by Michael Pocock, Gailyn Van Rheenen, Douglas McConnell
Kaleidoscopic changes loom over global Christian missionary activity at the beginning of this new century. Established patterns of knowing and doing missions seem to erode daily while new and shifting patterns are shaping the scenarios designed to show the way forward.
Baker Academic, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287, 2005, 391 pages, $15.74.
—Reviewed by Keith E. Eitel, dean, Roy Fish School of Evangelism and Missions, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas.
Kaleidoscopic changes loom over global Christian missionary activity at the beginning of this new century. Established patterns of knowing and doing missions seem to erode daily while new and shifting patterns are shaping the scenarios designed to show the way forward. Would-be prophets fall by the wayside and the missions world sorely needs biblical and critical analyses of the emerging blueprints.
The authors that contributed to this volume sort through the maze of trends that surface as modernity melds into postmodernity. They distinguish trends from issues by noting that the former have enduring impact while the latter are more fleeting. The former warrant the writers’ focused attention in this volume. Their aim is to (1) identify, (2) evaluate in terms of importance to missions, (3) biblically and theologically reflect on and (4) engage each chosen trend. In the set of trends they chose to address there are three general categories, each with four specific sub-points. Each broad category represents something like concentric spheres simultaneously running, changing or progressing every moment. There is a sense of urgency to address representative concerns within the global, missional and strategic contexts where today’s missionary activities are in full motion.
Embedded in the strength of the book is its inherent weakness. Multiple contributors provide varied opinions and evaluations. This is a strength. However, procedurally postponing biblical analysis of an identified trend until the third stage of the process may in some cases allow faulty outcomes.
For example, in the chapter on spiritual warfare the author appropriately makes sure that the trend itself is not inherently dominant in the biblical and theological reflective third stage. Yet the author of the chapter on creative access platforms deals with ethical implications of the practice and justifies the use of secular identities in restricted contexts without mentioning that funds are usually still processed through mission or church sending agencies. Such “creative access” is deemed an opportunity for the guest worker to “demonstrate integrity or character.” Here the trend seems self-authenticating. Biblical comparisons are forced to fit the reality rather than the reverse. David Hesselgrave has stated, “Although changes there must and will be, the future of Christian missions will depend more on changes that are not made than it will on changes that are made” (2005, 22).
With a caution as to the order and consistency of analysis described above, this work provides a good way to engage vital trends in missions today. The Bible must always critique identified trends. Trends should neither impose themselves on nor critique the Bible. The authors’ warnings need to be heeded, “As modernity yields to postmodernity, those working in the field of missions need discernment so that they do not simply exchange one set of problems for another” (p. 12). Missions-minded pastors, teachers, seminarians and missiologists will certainly be informed by this significant work.
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