Bruce Riley Ashford, editor. B&H Academic, 127 Ninth Avenue North, MSN 114 Nashville, TN 37234, 2011, 352 pages, $25.99.
—Reviewed by William Taylor, senior mentor, WEA Mission Commission; president, TaylorGlobalConsult.
I am indebted to Bruce Ashford and his team of writers for a substantive, coherent, biblical, and creative approach to the theology and practice of mission. The book’s clear four-fold structure starts with God’s mission, moves to the Church’s mission, then travels globally to the Church’s mission to the nations. It concludes with two challenge chapters. Even within the text of the book, we discover the key subtext structure of the biblical narrative that many of the writers reference: Creation, Fall, Redemption, Restoration.
Ashford, who is dean of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his team desire to “provide a biblical-theological framework for understanding the Church’s mission to the nations.” Often, when I read a more scholarly book, I first evaluate the title and subtitle, peruse the table of contents to see where the author wants to go, and then read the name and subject indices to get a sense of who the author references and what terms are crucial.
The shorter introductory section presents the Grand Narrative followed by the Triune God at work; these two themes drive the book. Section two develops the Church’s call as human agents of mission and the redemptive heart of mission. This is followed by an examination of the community of the Church. The writers then grapple with the gospel and evangelism, social responsibility, culture, and lifestyle.
Section three (the longest) is focused on the Church’s mission to the nations and carefully examines both the Old and New Testaments and their rich tapestry that reveals God’s heart for his creation and peoples. The focus here becomes more practical: mission and unreached people groups, discipleship, church planting, suffering, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Animists. The section concludes with a refreshing look at mission to postmoderns.
Ashford and his team end with a call for theologically-driven missiology and a challenge for our churches. This is rooted in the life of the Southern Baptist churches and speaks cogently into that world. However, I can easily see the book as a refreshing and provocative text for almost any mission course in the curriculum of not only Baptist colleges and seminaries, but general Protestant schools as well.
I appreciated the writer’s engagement with voices from other traditions and perspectives, the strong footnotes, the chapter on suffering (a theme now emerging in mission texts), the focus on evangelism as storytelling and less propositional truth exchanges, the healthy pieces (not evenly distributed) on contextualization, and the pithy and strong conclusions to almost all of the chapters.
In a future reprint I would suggest identifying the writers so we know something about them. All we have here are their names. The book could have also been strengthened with a chapter on arts and mission, justice and injustice, and spiritual warfare. Overall, though, this book is worth the read.
Check these titles:
Ott, Craig and Stephen J. Strauss, with Timothy C. Tennent. 2010. Encountering Theology of Mission: Biblical Foundations, Historical Developments, and Contemporary Issues. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
Tennent, Timothy C. 2011. World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel.
Wright, Christopher J. H. 2010. The Mission of God’s People: A Biblical Theology of the Church’s Mission. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan.
EMQ, Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 374, 376. Copyright © 2012 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.