The Mission of the Church

mission church

Here’s a little plug for a book I’ve recently read – The Mission of the church: Five Views in Conversation (edited by Craig Ott). 

The five contributors (and their basic positions are as follows):

  • Stephen B. Bevans – “A Prophetic Dialogue Approach.” Bevans arguing from a Catholic perspective suggests that the church needs to be sensitive in dialogue and confident in its witness. [In my view a tad optimistic about the work the Spirit has been doing in advance of the missionary’s arrival].
  • Darrell L. Guder – “A Multicultural and Translational Approach.” Guder is retired missiology prof at Princeton and argues for a missiological approach that is sensitive to new cultures and contexts. Witness covers the total vocation of the church. As such any one programme or method will not be sufficient to equip the church to witness to diverse situations. [I understand him theoretically but I’m not sure it helps much on the ground!]
  • Ruth Padilla DeBorst – “An Integral Transformation Approach.” Padilla DeBorst is the gen sec of the Latin American Theological Fellowship and proposes an approach to mission that refuses to play proclamation off against social, political, economic, and ecological concerns. Integral mission holds the whole package together [not sure, but think she would reject the idea of evangelism as more important/ultimate/central]
  • Edward Rommen – “A Sacramental Vision Approach”. Rommen is an Orthodox Priest and argues that the church offers not a message but an invitation to an encounter with a person (Jesus). This encounter happens within the walls of the church, and through the sacraments in particular [tbh, this is the view I found hardest to follow and understand – pretty sacramental and mystical – and I’m not sure what he’d make of church as organism]
  • Ed Stetzer – “An Evangelical Kingdom Community Approach.” Stetzer, the President of Lifeway, argues along similar lines to Padilla DeBorst, but would emphasise evangelism as primary [this is the view I personally found most persuasive].

There is also an excellent introduction and summary of recent discussion and debate by Craig Ott – maybe worth the price of the book on its own. At the end of the book each author also responds briefly to the other essays. In general it’s a really helpful book, summarising the contemporary state of missiological discussion and debate. It’s helpful to read people outside of our usual ‘tribe’ and stimulating to engage with other views and practices. I think it’s a book that would benefit pastors generally, but specifically those working or researching in the field. If you’re already somewhat familiar with the terrain, or want to stretch yourself a little, then I’d definitely encourage you to check it out.

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