ, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 125-126. Copyright  © 2013 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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