Missions in the 21st Century

Here are some suggested readings pertaining to the present day Christian “mission” movement. I often hesitate to use the term mission and missionary any longer and I think we’ll see these terms used less and less frequently. But here are some interesting reads having to do with the global Christian movement. I know some will criticize this list as consisting almost exclusively Western writers, writing from a Western perspective, but its just a start. If you have any recommendations please email to mike.soderling@centerforhim.org:

The Changing Face of World Missions: Engaging Contemporary Issues and Trends (Encountering Mission): Michael Pocock (Author), Gailyn Van Rheenen (Author), Douglas McConnell (Author) – I (Mike Soderling) used this book as the basis for some talks I gave at churches during the summer of 2010. Its an excellent resource. “The dramatic changes that have taken place both in global society and in the church have implications for how the church does missions in the twenty-first century. These trends include the rise of postmodernism, the spiritual decline in the West and the advance of the gospel in the rest of the world, and the impact of technology on society and missions. The Changing Face of World Missions is for the mission-minded church leader or lay person who wants to understand these trends. Each chapter identifies and evaluates a trend, examines it in light of Scripture, and proposes a practical response. Important terms are defined, and sidebars help readers think through the issues on their own.”

Changing the Mind of Missions: Where Have We Gone Wrong? James F. Engel (Author), William A. Dyrness (Author) – This is another great resource for those who are willing and have a desire to think openly about the West’s efforts at world evangelization, and what we can do to do better. “Engel and Dyrness offer a sympathetic but courageous analysis of the challenges that North American and other Western Christian missions face. Global and cultural changes are occurring all around us. Yet missions has remained much the same. How can we work within a world context that is shifting from modernity to postmodernity? How can we reverse our assumption that missions means going from “here” to “there”? How can we recapture the vitality and comprehensiveness of the gospel for the complex plight of today’s world? How can we reexamine our commitments to programs and strategies in light of the baseline fact that we are engaged in God’s mission? This is a book that is sure to spark conversation among missionaries, students of missions, mission leaders and church mission committees. It points a way forward with the goal of increasing the spread of the gospel by every means possible to every corner of our world.”

Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: A Reader [Paperback] Ralph D. Winter – by the late Ralph Winter and with contributions from dozens of other experts, this is the definitive work on the global Christian movement. Meant to be the accompaniment to the Perspctives classes hosted all over the world. But can be read on its own. “New 2009 Edition! Perspectives on the World Christian Movement presents a multi-faceted collection of readings exploring the biblical, historical, cultural, and strategic dimensions of world evangelization. Writings from more than 150 mission scholars and practitioners (over 60 of them new in this edition) portray the history and anticipate the potential of the global Christian movement. Every one of the 170 articles are side bars offers practical wisdom enabling Christians to labor together in bold, biblical hope to finish the task of seeing that Christ is named and followed among all hte peoples of the earth. The Fourth Edition contains over 60 articles and sidebars that are new to this edition. Many articles have been updated and revised.”

Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility [Paperback] Duane Elmer (Author) – I have not yet read this work but plan to in the near future. It sounds valuable and has very good reviews. “Duane Elmer asked people around the world how they felt about Western missionaries. The response? “Missionaries could be more effective if they did not think they were better than us.”

The last thing we want to do in cross-cultural ministry is to offend people in other cultures. Unfortunately, all too often and even though we don’t mean it, our actions communicate superiority, paternalism, imperialism and arrogance. Our best intentions become unintentional insults. How can we minister in ways that are received as true Christlike service?”

The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church [Paperback] Fritz Kling (Author) – the contents of this book are what happens when you spend time and resources asking people in the trenches of the global Christian movement, what the future holds for the church universal. I found it rather fascination.

“The Meeting of the Waters identifies seven trends having a major impact on the Church around the world—and on every Christian at home in every country.

The global community of Christians is stunning in its scope and spiritual impact. But what is happening to the Church as new technology, marketing, and generational shifts make their unavoidable mark? And what difference does it make for Christians in day-to-day life?

Equal parts travelogue, character study, and global documentary, The Meeting of the Waters interlaces stories and instruction in the tradition of Freakonomics, The World is Flat, and The Tipping Point. This breakthrough book is for any Christian eager to make a difference in a changing world.”

Missions in the Third Millennium: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century [Paperback] Stan Guthrie (Author) – I have only just started this book but the reviews are excellent. “Christianity is the world’s most global faith. Evangelical Christianity, meanwhile, is the world’s fastest growing major religion in terms of conversion growth.

And yet, at the dawn of the third millennium, the church’s primary task (“go and make disciples of all nations”) remains undone. Missions in the Third Millenniumcharts 21 trends—both positive and negative—with continuing significance for the Great Commission community in the 21st century. Revised and updated with two new chapters on urban missions and evangelizing Muslims, this up-to-date volume offers insights to help students, churches, missionaries, agencies, and Christians from outside the West grasp the big picture and take practical steps for more effective involvement. This edition contains extensive notes, expanded suggestions for further reading and discussion questions.”

The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity [Paperback] Philip Jenkins (Author) – a fascinating read for those who want to begin to understanding the shifting of influence in the global church. “Jenkins (history and religious studies, Pennsylvania State Univ.) believes that we are on the verge of a transformational religious shift. As he explains it, Christianity, the religion of the West, is rapidly expanding south into Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and he predicts that by the year 2050, only about one-fifth of the world’s three billion Christians will be non-Hispanic Caucasian. By numbers alone, they will be able to overwhelm the present political secular nation- and city-states and replace them with theocracies, similar to the Islamic Arab nations. He ends with a warning: with the rise of Islam and Christianity in the heavily populated areas of the Southern Hemisphere, we could see a wave of religious struggles, a new age of Christian crusades and Muslim jihads. These dire prognostications could be seen as just another rant from a xenophobic pseudo-prophet; however, the author is a noted historian, and his statements are well formed, well supported by empirical evidence, and compellingly argued. The only criticism is the brevity of the book. One hopes that The Next Christendom is only an introduction to a deeper analysis of a fascinating topic. Recommended for all libraries. Glenn Masuchika, Rockwell Collins Information Ctr., Cedar Rapids, IA Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.”

The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone (Christian Doctrine in Global Perspective)  Samuel Escobar (Author) – not a title I’ve read yet but it has excellent endorsements and Samuel Escobar is a well respected missiologist. “This book is must reading for all those who would lead Christ’s church in this new millennium. Two-thirds of all Christians now live in Asia, Africa and Latin America. This means that the church’s mission is now a truly global enterprise, as Escobar shows. Samuel Escobar, the dean of Latin American Protestant Evangelical missiologists, gives us here an insightful, careful, concise and passionate overview of the complex and constantly changing reality facing us all in the church’s mission today. Escobar demonstrates a clear and compelling missionary commitment to the missional goal that, in the words of Donald McGavran, ‘women and men become disciples of Jesus Christ and responsible members of Christ’s Church.’ The book’s insightful trinitarian organization is capped off by a very helpful review of selected works by mission thinkers of the past fifty years.” (Charles Van Engen, Professor of Biblical Theology of Mission, Fuller Theological Seminary, and former missionary to Mexico )”

Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? Roland Allen (Author), AND The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes That Hinder It: Roland Allen (Author) – these two works (the link will only take you to site for Missionary Methods but the other is also right there) are absolute classics. They should grace the book shelves of any serious student of the world wide Christian movement.

Landmark Essays in Mission and World Christianity by Robert Gallagher and Paul Hertig, eds. – A comprehensive collection of classic essays from missiologists of various denominational perspectives such as Leslie Newbigin, Samuel Escobar, Charles Van Engan, David Bosch, Dana Robert, Rene’ Padilla, Peter Phan, et al.  From the  American Society of Missiology, this book contains “absolutely essential articles and papers that no person interested in the mission of the church can not have read.”

Kingdom Without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity by Miriam Adeney – This well-written narrative by a masterful story-teller introduces the reader to real people in five different global contexts who have become the people of God through the word, spirit, catastrophe, and song.  It “invites us into a magnificent tapestry of the glory of God alive in the peoples and nations of our world.”