The Great Commission: Evangelicals and the History of World Missions

by Martin I. Klauber and Scott M. Manetsch, eds.

Historians have long discussed the theological and cultural influence of the eighteenth-century evangelical awakenings on Great Britain and her North American colonies.

B&H Academic, 127 Ninth Avenue North, Nashville, TN, 37234, 2008, 228 pages, $14.99.

Reviewed by Jeff K. Walters, associate director of professional doctoral studies and the Center for Urban Ministry Training, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

Historians have long discussed the theological and cultural influence of the eighteenth-century evangelical awakenings on Great Britain and her North American colonies. A gap has remained, however, in the historical study of evangelical impact on global missions. Historians Martin Klauber and Scott Manetsch intend to fill the void with this collection of essays in honor of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School scholar John D. Woodbridge.

The book is divided into three parts covering missions in the early Protestant period, modern Anglo-American missions, and Majority Church missions. The first section begins by describing precursors to the evangelical mission movement, especially among the Puritans and Pietists. Timothy George rounds out the early period with an insightful analysis of the beginnings of the modern missionary movement during and after the evangelical awakenings. A common theme throughout is the motivational impact of evangelical eschatology on missions pioneers.

The second segment of the book focuses on the American and British contributions to global evangelization. Works such as Jonathan Edwards’ Life of David Brainerd were part of a vibrant cross-Atlantic correspondence leading into the early days of the modern mission movement. From the “Great Century” to the “American Century” of Mott, Graham, McGavran, and Winter, essays survey the significant contribution of American evangelicalism as well as the challenges of secularism, globalization, and urbanization.

The final section is both valuable and original, carrying the reader into the “century of global Christianity.” The writers are careful to emphasize that Latin America, Asia, and Africa have been senders of missionaries almost as long as they have received missionaries. This section, while not discounting the vital role of American evangelicalism, provides greatly needed balance in the historical study of missions.

Klauber and Manetsch offer much of value to mission scholars and practitioners. Despite its title, the second section on Anglo-American missions is lacking in its coverage of the British movement. If the Americans eclipsed the British, it would be helpful to understand how and why that was the case. A fuller treatment of the American contribution to twentieth century mission strategy would have been helpful as well. In the end, D. A. Carson’s concluding essay caps a significant study reminding readers that modern missiological thought and practice has deep roots in evangelical history. While the task of world evangelization is not yet finished, evangelicals stand on a historical foundation exposed clearly by this collection of essays.

Check these titles:
Carpenter, Joel A. and Wilbur Shenk, eds. 1990. Earthen Vessels: American Evangelicals and Foreign Missions, 1880-1980. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans.

George, Timothy. 1991. Faithful Witness: The Life and Mission of William Carey. Birmingham, Ala.: New Hope.

Jenkins, Philip. 2002. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press.

Noll, Mark A. 2003. The Rise of Evangelicalism. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.


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