M. S. Thirumalai
A Basic Premise of the Book
With less than 200 pages, Glen Rogers has written an eminently readable book on the need for missions and methods and practices of missiology.
I would like to point out the following as one of the basic premises of this book found on page 59: “Contextualization is not only something that must be done as the gospel is preached. As the Christian faith takes root in a culture, it must be completely authentic to that culture.”
Chapters of the Book
The book is divided into three parts.
Part I Mission Concepts has the following chapters:
Chapter 1: God’s Mission-Our Mission
Chapter 2: Mission and Missiology: Concepts and Terms
Part II Mission and Missiology: Concepts and Terms
Chapter 3: The Three-Part Division of Missiological Studies
Chapter 4: Areas of Missiological Specialization
Part III Mission Work
Chapter 5: Ways of Serving
Chapter 6: Going into the Field
Chapter 7: Being Part of the Larger Missionary/Missiological Community
Chapter 8: Building a Missiological Library
The Goal of the Book
The division of the books into three parts and 8 chapters clearly indicates that the author’s goal is to provide a book that will be an introduction as well as a manual for training of those who intend to be or who are already missionaries on the field. The inter-disciplinary nature of the missions studies is highly emphasized in this book, and justifiably so.
Modeling After Jesus – Mindful of the Physical Needs
In Chapter 1, Rogers effectively presents the basis of missions: “Reestablishing relationship with each person became God’s mission. Those who have re-established a relationship with him are invited to participate with him in the reconciliation of others” (p. 16). Mission is based on what Jesus taught and showed us:
During Jesus’ ministry he taught that we must be concerned about the physical needs of others. We must love others as much as we love ourselves, even meeting the physical needs of those we may count among our enemies. We are to be especially mindful of the physical needs of those more vulnerable than ourselves: widows and orphans, the sick and the oppressed. A hungry person must be fed. A thirsty person must be given a drink. A cold person must be given something with which to keep warm. (p. 14)
Theology and Evangelism in Relation to Providing Physical Needs
Chapter 2 deals with several important concepts such as theology and evangelism. Rogers’ emphasis on meeting the physical needs continues into this chapter, but with added emphasis on evangelism. In his words, “Evangelism will be combined with ‘social action’ just as it was in Jesus’ ministry, demonstrating God’s concern for the whole person, Evangelism, therefore, is one aspect of missions.”
As a former Hindu, I have some difficulty in fully accepting the premise that evangelism is (only) one aspect of missions. I always believed that evangelism is not simply an aspect, but it is something that should embrace every part of our missions thinking and practice.
Governments and public agencies around the world and also dynamic institutions within non-Christian religions have begun to work among the needy and have established mechanics for social delivery. While we, as Christian missionaries, continue to associate ourselves with such programs and organize Christian institutions for this purpose of meeting physical needs, we also should focus on the very important and to me very crucial aspect of giving the Good News orally, in writing and through various channels and media. I’ve personally known that people are drawn to Jesus simply because of their spiritual needs, ignoring their present materialistic poverty and other physical needs. Sensitivity to the Gospel is growing all around, and we need to be sensitive to the move of the Holy Spirit in this area.
A Christian Worldview or a Christian Perspective?
Chapter 3 is a very important and technical chapter of the book. Rogers argues ably that “What people are attempting to describe when they refer to a Christian worldview exists, but the worldview is not the best term to use in describing it. Worldview is a technical anthropological term that has to do with one’s deep-level unconscious assumptions abut reality. A Christian perspective on life is only one part of one’s overall worldview. Technically speaking, we need to speak in terms of a Christian perspective rather than a Christian worldview.” (p. 56)
Three-Parts of Mission Training
The author’s assertion that there are three parts to mission training, biblical studies, anthropological studies, and ecclesial studies, is valid and I do hope those missionary training centers and the churches that sponsor and send missionaries including those on short term missions, will consider including these three aspects as part of the training program. After working in a premier missionary training college for over 15 years, I began to feel that often we fail to accomplish a balance in this area, because of various movements emanating from individual efforts and revelation orchestrated in America.
Compartments of Missiological Specialization
Chapter 4 deals with areas of missiological specialization. Specifically, this chapter lists and emphasizes anthropology, contextualization, translation, leadership, general missiology, church planting/growth, communication, Islamic studies, theology of mission, urban missions, community response and development, and teaching English as a second language.
There is no mention of business as mission. This is an exciting area and if dealt with carefully will bring rich dividends in terms of evangelism, church planting and church growth. We need to do more research on the colonial period during which business and political interests of the colonial powers came into conflict with the missionary goals and missionary movements. If we can avoid the pitfalls of the past (no guarantee can be given here, because ethnocentrism, egocentric vision and leadership continue to blur our path), globalization trends can be used for the benefit of evangelism through business as mission.
Chapter 5 presents the ways of serving. Rogers begins by saying that what he presents “in this chapter will not be new to those individuals” who have had experience in the mission field. He discusses aspects of long-term service, pioneer work, church planting, etc. What has been dealt with in chapter 4 is presented with special focus in this chapter. In particular, there is an addition, Western Urban Missions, which is a very useful introduction to mission work in affluent nations. Several other items such as orphanages and disaster relief are very useful additions to the list we saw in chapter 4. Although this chapter may sound repetitive especially in the context of chapter 4, it does contain new information.
Another Significant Omission
One significant omission in the list presented is the need and possibility for ministry to the disabled. Years ago, missionaries have devoted their entire life to minister to those afflicted by leprosy, blindness, hard of hearing, deaf and mute children, schizophrenic individuals, and so on. In this well planned book, it is surprising to notice that this area of mission work, for which there is great need all around the world does not find any place. There is a short section on Medical Mission, but this hardly touches upon the disabled populations.
Going Into the Field
Chapter 6 is titled Going Into the Field, and discusses various steps as part of individualized instruction and preparation. Aspects such as selecting a field, researching the possibilities, use of mission agencies and mission journals, undertaking a survey trip, and reaching a decision are all briefly and competently dealt with. This is a chapter that all churches intending to send their members on mission trips should prescribe as compulsory reading. Emphasis on stewardship and description of culture shock and how to handle it is very well presented.
Being Part of a Community to Serve the Community of Choice
Chapter 7, the last chapter of the book, presents helpful suggestion as to how a missionary could be part of a larger missionary community, and how he or she could contribute to and benefit from this larger community. Missionary co-operation on the field was and is marked by territorial instincts. If we put our focus on what God wants us to do, we will be able to adjust ourselves not only to the community we were or are being sent as missionaries but also with one another who wish to be faithful missionaries on the field.
Ten Books for Your Library
Another strength of this introductory book is its emphasis on building a missions library. The Internet is yet to grow to the extent that one could say it has replaced printed books. Rogers asks us to read have a library of at least 10 books, given below.
1. David J. Bosch. 1991. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shift in Theology of Mission. Orbis, Maryknoll.
2. Paul G. Hiebert. 1985. Anthropological Insights For Missionaries. Baker, Grand Rapids, MI.
3. Paul Hiebert, R. Daniel Shaw, and Tite Tienou. 1999. Understanding Folk Religion: A Christian Response to Popular Beliefs and Practices. Baker, Grand Rapids, MI.
4. Charles H. Kraft. 1979. Christianity in Culture: A Study in Dynamic Biblical Theologizing in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Orbis, Maryknoll.
5. Charles H. Kraft. 1996. Anthropology for Christian Witness. Orbis, Maryknoll.
6. A. Scott Moreau. Ed. 2000. Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions. Baker, Grand Rapids.
7. Karl Muller, Theo Sundermeier, Stephen B. Bevans, and Richard H. Bliese, Eds. 1998. Dictionary of Mission: Theology, History, Perspectives. Orbis, Maryknoll.
8. Peters, George W. 1972.A Biblical Theology of Missions. Moody, Chicago.
9. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. Eds. 1999. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. William Carey, Pasadena.
10. Charles Van Engen. 1996. Mission on the Way: Issues in Mission Theology. Baker, Grand Rapids.
A Basic Introduction to Missions and Missiology, a book by Glen Rogers, published by Mission and Ministry Resources, 2003. www.missionandministryresources.net
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M. S. Thirumalai
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