Mission in the 21st Century
I’ve just finished reading Mission in the 21st Century: Exploring the Five Marks of Mission edited by Andrew Walls and Cathy Ross. The simple summary would be that this isn’t a book I’d recommend to every church member, but it’s one which every missionary or mission committee member should have on their shelves.
One excellent feature of the book is that most of the contributors are from the two thirds world: this isn’t a book about mission from a Western perspective. In Cathy Ross’ words from the introduction:
These essays have a smell of the earth about them. Their voices urge us, disturb us, encourage us and challenge us. We live in a world of migrants and strangers, of friends and familiar faces, of the streets and of the academy; and this selection of essays grants us a taste of our world – with all its beauty and potential as well as its despair and compromise. Listen to their voices and hear their stories.
The Five marks of mission of the subtitle are:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
- To Teach, Baptise, and Nurture New Believers
- To Respond to Human Need by Loving Service
- To Seek to Transform Unjust Structures of Society
- To Strive to Safeguard the Integrity of Creation and Sustain and Renew Life on the Earth
There are two articles on each ‘mark’, the first more theological and the second more pragmatic in approach. They do an excellent job of demonstrating the true breadth of God’s mission to the world and lifting our eyes from a view of mission which limits it to ‘getting people into heaven’.
The second section of the book is a series of seven essays on a wider range of subjects; including an excellent look at the growth of Islam in the post-Christian West and another on reading the Bible in a non-Western context.
The highlight of the book, however, is the afterword by Andrew Walls: Christian Mission in a Five-hundred year context. This is excellent church history and if you don’t buy the book, you should borrow it from a friend just to read this chapter. (If you don’t have any friends, reading this article will give you a flavour of the chapter). I find these words from Walls about the church in the UK incredibly challenging:
The country that once sent missionaries across the world stands in desperate need of mission. It is too late for revival; the need is basic, primary evangelisation, cross cultural evangelisation such as missionaries once sought to carry out in other continents. Old Christendom has been succeeded by an essentially non-Christian culture. Our god if we have one is Mammon, and Mammon’s altars are as gruesome as Molech’s.
Sobering stuff indeed – let he who has ears to hear.