Eddie and Sue Arthur

Pray for Boris?

I’m no fan of Boris Johnson (apologies to those who are). This post by Steve Kneale catches some of my reservations if you are interested.

Yesterday, the Archbishop of Canterbury (as is his job) called on people to pray for Boris and some of the responses were predictable.

Now Twitter is not known for the subtlety and grace of the discussions that it hosts. But being serious for a moment, should I really pray for a Prime Minister, whose personal morality and many of whose policies I struggle with?

Well, the  Apostle Paul makes it plain what my responsibility is:

Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 1 Tim. 2:2

So, we have to pray for kings and all those in authority. There is no get-out clause about only doing so when we agree with them or like them. The reason why we should pray for them is to that we can get on with our lives peacefully and in a godly and dignified fashion. Building on the principle of this verse, we could also pray that the government would enact policies which are just and right across the board, economically, socially and so on. We may not have much faith in the government, but for good or ill they are the only government we have and the success of the country is, to some extent, determined by them. On this basis alone, we should pray for our government, whoever is in charge.

However, Paul’s exhortation goes a little deeper. The kings and authorities that he was talking about were the leaders of the Roman Empire. These were the people who had imprisoned Paul and who at the time he wrote this, were starting to persecute believers. Let’s face it, if Paul could bring himself to pray for the emperor Nero, then we should be able to rustle up a prayer or two for Boris Johnson.

This doesn’t for one moment mean that we have to agree with or support everything (or even anything) that the government does. In a democratic society such as ours, we have a parallel responsibility to make our voice heard and to vote according to our consciences. Those with strong party-affiliations should campaign and do their best to ensure that someone else forms the next government – but they still have to pray for this one.

Mission Shaped by The Trinity

I am currently reading The Mission of the Triune God: Trinitarian Missiology in the Tradition of Lesslie Newbigin, which is a stimulating read if a little hard going at times. The great thing about reading on a Kindle is that you are able to highlight passages and easily find them again online. Here is a selection of things that I highlighted in the first half of the book.

On the Nature of Mission

… all Christian thinking, especially our thinking about mission, had to be done in the light of the triune God’s presence with us through his Son and Spirit.

Mission is not something that we do in response to the directives of a remote God, but is rather to be understood as the action of God himself exercised through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Mission is not something that we do in response to the directives of a remote God, but is rather to be understood as the action of God himself exercised through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. Click To Tweet

The first witnesses to the gospel in Antioch were not missionaries but refugees. And so it has happened over and over again and so it continues to happen. ‘Unreached peoples’ are reached and cultural frontiers are crossed by refugees, fugitives, famine-stricken villagers, conscripted soldiers, traders, professional workers, and many others. A whole history of the ‘expansion of Christianity’ could be written with very few missionary names in it!

Thus, “the Church’s very being is the continuation of Christ’s redeeming mission in the world.” This view, now standard in twenty-first-century missiology, was a radical departure from nineteenth-century-missiology. Then, missions were primarily carried out by missionary societies that were peripheral to the life of the churches.

Theology is missionary by definition, therefore, “theology ceases to be theology if it loses its missionary character.”

Christ is the light that lightens every man. My point is that the Christian missionary is not going out to enroll men under the banner of a tribal deity. We are not inviting strangers to come into our house. We are asking all men to come to their own home where they have as much right as we have.

We [the church] are invited to participate in an activity of God which is the central meaning of creation itself. We are invited to become, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, participants in the Son’s loving obedience to the Father. All things have been created that they may be summed up in Christ the Son. All history is directed towards that end.

On the Trinity

“The doctrine of the Trinity is what basically distinguishes the Christian doctrine of God as Christian.”

This doctrine carefully describes who God is, based upon who God has revealed himself to be in Christ and the Spirit. It is therefore rooted in revelation rather than speculation, and this revelation takes shape in the actions of God ad extra, in particular, the missions or sendings of the Son (incarnation) and the Spirit (Pentecost).

“When Christian communities speak about God, by definition they have to speak about Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is simply no other God.”

On the Holy Spirit

“Evangelism is the telling of good news, but what changes people’s minds and converts their wills is always a mysterious work of the sovereign Holy Spirit and we are not permitted to know more than a little of his secret working.”

Evangelism is the telling of good news, but what changes people’s minds and converts their wills is always a mysterious work of the sovereign Holy Spirit Click To Tweet

Newbigin’s point is that the Holy Spirit is the principal witness to Christ, therefore the burden of the church’s missionary task does not fall primarily on the church. The church is the proper locus of Christ’s mission to the world that is carried out by the Holy Spirit, and the church can therefore be confident that God will complete his mission.

There Won’t Always Be An England!

I know that this might sound strange at this time of political turmoil, but I love England. I hope that my Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish friends won’t be offended; I’ve nothing against their countries and thoroughly enjoy visiting them. However, it is one corner of these obscure islands off the coast of Europe that I call home and that I love dearly.

Please don’t take me for a “little Englander”. A part of my heart will always be captured by a small village in Ivory Coast. I loved the views and the countryside around Valence, when we lived in France and I reckon that the Isle of Skye may be the most beautiful place in the world. But England is my home – specifically the North – and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I realise that the weather can be lousy and there are significant economic and social problems; but this is my bit of the world above all others.

However, this doesn’t mean that I believe that England is, in any way, morally or culturally superior to the rest of the world. I expect that people from other countries love their homelands just as much. And while I want the best for my country, I don’t believe that it has the right to thrive at the expense of other nations. Yes, I wan’t us to win at cricket, rugby and football, but I don’t believe that we should “win” at trade if that means other countries lose. I take no pleasure in the way that trade rules are biased towards the UK and other developed nations while discriminating against the poorest in the world.

What has this got to do with world mission?

The thing is, being English is not my primary identity; much more important is the fact that I am a Christian. The Bible pictures conversion to Christ as a radical reshaping of our lives, our relationships and our identities. We often think of it as simply repenting of our sins and being forgiven; it is that, but it is much more. Yes, I am saved from sin, but I am saved into the worldwide community of the church. The dividing wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down and with it the wall between British and French, Americans and Iranians and Indians and Pakistanis. In Christ we have a new set of relationships which transcend mere nationality. When Paul says that our citizenship is in heaven, the picture is not of an individual clutching a shiny new heavenly passport, but of a whole nation, a community who owe allegiance to Jesus. We have stepped out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light; we have a new king, a new ruler and a new set of priorities. When the early Christians were sent to the arena for confessing that Jesus is Lord, it was not because they had adopted a new religion, but because their confesson was a threat to the political powers of the day.

The dividing wall between Jew and Gentile has been broken down and with it the wall between British and French, Americans and Iranians and Indians and Pakistanis. In Christ we have a new set of relationships which transcend mere nationality. Click To Tweet When Paul says that our citizenship is in heaven, the picture is not of an individual clutching a shiny new heavenly passport, but of a whole nation, a community who owe allegiance to Jesus Click To Tweet

I haven’t stopped being English because I am a Christian – but in the radical transformation that is conversion – I have been incorporated into a bigger and more significant community. My first loyalty is not to the Queen and her government, but to the church and her King. I am a fellow citizen with Christians from around the world, whatever language they speak or passport they carry. They are my people.

As Christians, we have a responsibility to pray for our governments and to work for the best for our homelands. However, this should never compromise our first loyalty to the church and to Jesus. There will be times when we have to break the law, or to call out our leaders for injustice and wrongdoing. Nor can our love for our homelands be used as an excuse to hate or discriminate against other peoples or countries. We might have the desire to make our land great again, but if this means putting others down, then as Christians we must stand against it. We are Christians first and foremost and our fellow citizens are in every country of the world, not just in the one where we happened to be born.

My citizenship should impact the way I do mission; I should want to see the Kingdom expand across the globe, growing more diverse as it does so, but it also impacts my politics.

With tongue firmly in cheek, I couldn’t resist posting this song.

Spirit Empowered Mission

There are times when I really don’t need to write very much and this is one of them. Find a spare 45 minutes, make a coffee and listen to this excellent talk on Spirit-Empowered Mission by Joel Edwards.


If you receive this by email and the link isn’t showing up, try this: https://podcast.redcliffe.ac.uk/episode-11-joel-edwards-spirit-filled-mission/?fbclid=IwAR0D_ZnPeDi_Nb1QNx4GCh_oZQ6F0dYHqwymQhBxGmJ1A9WmpVT5lO6_cSs

Books I Have Read: Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes

OK, I admit it, I am forever writing that some book or other is an absolute “must-read”. It’s easy for me to say, I read very quickly and reading books is part of my job – it’s probably isn’t possible for others who don’t have these luxuries to keep up with everything that I say they should read.

Nevertheless; Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and Shame in Paul’s Message and Mission must be considered a must-read. Certainly, anyone who is planning to preach on Paul at some point in the near future should read this. It isn’t really optional.

Most popular guides to the book of Romans provide a summary of the argument running through the book, noting the role of the various “buts” and “therefores”. It is presented as a tight, thought-through argument which flows seamlessly from one point to another (even if chapters 9-11 don’t quite seem to fit). The problem with this approach is that it makes various (generally unspoken) assumptions about Paul, his world view and his religious context. To put it bluntly, we tend to read Paul as though he were a modern Western individualist, we don’t think twice about this because it suits our approach precisely because we are modern Western individualists.

This is a medium-format paperback of around 230 pages, with an extensive index and reference list as well as some study questions. It is not an easy read; it is a book to study, rather than a page-turner. You don’t need a background in cultural-anthropology to read this, but some familiarity with the book of Romans is essential. It will set you back around £16 and is worth every penny.

Jackson W. asks a fundamental question, what does Romans look like if we read it from an Eastern, honour-shame viewpoint rather than from a Western legal-guilt framework? This sort of approach may make a few die-hard Protestants splutter over their cornflakes, but the simple truth is that Paul was writing from a very different cultural background than our own – one which was probably far closer to an Eastern honour-shame culture that it is to ours. Jackson W. clearly points out that Romans is replete with references to an honour-shame worldview. If we are going to do Paul justice, then we need to take this seriously.

There are pragmatic reasons for this approach, too. The first is that approaching Romans from a different viewpoint allows us to grasp new things from the text without losing the things we already understand.

While there is no contradiction between honour-shame and law-orientated explanations of salvation, different emphases come into focus when reading Scripture with Eastern eyes.

To gain an honour-shame perspective of salvation, some readers might need to re-orient how then think about “being saved.” Salvation concerns both what we are saved from and what we’re saved for. Many people think almost exclusively in terms of the former.

Another reason for thinking in terms of honour-shame, is that our society is increasingly adopting this sort of approach to life, rejecting the legal-guilt framework that we have historically lived with. If we are to speak prophetically to this generation, we will need to address issues such as loss of face and honour culture – and thankfully Romans does just that.

I can’t recapitulate the central argument of the book, it would take too long and I’m not sure that I would be capable of doing it justice. So this is more of a recommendation than a review. You need to read this book!

I’ll conclude with the closing few paragraphs from the book:

Relationships “in Christ” make practical demands on our lives. Paul doesn’t settle for mere theological or theoretical unity. Reading Romans through an Eastern lens thus restores a more Pauline perspective by bringing together the false Western dichotomy between “spiritual” and “secular.” We need not accept the false dilemma between evangelism and social ministry. Hence Paul intertwines spiritual blessing and material obligation in Romans 15:27 (compare 1 Corinthians 9:11).

Paul’s admonition remind us afresh that faith, like honour is essentially public:

“American Christians will often say that true character is what you do when no one is watching… In stark contrast to this perspective, Paul was very concerned about how his followers’ behaviour was perceived by others. The reason for this, to be frank, is because the reputation of some of Paul’s churches was in the sewer.”

Shame prefers to remain hidden. It creeps into our lives when faith remains private. The seeds of hypocrisy take root where our private life is divided from our public life. The church is the unique context where Christian views of honour and shame make sense and produce “the obedience of faith.”

American Christians will often say that true character is what you do when no one is watching... In stark contrast to this perspective, Paul was very concerned about how his followers' behaviour was perceived by others. Click To Tweet


A White Zulu, Cricket and the Church

I was saddened this week to hear of the death of the extraordinary South African musician Johnny Clegg. He doesn’t seem to be that well known in the UK, but his mixture of modern rock and South African indigenous styles of music is remarkable.

However, there is more to Johnny Clegg than simply being a wonderful singer-songwriter. He was an anthropologist who taught at the University of the Wittwatersrand and he played in a multiracial band, melding European and Zulu styles at the height of apartheid. He deserves to be remembered.

On one level, there is something odd about a lad who was born in Bacup in Lancashire beind dubbed “the white Zulu“. Zulus aren’t white!

Who says?

A better bit of news this week (at least from where I’m writing) is that the England men’s cricket team finally won the world cup. Well, I say the England men’s team, but the captain was Irish and other squad members were born in Barbados, New Zealand and South Africa, while two others have Pakistani heritage. Hang about; Irishmen, Kiwis and the rest aren’t English!

Who says?

The thing with Johnny Clegg is that he grew up around Zulus, he spoke, wrote and sung in their language, spoke up for them at great personal risk and was accepted by the Zulu community. Likewise, all of the people who played for England had ties to this country and chose to play for it. Identity is a lot more complex than simply where you are born or the colour of your skin. Johnny Clegg and the England cricket team demonstrate some of the complexities of identity, but they also show great things and great strength can emerge from diversity.

Now, much though I’m glad of the opportunity to talk about Johnny Clegg and the England cricket team, there is a nore serious point to this post. The church is far more multicultural, multinational and multicoloured than the England cricket team or than any of Johnny Clegg’s bands. However, just as some people rebel against the idea of Zulus being white, or having Kiwis playing cricket for England, many of us find it hard to grasp that the church is truly multicultural. However, we serve a Middle-Eastern saviour who never set foot in Europe and the majority of Christians in the world are African and Asian. We need to get used to the idea of being in a multicultural, multilingual community, otherwise we are going to struggle with heaven!

We serve a Middle-Eastern Saviour who never set foot in Europe. We need to get used to the idea of being in a multicultural, multilingual community, otherwise we are going to struggle with heaven! Click To Tweet

OK, multicultural community isn’t easy. People have to make sacrifices and accomodations so that we can rub along together despite our differences. The fact that Moheen Ali and Adil Rashid had to scoot off the podium so as to avoid being sprayed by champagne is a great demonstration of how difficult these issues can be. In a church context, Steve Kneale gives a great example of some of the struggles involved in bringing different groups together. However, whether we like it or not, the church is multicultural and it is stronger for that. Each culture and language brings something new, something of value that helps to complete what is lacking in others. We need to learn to embrace and accept Christians from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and we must avoid trying to force them into our cultural mould. Pentecost is about a multiplying of languages, not a boring homogenisation.

Acts and Mission 6: The Old Testament

It’s been about three months since the last post in this occasional series and you might want to take a trip back to revisit what I said then.

Today, I want to briefly consider Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost which can be found in Acts 2:14:41. The context is that the disciples, filled with the Spirit, have burst out onto the streets of Jerusalem, declaring God’s glory. Not surprisingly, the crowd wonder whether they are drunk. At which point, Peter stands up, denies they have been drinking (it was too early in the morning) and starts to preach. What then follows is an excellent example of how to present the message of Jesus in a particular setting.

Essentially, the sermon is fairly simple. Peter quotes three Old Testament passages; Joel 2:28-32, Psalm 16:8-11 and Psalm 110:1 and explains how each of them points to Jesus. He then calls upon his hearers to turn to Jesus for salvation and about 3,000 of them do. It’s an impressive first sermon of the post-ascension era.

However, what I’d like to focus on is the big picture of what Peter did, rather than on the details. The key to this sermon is that Peter was a Jew, speaking to an audience of Jews who were in Jerusalem for the feast. Both Peter and his hearers would have been soaked in the Old Testament Scriptures. Filled with the Spirit, Peter didn’t need to dig out his concordance and dictionary to find OT passages which spoke about Jesus – he knew them already. Not only that, but they would have rung immediate bells with his hearers, too. Peter started from the basis of a shared common ground with his hearers.

We see a similar pattern at numerous points in the book of Acts and even in the Gospels. On the Emmaus road, Jesus essentially gave a guided Bible study explaining who he was. In Acts 7, Stephen does a similar thing, using the OT to give a comprehensive picture of how Jesus fits into God’s plan and Philip uses the same approach when talking to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. However, the key in all of these passages is that Jesus and his followers were addressing people who were already committed to the Scriptures. Essentially, their approach was; if you believe the Bible, then this is what it says about Jesus – believe in him, too.

Of course, this sort of approach only really works when you dealing with people who share a commitment to the Bible – which in today’s world is a relatively rare occurrence. However, Acts also gives us an example of a somewhat different approach. In pagan Athens (Acts 17: 16-34), Paul doesn’t engage the Athenians by starting with the Old Testament (a book which they probably had never encountered). He kicks off his discourse by referring to the various altars that he had seen in the town, and then with a diversion via Greek poetry, he introduces Jesus. In the Acts account, Paul never actually quotes Scripture, though he makes allusion to a number of concepts which are rooted in the Bible.

Now, I’ve given the impression that there are two different approaches here; but in fact, there is only one. In each of these cases, the speakers started from a point that their hearers understood and then moved from there to point people to Jesus. With those who understood the Jewish Scriptures, Jesus and the others started from that point, but for the Athenians, Paul found another point of contact. There are two things to draw from this. The first is that our primary role is to be witnesses to Jesus (Acts 1:8). Our job isn’t to point people to the Bible, to our church or what-have-you (though these might be good intemediary points), our job is to point people to Jesus. The second is that we need to understand something of the background of the people we are talking to. We have to be able to find points of contact so that we can, eventually, point them to Jesus.

All too often, I hear (generally middle-aged) evangelical Christians proudly saying that they don’t know anything at all about some cultural phenomenon or other. It might be a TV programme, something on the Internet etc. However, if we don’t know about the things that our neighbours, colleagues or family members are watching or thinking about, then we will find it ever so difficult to make conversation and to point them to Jesus in a relevant way. Paul didn’t boast that he knew nothing about Greek religion, he walked around the city and learned about it so that he could be a witness to Greeks in a way that would draw them in.

Our job is to point people to Jesus, but in order to do that, we have to start with where they are, not with where we think they should be. This means that we have to listen and learn.



Justification and Group Identity

I am thoroughly enjoying reading Reading Romans with Eastern Eyes: Honor and Shame in Paul’s Message and Mission by Jackson W. I’ll do a longer review when I actually finish it. For the moment, I’d simply say that it is the best book I’ve read on Romans (or Paul) for quite a while. However, as the book does touch on to the broader subject matter of this blog, I thought that I’d give you a few quotes from the discussion on Romans Chapter 3.

… Jews dirctly opposed the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham. God never treated Israel as an end in themselves. Rather, they were chosen to be a means of grace for the world. Whereas God promised to bless all the nations, Paul’s opponents limited God’s salvation to Israel. They supposed on must first become a Jew before being reckoned righteous. Thus, God’s blessing could not extend to all nations but only to one ethnic group. Tragically, those who claimed to be Abraham’s offspring implicitly deny the promisse he believed.

… If we are justified through works of the law, we must become Jews. But this implies that God is only God of the Jews, not Gentiles. Paul denies that idea as an affront to Jewish monotheism. God is God of both Jews and Gentiles “since God is one.” Because Jews feel a narrow sense of group superiority, they essentially reduce God to a local tribal deity. They narrow the scope of God’s kingdom to one people.

Collective identity reflects our view of God. What happens when we define ourselves by gender, education, language or other social distinctions? We subtly speak of God as if he is partial to us against others.

There are serious consequences when we blur the lines between belonging to a social group and being Christian. For example, if believers in the United States see themselves as Christian Americans (as opposed to American Christians), they could easily see America as a kind of Israel or promised land, Political ideologies merge indistinguishably with theological convictions. Wars and political policies take on the status of devine mandate.

Individualised Christianity which focuses on “me and my personal saviour” rather than on membership of God’s people faces a particular danger in this regard as it does not challenge our primary allegiance to social and political groupings. We are living through a time when the consequences of this are all to evident.

A Study of Mission Agencies

Today, I’ve uploaded a significant document which is the culmination of a number of months collecting and analysing data about mission agencies in the UK.

The study gives some historical background to the mission agency sector and then takes a detailed look at what agencies are actually doing today. The paper demonstrates that significant corrolations can be drawn between the date at which an agency was founded and it’s income and the likelihood that it sends missionaries and the extent to which it is involved in evangelistic activity.

The document runs to 24 pages and is too long to be published as a blog post, but you can download the whole document here. To give an idea as to the contents of the document, here are some of the conclusions:

The vast majority of mission agencies working today came into being post 1971. These agencies are smaller than their predecessors and more likely to be involved in one or two social-action projects in a single location. However, despite their proliferation, these agencies have a limited impact on the sector as a whole. It is the agencies from the early 1900s who dominate financially, with 44% of the income given to mission going to these 22 organisations. In terms of sending missionaries, it is the agencies formed before 1959 who are the most prominent.

Older agencies are likely to be large (measured by current financial income), to have a focus on proclamation and evangelism, to send both short and long-term missionaries and to have a worldwide focus to their ministry. By comparison, the newer agencies are smaller, tend not to send missionaries, are more likely to concentrate on social action than proclamation and to focus their efforts on a specific country and region.

However, despite this proliferation of smaller, more focussed agencies, the vast majority of the money given to the mission sector goes to agencies founded pre 1970. This pattern is an indication as to which agencies the British Christian public are interested in supporting.

A Glimpse into the Future

Epoch defining moments such as the publication of Carey’s enquiry or James Hudson-Taylor’s foundation of the CIM are impossible to predict. In God’s providence it is entirely possible that such an event will occur in the next ten years, shaking the mission sector completely. However, in the absence of an event of that magnitude, it is likely that mission agencies will continue to change by a slow process.

It is likely that many more small, entrepreneurial agencies focussing on one project in one location will come into being. However, these agencies will be supported by those who are close to them and will have a limited impact on the sector as a whole.

The movement away from evangelism and towards social-action will continue. Though a number of medium-large agencies will maintain an evangelistic focus; these are the agencies that are most likely to continue to send missionaries from the UK, while other agencies are unlikely to send missionaries.

Some issues not covered in this paper, but which will be relevant in the future:

  • The continuing stagnation or recession of the evangelical church in the UK means that some agencies will face significant financial and recruitment problems.

  • The growing church worldwide will have a growing desire to have an input into how foreigners do mission in their backyard.

  • This study has not touched on the growing phenomenon of churches supporting overseas projects and sending missionaries without the intervention of a mission agency. This is a broad movement (if it can be described as such) covering Anglican diocese in the UK partnering with diocese across the world, small church-based projects and new denominations which have a significant international church planting focus. It is difficult to assess the extent and impact of this movement in the absence of any central source of data. There is a need to study this issue in more depth, but it would need institutional buy-in by the organisations involved and is probably beyond the scope of an independent researcher.




Books I Have Read: The Missiology Behind the Story

The blurb on Amazon describes The Missiology behind the Story: Voices from the Arab World (Institute of Middle East Studies) as a gift from the Middle East and North African Churches to the rest of the body of Christ. I wouldn’t disagree. This is a book about the theology and practice of mission, written out of a particular context, but with universal relevance. It deserves to be widely read and studied.

As is often the case, I read this book on my Kindle, so I have no idea of its format, though as it is a Langham publication, I assume that it will be a medium sized paperback. The description says that it has 196 pages. Currently, it will set you back just over twelve quid for the print copy and less than half of that for the ebook.

This multi-author book is essentially a conversation about important issues. Taking the theme of the missio Dei as its basis, the book has ten chapters each of which has a distinct structure. The chapter starts with a broad introduction to the theme under discussion, which is followed by a number of case studies and finally, there is a missiological reflection on the theology and practice which have been discussed in the chapter. It is important to note that each section in the chapter has a different author, so multiple voices speak into each theme.

The ten chapters concern:

  1. Evangelism
  2. Church Planting
  3. Discipleship
  4. Relief and Development
  5. Engagement in Social Justice
  6. Christian-Muslim Dialogue
  7. Peacebuilding
  8. Media
  9. Children and Youth
  10. Leadership Formation

The fact that the book is rooted in the Middle East and North Africa brings many of these issues into sharp relief. Missiologists and church planters in the comfortable West may feel that they can ignore some of these issues, but this book shows why they are essential to our understanding of mission.

As someone with no experience or expertise in this part of the world, I found the book hard going at times. There is a lot of detail and it is difficult to keep track of everything. However, the closing missiological reflection in each chapter was always rich and challenging.

Who should read this book? Anyone with an interest in mission in the Middle East and North Africa should give it a read as should anyone who teaches missiology or mission theology. It should certainly be available in Bible College and seminary libraries as undergraduates will find good background material for essays on the particular subjects that it treats. Equally, anyone who has ever wondered what “missiological reflection” looks like, would be well advised to read this book and find out.

As usual, here are a few out of context quotes that I find interesting or challenging.

One observation is that much missional activity was initiated by Westerners. One theme of the twentieth century was the move to the institutions and organizations they formed, adapting and becoming led by indigenous people.

One emerging trend in the twenty-first century is the increasing involvement of those from Muslim backgrounds in missio Dei,

One of the biggest challenges for Protestant mission during this era was that it was firmly and unequivocally identified with the West. By 1910, half of the communicants in congregations in Beirut and Tripoli had emigrated to the West.

This is exactly the gospel that we have received, good news of reconciliation and goodwill towards all the nations, even the nations with whom our countries might have shared a bad history. For it is a mission that goes beyond the political and historical narrative and transcends it to a divine narrative of unconditional love.

From observing the life of Jesus and the experience of many of us in the field, we can confidently say that the most effective evangelism is the one we do outside the church walls.

To say that we are living in extraordinary times is an understatement. We are witnessing how God the Father through Christ and by the Spirit is acting within the Muslim world. The sheer numbers of those who are engaging with, enquiring about, and learning from the Bible about the Christian faith is unprecedented. Many have fully embraced and accepted Jesus as Saviour and Lord – something that has not happened on the present scale since Islam entered into world history in the seventh century.

God’s amazing work in Lebanon offers numerous lessons for the worldwide church’s understanding of discipleship, especially as more and more Muslims follow Jesus. Because Lebanon has certain freedoms that no other Muslim-majority country has, Muslims are seen publicly within the walls of traditional, institutional churches.

Our social justice engagement is only as effective as combining it with making Jesus known to those we are called to serve lovingly. Nevertheless, making Jesus’s love known is a huge endeavour, which concerns the whole person for each human being. Therefore, we embrace social justice ministries as a valid means to demonstrate the multifaceted love of God in Christ to our context.

She recounts, somewhat painfully, how churches in Egypt often encourage new converts to sever all ties with their families and Muslim communities, without offering them in return the kind of relational and emotional support they so desperately need. “It is like taking a fish from the sea and putting it in the air or on the ground,” she explains mournfully, “so it will die. And that is what we feel like when we leave our families; when we leave our Muslim communities.”

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