Mission Study Reviews
edited by Rena Yocum
reviewed by Rev. Bill Reincheld
Of even greater importance than wineskins is the wine they hold. Faithful mission by God's people in any age requires sensitivity to where and how God is at work. New mission wineskins are needed, often long before we know the need exists. This new look at mission is a collection of over 40 articles by a wide range of authors, and breadth of subject matter. Included are five lesson guides for five sessions, which would only begin to cover the wealth of material provided.
There is an attempt to gather together a broad spectrum of perspective. Articles include those from Wilbert Shenk of Fuller Theological Seminary; visuals from Donald Bosch's tome, "Transforming Mission"; an African Bishop; Lesslie Newbigin; a Franciscan missionary; Donald Jacobs, of the Mennonite Christian Leadership Foundation; Thomas H. Graves, President of Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia; along with the expected United Methodist agency contributors.
A significant statement in the preface gives the reader a route marker for the way ahead: "We live in a new age. We are not asked to replicate the past, but to find what is vital and relevant in the context of the twenty-first century, just as Christians did in the first century."
There is an apparent absence of commitment to Christ as the world's only unique savior on the part of some contributors. M. Thomas Thangaraj, Associate Professor of World Christianity at Candler School of Theology, states in his article, "Relating to People of Other Religions,"
"To place John 14:6 (`I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me') in today's multi-religious setting to judge the destiny of people of other religions would be to take it totally out of its context and derive conclusions that are not intended in that verse."
Did God reveal himself uniquely and finally in the person of Jesus Christ? Not according to Mr. Thangaraj. What other conclusion can one draw from the second half of this verse, than that Jesus Christ claims exclusivity for himself as the way to God?
Do such shortcomings earn a "banned" label for this study? No. As a pastor, would I choose this book as the primary text of a mission study by my people? No. There is much useful material in this well organized and documented study. It can serve well as a supplemental text so long as the reader knows where the theological quicksand is, and is grounded in the truth sufficiently to avoid it.
Rev. Bill Reincheld served as a missionary in East Africa for seven years and as the Director of Field Ministries for the Mission Society for United Methodists for six years.
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