by Samuel Escobar
Compelling reflection, The New Global Mission both elucidates complex issues in contemporary missions and draws the reader to thoughtfully consider steps forward.
Intervarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426, 2003, 190 pages, $13.00.
—Reviewed by Evvy Hay Campbell, associate professor, Missions and Intercultural Studies, Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, Illinois.
Compelling reflection, The New Global Mission both elucidates complex issues in contemporary missions and draws the reader to thoughtfully consider steps forward. Escobar begins his missiological reflection with a skillful analysis of missions in this century. He illuminates our understanding of the “popular” forms of both Catholic and Protestant grass-roots Christianity in the South, and underscores the need for new attitudes, methods and patterns of support in the missionary force today. A particular strength is the insider’s view Escobar gives of watershed events in missions, such as the Lausanne movement. An overriding theme to which Escobar repeatedly returns is the need, particularly in the evangelical missionary establishment, for a change of mind that the new paradigm of internationalization requires.
Engagingly written, The New Global Mission reminds us that mission is God’s initiative and not just a great human enterprise. The church has advanced “against all odds” not because of sophisticated strategies, but rather as common people gave testimony for Jesus “wherever life would take them.”
Insightfully discussing the impact of globalization and modernization on the missionary movement, Escobar argues for a contextualized approach that affirms local cultures in their search for both autonomy and full expression. He points back to Bible translations in vernacular languages, a particular strength of historical Protestant missions, as a decisive factor in giving people identity and dignity and enabling them to struggle against colonialism. Escobar reminds us that respect for the local and indigenous is also indispensable in the midst of a contemporary globalization that strips people’s identity and has resulted in the growth of absolute poverty even while promoting the emergence of a middle class.
A comprehensive biblical theology of mission is woven throughout the book. Escobar brings Scripture to bear on everything from shopping centers as temples of post-modern religion to the thorny issue of religious pluralism. To reach cynics who have discarded utopian dreams, he suggests that our priorities should be compassion and prayer rather than “I told you so.”
The New Global Mission requires a thoughtful response. Marked by enlightening vignettes, it balances warning with hope. Escobar urges us to discern the wind of the Spirit, and then have the courage and strength to “unfurl our sails and let that wind take us to new shores.” That is both wise and motivating advice from a veteran missiologist who has demonstrated for decades, with pen and life, that he knows whereof he speaks.
Check these titles:
Myers, Bryant. 1999. Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development. Mary-knoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.
Sider, Ronald J., Philip N. Olson and Heidi Rolland Unruh. 2002. Churches That Make a Difference. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
Walls, Andrew. 2002. The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.
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