Transformation after Lausanne: Radical Evangelical Mission in Global-Local Perspective

by Al Tizon

How should missiology be conceived and the missionary task carried out in an age which labors under the weight of the competing ideologies of modernity and postmodernity?

Regnum Books International, P.O. Box 70, Oxford, OX2 6HB, UK, 2008, 281 pages, £24.99 ($36.00 USD).

Reviewed by Dieumeme Noelliste, professor of theological ethics and director of the Grounds Institute of Public Ethics at Denver Seminary.

How should missiology be conceived and the missionary task carried out in an age which labors under the weight of the competing ideologies of modernity and postmodernity? Should the missionary mandate be pursued in accordance with modernity’s penchant for globalism or postmodernity’s proclivity for localism? In his recently released book, Transformation after Lausanne, Dr. Al Tizon seeks to shed light on these questions.

Starting out with an exploration of the missiological thought that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century, Tizon comes to the conclusion that the concept of “mission as transformation” provides the most promising missiological paradigm for our time. He explains that following its introduction at the Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization (1974) and its subsequent elaboration at the Wheaton Consultation on the Church’s Response to Human Need (1983), the notion of transformation was seized upon and developed into a full-blown missiology by evangelical thinkers around the world who came to form the Oxford-based International Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians.  

As Tizon views it, the strength of the new missiology lies in its three most salient features. Its first noteworthy characteristic is its kingdom relatedness, which imparts to it an integrative/holistic character, an incarnational thrust, and a special attentiveness to the condition of the poor. Because the kingdom is a transcultural reality, these qualities enjoy a global status. This note of globality leads to the second characteristic of transformational missiology: its intercontextuality. Tizon insists that the globality he is talking about is not homogeneous and unidirectional. For the themes that became integral to the new missiology were not hammered out in one corner of the globe and imposed on the rest for implementation. Rather, they emerged in the process of sustained intercontextual reflection involving thinkers and practitioners from around the globe on the shape of the Missio Dei in their own specific contexts. This is a bottom-up globalization. In fact, much of the book is devoted to showing how transformational missiology has worked in Tizon’s own country—the Philippines.  

Determining what happens once the global missiology is birthed via the interaction of the various local missiologies leads to the third feature of mission as transformation: its glocal character. Tizon is adamant that at all times a dynamic interaction between local and global mission should exist in the form of a continuous interplay or mutual enmeshment. This symbiotic relationship between the two dimensions results in what he terms “glocal missiology,” which is characterized by an ongoing process of cross-cultural dialogue, intercultural interaction, genuine reconciliation between the Western Church and the Majority World Church, and collaborative action. In so doing, glocal missiology sidesteps both unbridled globalism and isolationist localism and enlists the whole Church in the task of taking the whole Church to the whole world.

Clearly, Tizon’s work is a significant contribution to contemporary missiological thought. Its usefulness consists not only in bringing to the attention of the Western Church the thinking of thoughtful spokespersons of the global Church on missiology and missionary engagement, but also in suggesting ways in which the missionary mandate can be pursued in a genuinely holistic fashion in a postcolonial, modern/postmodern era. It is work worth studying.

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