by Ryan Shaw
Intervarsity Press, 2014.
—Reviewed by Benjamin D. Espinoza, community life pastor, Covenant Church, Bowling Green, Ohio.
While missiologists have spilled loads of ink describing effective mission strategies, few have tackled the issue of spiritually forming disciples for the task of spreading the gospel. If we understand the Great Commission to be both a strategic and spiritual endeavor, then we must devote our energies to spiritually forming disciples for the sake of mission. Enter Ryan Shaw’s Spiritual Equipping for Mission, which describes essential spiritual practices for equipping ministry leaders who will share the message of the gospel cross-culturally.
For Shaw, there are ten “keys” to spiritually equipping effective gospel agents, which include embracing humility, being clothed in God’s word, discerning God’s guidance and revelation, pursuing a lifestyle of prayer and fasting, persevering with steadfastness and stability, and pursuing a focused life. These ten characteristics belong in the lives of all disciples; however, they apply especially to the lives of those called to a life of “message-bearing.” Shaw prefers to use the term “message bearers” as opposed to “missionaries” because it more fully realizes the task and universality of sharing the gospel without carrying the baggage of colonialism (pp. 18-19).
An experienced message bearer himself, Shaw’s insight into the spiritual needs of message bearers is exemplary. In describing his ten keys to spiritually equipping message bearers, Shaw draws on thorough biblical analysis, insights from key theologians and missionaries of the past and present, and examples from his own experiences in ministry. Woven together, these ten practices serve to thoroughly equip the message bearer with the spiritual maturity and vitality needed to reach people with the gospel.
While the book applies to anyone with a strong pull toward evangelism, Shaw’s passion is for message bearers committed to reaching the estimated 440 “unengaged” people groups with the gospel. For Shaw, the “unengaged” are those groups comprised of a significant population (over 25,000) yet without a Christian presence or Bible translation in their own language (p. 16).
While Shaw’s insight into spiritual formation is rich, the book could have included specific steps for practicing the spiritual disciplines he describes. His last chapter comes close to achieving this end, however, not to the extent that would be expected from a work such as this. A chapter on integrating these practices into one’s life and training would have been a welcome one.
Spiritual Equipping for Mission is a unique contribution to the field of missionary training and leadership. The book will be a blessing to people beginning their journey into message bearing, seasoned ministry workers, and for Christians seeking to build a missional lifestyle. While not an academic textbook, professors of mission or spiritual formation could use this book in coursework related to spiritual formation and missional leadership.
EMQ, Vol. 51, No. 4 pp. 462-463. 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.