by Patrick W. T. Johnson
IVP Academic, 2015.
—Reviewed by Dennis J. Horton, associate professor, Religion; associate director, Ministry Guidance, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.
The significant shift in Western culture—from modernism to postmodernism, from Christendom to post-Christendom—requires a corresponding shift in the way Christians approach their witness within our increasingly missionary context. While several authors have provided insights about developing a missional theology and missional practices for churches in the West, few have explored the related implications for preaching. To address this need, Patrick Johnson has offered a comprehensive missional homiletic.
Johnson describes this homiletic as preaching that “confesses Jesus Christ through a missional interpretation of scripture in order to equip the congregation for its confession to the world” (p. 22). He explains his approach and its application through “conversations” with experts in three different areas: homiletics, ecclesiology, and culture.
First, drawing on the insights from a trio of “testimonial” homileticians, the author determines that today’s preachers, like their first-century counterparts, must gain a hearing through their trustworthy testimony. The second conversation, with Karl Barth, focuses on ecclesiology. By engaging Barth’s essay in his Church Dogmatics about the Holy Spirit in relation to the sending of the Christian community, Johnson emphasizes the concept of the Church as a missionary community that testifies through its words and deeds to the surrounding community. The third conversation partner is missional theology as distilled through a distinct group of North American theologians (members of the Gospel and Our Culture Network) who have studied the missio Dei concept and its implications for local congregations.
Johnson explores the homiletical connections to the patterns of missional faithfulness identified by these theologians. The author then explains how the insights from the three conversation partners help formulate his missional homiletic and how the homiletic may serve an important role for ministers and churches seeking to be a credible witness within the present cultural context.
The homiletic has several practical applications that will help sharpen the missional focus related to preaching. For one, ministers will seek to interpret the Bible through a missional lens and see their particular context as a missional setting. Jesus Christ—the one who was sent and the one who sends his followers—will serve as the “interpretive matrix of the biblical text” (p. 221). Second, local congregations as sent communities will take an active role in the preparation process of the sermon, perhaps forming a community of preachers. Overall, a greater understanding of the biblical text and the congregation’s particular context from a missional perspective will enable both to function together as a reliable witness to God’s intention for humanity.
The book’s deep theological reflection is challenging at times, but Johnson has a remarkable ability to clarify complex issues. Diligent readers will gain valuable insights as they eavesdrop on these conversations. They will also find meaningful ways to apply a missional homiletic that will bear fruitful testimony in a post-Christendom context.
. . . .
EMQ, Vol. 52, No. 1 pp. 108-110. Copyright © 2016 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.