Missional Renaissance – Book Review

October 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Missional Renaissance – Book Review

McNeal’s first goal was to set forth the language and definition of the missional church. Those not familiar with the missional church movement will find in this book a clear, practical, Biblical, understandable statement of what it means to be “missional”. They will also find someone who understands their fear of change, anticipates their questions, and gives practical guidance for taking a step at a time. Those who are already well read in the subject will find not a lot of new concepts. McNeal builds on the work of people like Bosch, Guder, Newbigin, Hunsberger, Frost and Hirsch and others, but he does it with a style that is his own and that brings new clarity to what may be already familiar ideas. He recognizes that the “missional renaissance” has as much to do with ecclesiology as it does missiology, and he addresses both with integrity.

His second goal was to set forth a clear path and compass settings for the missional journey. This he does by outlining three missional shifts:

Missional Shift 1: From an Internal to an External Focus

• Shifting from a “member culture” to a “missionary culture.”

• Refocusing and reallocating resources (prayer, people, calendar/time, finances, facilities, and technology) for missional impact. This is really about stewardship, although he doesn’t use the word.

Missional Shift 2: From Program Development to People Development

• “Are people better off for being part of this church, or are they just tired-er and poorer?”

• Seeing the world as the shaping ground for spiritual formation, not the inside of the church.

• Moving from mass standardization of programs to mass customization of discipleship.

• “The missional church assumes that service to others is the first step, not some latter expression of spirituality.”

Missional Shift 3: From Church-Based to Kingdom-Based Leadership

The leader must deal with…

• Paradigm issues (How the leader sees the world)

• Micro-skill development (Competencies the leader needs)

• Resource management (What the leader has to work with)

• Personal Growth (The leader as a person.)

His final goal was to establish a score card for measuring progress on the missional journey. His inclusion of suggested metrics to assess missional faithfulness and vitality is something that s missing in most other books on the missional church. Those metrics make a unique contribution to the literature. For years we have measured our faithfulness and vitality in terms of growth of attendance, budget, programs, What happens if we measure vitality in terms of the growth of people, service, prayer, outreach? McNeal would have us move from measuring how we are doing church to how we are blessing our communities.

Missional Renaissance: Changing the Scorecard for the Church by Reggie McNeal


Business as Mission, The Galtronics Story, Verity Years Highlights (3/5)

July 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

if God gives a vision or an idea or sense of direction, we must persevere and not surrender to seemingly impossible difficulties (42).

Ken had been pursuing some engineering ideas he thought would be significant (42).

As sales increased, the company was able to reduce its debt and begin to provide employees with many of the benefits that before had been impossible (45).

Expenses, net profit and return on investment are some of the other key measurable factors that must be monitored as a business grows (45).

…the company still faced great opposition from outside forces (46).

…the years between 1987 and 1993 were amazingly fruitful for Galtronics, both in making money and in making disciples (47).

…there were three major goals identified: 1) to bless Israel, 2) to provide jobs and 3) to tell Israelis about the Messiah.  By 1993, all three goals had been met (47).

…we wrote down a long list of things we were asking of the Lord…requests regarding the business: good workers, good morale, good machines, good parts, good vendors, better products.  God would restore out testimony…(48)

…profit sharing plan…success being due to God’s grace…tried to be open, not hiding anything…as general manager, …refused to have a company car…until the last debt was paid (49).

One of the main reasons we did not want it publicized was that we thought, if word got out, there would be people who would put political pressure on to make sure that we did not receive the award (50).

…the greatest impact on the evaluation committee was we had taken in many immigrants and had made such a concerned effort to provide jobs for them (50).

…God answered our prayers at that midnight prayer meeting when we had asked Him to restore our testimony in front of the whole nation (53).

The whole discussion of what it means to be a Messianic Jew became a public debate (53).

…more than one half million Russians had come into the country…Many of these believers in Jesus (55).

…”we need three things. First, we need a product to make that we can sell. Second, we need space, facilities to work in. Third, we need leadership (55).”

God had provided everything we needed! Praise His Name (57)!

He eventually developed a pastoral relationship with his employees and his workplace became his parish (57).

Ken and Maggie’s third goal was to tell the Israelis about the Messiah.  More specifically, they saw themselves as supporting the planting of a local church (57).

The “vision, valley, verity” pattern held true for both the business and the church it had spawned (58).

Believers were stoned as they worshiped and the building where they met was burned down (58).

When the little fledgling church was struggling to find a place to meet in light of this persecution, it was a small fellowship of Arab believers in a village miles away who reached out to them.  This kindness demonstrated unity in the body of Christ that transcended racial barriers which have inflamed hatred and dissension for years. This spirit of unity and love in Christ set a bold and obvious example and gave evidence to the power of the Gospel to bridge chasms now centuries old (58).

I pose a question to you, the reader. Why would you follow a God who calls you to risk your assets at least, and your life at most, to follow Him in starting and growing a Kingdom-building business?  Given the inherent risk of business, why add the dimensions of using the business to make disciples (59)?

Ken Crowell, “…don’t encourage people to get into this in order to make money…they may lose money…focus on listening to the Lord’s voice…walking with Jesus is all that matters…If God gives you a heart and gifts for running a business, that business can be used in a might way to bring glory to God and to further His Kingdom…(59)”

…why would anyone want to miss out on the blessings with or without the trials (59)?

It is important to note that throughout this process of walking with the Lord, trials occurred.  Scriptures are replete with warnings that Christian suffering is both essential and unavoidable (59).

Often, in the course of fulfilling that mission, other ideas surface which deserve pursuit yet need to be structured so as not to undermine and confuse those working in the core business.  A difficult question business people should ask repeatedly is how do we structure this effort (60)?

If a business is to be used as a platform for furthering Christ’s Kingdom, ownership must recognize the real owner is the Lord Jesus Christ (60).

As the company grows and leadership changes hands, the decision-making process continues to evolve from its initial individual control to a team concept.  If not properly managed, the process of making decisions can become rife with tension.  The good news is God is able to accomplish His purposes in each and every phase of a company’s life cycle (61)!

…if you are interested in business or have experience in business and have a desire to follow Jesus as a disciple-maker, Ken and Margie would cheer you on and encourage you to seek to integrate your business activities into Christ’s plan of World Evangelization (62).

Goheen, William. The Galtronics Story. Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock, 2004.

Let the Nations Be Glad, The Supremacy of God in Missions through Suffering, Highlights (2)

July 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

We measure the worth of a hidden treasure by what we will gladly sell to buy it (71).

Loss and suffering, joyfully accepted for the kingdom of God, show the supremacy of God’s worth more clearly in the world than all worship and prayer (71).

…portray the life of the missionary as a life of constant warfare in the soul, not a life of uninterrupted calm (72).

Some suffering is the calling of every believer but especially of those God calls to bear the gospel to the unreached (74).

“The cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise God-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ (74).” Bonhoeffer

…fundamental differences between Christian martyrs and those who have gained notoriety through terrorism (74, 75)…

  • the life of a Christian martyr is taken by those whom he wants to save
  • Christian martyrs do not pursue death; they pursue love
  • It (the kingdom of God) advances by suffering to bring life, not suffering to cause death (Mark 10:45, Col. 1:24)

To choose Christ is to choose death, or the very high risk of death (75)

There was a divine necessity on Christ to suffer (76).

Christ died for us so that we would not have to die for sin, not so that we would not have to die for others (77).

I do not need to cling any longer to the comforts of earth in order to be content.  I am free to let things go for the sake of making the supremacy of God’s worth known (77).

Peter shows us the connection between the death of Christ as a substitution to be received and a pattern to be followed (1 Peter 2:20-21). (77)

The pattern we follow is not the atonement but the love and the pain (77).

The way Christ lived and suffered and died places a calling on us to show with our lives the supremacy of his love by living in the same way (78).

The suffering of Christ is a call for a certain mind-set toward suffering, namely, that it is normal and that the path of love and missions will often require it (78).

…preparation for suffering which must start now (79).

…the road to the kingdom is the Calvary road (79).

It does not say, since he suffered for us, therefore we can have an easy life free from suffering and abuse and danger (80).

…I believe God is calling us to arm ourselves with this very thought: Christ suffered outside the gate brutally and without justice, leaving us an example that we should follow in his steps (81).

Not everyone will hear the same call. Yours will be unique (82).

God knocked the props of life out from under Paul’s heart so that he would have no choice but to fall on God and receive his hope from the promise of the resurrection (86).

…suffering is a primary means of building compassion into the lives of God’s servants (86).

…one of the aims of God in the suffering of the saints is to enlarge their capacity to enjoy his glory both here and in the age to come (89).

Christ’s afflictions are not lacking in their atoning sufficiency.  They are lacking in that they are not known and felt by people who were not at the cross.  Paul dedicates himself not only to carry the message of those sufferings to the nations but also to suffer with Christ and for Christ in such a say so that what  people see are “Christ’s sufferings.” (92)

What obedience will not achieve, persecution will (94).

The lesson is also that comfort and ease and affluence and prosperity and safety and freedom often cause a tremendous inertia in the church.  The very things that we think would produce personnel, energy, and creative investment of time and money for the missionary cause instead produce the exact opposite: weakness, apathy, lethargy, self-centeredness, preoccupation with security (95).

The point is that we should be wary of prosperity, excessive ease, comfort, and affluence (95).

…imprisonment was for the advancement of the gospel (98).

In many places in the world, the words of Jesus are as radically relevant as if they had been spoken yesterday (98).

The reason God wants such reliance is because this kind of trust shows his supreme power and love to sustain us when we can’t do anything to sustain ourselves (99).

God ordains suffering because through all the other reasons it displays to the world the supremacy of his worth above all treasures (99).

The supremacy of God’s worth shines through the pain that his people will gladly bear for his name (99).

…there is a relentless call in the Bible not to accumulate more and more things but to give more and more and to be deprived of things if love demands it (100).

…suffering with joy, not gratitude in wealth, is the way the worth of Jesus shines most brightly (101).

…gratitude for gifts does not prove that the giver is precious. What proves that the giver is precious is the glad-hearted readiness to leave all his gifts to be with him (101).

…worship means cherishing the preciousness of God above all else, including life itself (101).

…suffering severs our bondage to the world (101).

…the world should see a different hope in the lives of Christians – not the hope in the security of money or the security of power or the security of houses or lands or portfolios but in the security of “the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). (101)

…refined gold of “genuine faith” (1 Peter 1:7). (101)

Do military officers retire in the middle of a war? (104)

…resting, playing, traveling, and so on – the world’s substitute for heaven, because they do not believe that there will be one beyond the grave (105).

Millions of “retired” people should be engagede at all levels of intensity in hundreds of assignments around the world (106).

Christ is calling his church to a radical, wartime engagement in world missions (107).

…the way of love is both the way of self-denial and the way of ultimate joy (107).

God is most glorified in use when we are most satisfied in him.  And the supremacy of that glory shines most brightly when the satisfaction that we have in him endures in spite of suffering and pain in the mission of love (107).

Let the Nations Be Glad, The Supremacy of God in Missions through Prayer, Highlights (1)

July 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Prayer is primarily a wartime walkie-talkie for the mission of the church…(45).

Life is war because the maintenance of our faith and the laying hold on external life is a constant fight (46).

Every athlete strives and uses self-control in all things (46).

…struggling on your behalf in his prayers (Col. 4:12) (46).

He (Paul) runs a race, he fights a boxing match, and he strives against the forces of his own body (46).

“No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits” (2 Tim. 2:4) (47).

…missions and ministry are war (47).

In wartime, we are on alert.  We are armed.  We are vigilant (47).

…casualties of this war do not merely lose an arm or an eye or an earthly life but lose everything – even their own soul…(48)

the disciples…have been sent to bear fruit (49).

We have stopped believing that we are in a war. No urgency, no watching, no vigilance. No strategic planning (49).

We cannot know what prayer is for until we know that life is war (50).

God aims to save people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. But one of the great obstacles to victory is when people are swept up into social, political, and militaristic conflicts that draw away their attention, time, energy and creativity from the real battle of the universe (50).

…one of his (Satan’s) key strategies is to start battles in the world that draw our attention away from the real battle for the salvation of the lost and perseverance of the saints (50).

…pray for peace…(50)

God has given us prayer because Jesus has given us a mission (51).

Until we feel the desperation of a bombing raid or the thrill of a new strategic offensive for the gospel, we will not pray in the spirit of Jesus (51).

His purpose in all of history is to uphold and display his glory for the enjoyment of his redeemed people from all the nations (52).

If the infallible Scriptures promise that all nations will one day bow down to Christ, and if Christ is sovereign and able by his Spirit through prayer to subdue all opposition to his promised reign, then there is good hope that a person who goes as an ambassador of Christ to one of these nations will be the chosen instrument of God to open the eyes of the blind and to set up an outpost of the kingdom of Christ (53).

“Prayers and pains through faith in Christ Jesus will do any thing!” (53)

John 10:16, …means that Christ has people besides those already converted (55).

the doctrine of election … makes missions hopeful (55).

Paul was deeply aware that the success of his mission was the Lord’s work and not his own (56).

…jealousy for the glory of God in the mission of the church drove the apostles to minister in a way that would always magnify God and not themselves (56).

…Peter drove home the absolute necessity of serving in the strength that God supplies and not our own (57).

…the new covenant promises were that God would overcome hardness of heart and make people new on the inside (57).

…supremacy of God in the mission of the church is clear…He is the main combatant (57).

…the ultimate purpose of prayer is that the Father be glorified (58).

We ask God to do for us through Christ what we can’t for ourselves – bear fruit (58).

Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing.  And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that he will provide the help we need.  Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as all-sufficient (59).

They called on God:

  • to exalt his name (59)
  • to extend his kingdom
  • that the gospel would speed and ahead and be honored
  • for the fullness of the Holy Spirit
  • to vindicate his people in their cause
  • to save unbelievers
  • to direct the use of the sword
  • for boldness in proclamation
  • for signs and wonder (60)
  • for the healing of wounded comrades
  • for the healing of unbelievers
  • for the casting out of demons
  • for miraculous deliverances
  • for the raising of the dead
  • to supply his troops
  • for strategic wisdom
  • to establish leadership
  • to send out reinforcements (61)
  • for the success of other missionaries
  • for unity and harmony in the ranks
  • for the encouragement of togetherness
  • for a mind of discernment
  • for a knowledge of his will
  • to know him better
  • for power to comprehend
  • for a deeper sense of assured hope
  • for strength and endurance (62)
  • for a deeper sense of his power
  • that their faith not be destroyed
  • for greater faith
  • that they might not fall into temptation
  • that he would complete their resove
  • that they would do good works
  • for forgiveness of their sins
  • for protection from the evil one

…the great goal of God to uphold and display his glory for the enjoyment of the redeemed from all the nations (63).

The missionary purpose of God is as invincible as the fact that he is God (63).

…the proclamation of the gospel in Word and deed is the work of missions (63).

The frontline work of missions is the preaching of the Word of God, the gosepl (63).

…the Spirit becomes active to save people precisely where the gospel of Jesus is preached (63).

…it is vain to pray that the hearts of people will be opened where there is no gospel portrait of Christ to see (63).

…faith is a response to Christ (64).

…prayer as God’s instrument to release the power of the gospel (64)…

The world thinks Jesus is done for – out of the way.  They think his Word is buried and his plans have failed.  But Jesus is at work in the dark places…(66).

…the success of preaching hang on prayer…the prevailing, earnest, faith-filled prayers of God’s people (66).

When missions moves forward by prayer, it magnifies the power of God.  When it moves by human management, it magnifies man (67).

The call of Jesus is for prevailing prayer…(69)

Through Gates of Splendor, A Review

May 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

Elliot, Elizabeth. Through Gates of Splendor. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House. 2005. 300 pp. $7.00.


There are two major themes that intertwine Elizabeth Elliot’s “Through Gates of Splendor”. The first theme is of pioneering faith and obedience to God’s will. The second concept is of legacy and allowing God to write they story he wants with our lives. There are two specific concepts discussed in the book that will impact my ministry in the future. These two concepts that I will interact with follow: 1. Pioneering faith, 2. Legacy and God’s story through our lives.

Pioneering Faith

The martyrs of Through Gates of Splendor display a pioneering faith seldom seen in this day and age. Their zeal is shown after their first contact with the Auca tribe, “imbued with the Christian pioneering spirit of the first century, using the tools of the twentieth, they had pushed back the boundaries of their faith one more step…they were missionary pioneers always looking to the regions beyond immediate horizons (95).” The desire they exhibit to obey God is exhibited by their following statements, “I have one desire now – to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it (50).” “A call is nothing more nor less than obedience to the will of God, as God presses it home to the soul by whatever means He chooses (22).”

Discussing their willingness to be pioneers despite the danger involved they made the following statement, “When life’s flight is over, and we unload our cargo at the other end, the fellow who got rid of unnecessary weight will have the most valuable cargo to present to the Lord (60).” “Each had made a personal transaction with God, recognizing that he belonged to God, first of all by creation, and secondly by redemption through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. This double claim on his life settled once and for all the question of allegiance…This meant simply that Christ was to be obeyed, and more than that, that He would provide the power to obey (175).” Their hope was to be the first people to reach an unreached tribe for Christ and their hope was that so by living among them, sharing in their lives and thus laying the foundations of mutual trust they hoped to open the minds and hearts of the Indians to the Christian message (31).

This theme will impact my future ministry by affecting the way I view obedience and discernment. Many times in life I have run been disobedient due to my frustration with my inability to discern God’s will for my life. These men serve as an example of serving in faith and allowing the motives and potential consequences of their actions to serve notice of their obedience. They allow faith in Christ to lead their way.

Legacy and God’s Story

These men took meticulous notes and accounts of their missionary experiences almost as if they had premonitions that they would be taken early. They remark, “Life is not here, but hid above with Christ in God, and therein I rejoice and sing as I think on such exaltation (17).” “Wherever you are, be all there. Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God (20).” They were present taking notes of eternal reflection throughout their time on this earth. They had excellent support systems in place and had an extreme ease with the story God wanted to write with their lives.

The plot of the story is mentioned in this reference, “Not long ago we talked with another missionary who is longing to reach a tribe of killers, the Aucas. Few white persons have contacted them in a friendly way and lived to tell about it. We expect the airplane to play an essential part in reaching these people with the Gospel (71).” “It is a grave and solemn problem; an unreachable people who murder and kill with extreme hatred. It comes to me strongly that God is leading me to do something about it, and a strong idea and impression comes into my mind that I ought to devote the majority of my time to collecting linguistic data on the tribe…I know that this may be the most important decision of my life, but I have a quiet peace about it (104).”

They proceed with their belief in God’s providence, although…there is much a missionary must accomplish and learn before he can expect to make successful contact with a primitive tribe (76). They knew that strict rules of etiquette govern the behavior of the Indian host and the visitor who enters his clearing. A formal greeting, which may take ten or fifteen minutes is proper and other rituals. Their reliance upon God is exhibited the statements, “May God continue to put His good hand on the prospect and may we drop it when not fully assured of His direction (145).” “Obedience is not a momentary option; it is a diecast decision made beforehand (151).” The application I will carry forward into ministry will be to seek God’s story for my life and to have a legacy/support system in place that will be able to tell my story when I’m gone.

It is easy to second guess the judgment of the missionaries, but Elizabeth Elliot says it best, “It is not the level of our spirituality that we can depend on. It is God and nothing less than God, for the work is God’s and the call is God’s and everything is summoned by Him and to His purposes, the whole scene, the whole mess, the whole package – our bravery and our cowardice, our love and our selfishness, our strengths and our weaknesses.”

Iran: A Historical and Contemporary Look at Missions

April 9, 2011 § Leave a comment


It is documented in ancient texts that 3rd-century Persia boasted some three hundred and sixty churches, and numerous martyrs.1 We read in the book of Acts in the Bible that in the first century A.D. there were “Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, and inhabitants of Mesopotamia” in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost; and church tradition has it that the apostles Peter and Thomas preached the Gospel to the Parthians. In short, there was very early witness and testimony of Jesus Christ and Christianity spreading throughout the lands of Persia which we now know as Iran. The brand of Christianity that arose in Persia was never distinctly Persian as it did not adopt the Persian language, but grew out of the Syrian church. Although persecution plagued these followers of Christ from time to time—depending on the governing body in power—Christianity enjoyed steady growth. Much of this growth was the result of a Diaspora of Christians throughout Persian territories. Eventually, the Iranian Church completely disconnected itself from the western church, creating its own ecclesiastical organizations. Further divisions within the Persian Church led to significant conflict and rivalry, creating many problems among Christians and, ultimately leading to the collapse and utter defeat of the Christian Church with the added impact of Muslim and Mongol conquests in and around Iran.2 With this Muslim conquest in the 7th century Iran became part of the greater Muslim Empire. The Christian Church was weak, and Islam was in the seat of power. Over time, many Christians, Zoroastrians and others converted to Islam. Iran no longer looks like a country to which the apostles first took the gospel: the country is nearly 99% Shi’i Muslim. There is much work to be done in the foreign fields of Iran, but one must also realize that much work has already been done. We turn now to look at the history of missionary efforts in the great empire—now Islamic Republic, Iran.

Iran: A Historical and Contemporary Look at Missions

Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, A Review

April 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

Hiebert, Paul. Anthropological Insights for Missionaries. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1985. 315 pp. $22.99.


Have you ever found yourself in a foreign world, and, in the same glance notice a high-rise building, a cow pasture, a McDonald’s restaurant and a man pulling an ox cart? Although this image may sound a bit strange, this is merely one snapshot of a myriad of situations with which expatriates are faced when encountering—and especially when living in—foreign lands. Paul Hiebert in his work Anthropological Insights for Missionaries seeks to open the eyes of new missionaries who are involved in ministry overseas. An anthropologist, Hiebert is also the son of missionaries and he and his wife served in India as missionaries themselves. Thus, his background allows an authorial view that is to much avail as the main subject matter of Hiebert’s work involves understanding other cultures and one’s own culture through the use of various tools of anthropology. For the average person who knows little about the discipline of anthropology1 Hiebert brings to light many key tools that anthropology offers while not getting bogged down in the semantics and theory of the discipline. Emphasis is placed on both the gospel and on anthropology; the wedding of these two creates a unique work that is eye-opening and provides the missionary with valuable resources for ministry.


The thesis of Hiebert’s work here is this: missionaries need both a solid understanding of the Scriptures and a deep knowledge of the people they serve in order to be most effective in their ministries. While Bible colleges, seminaries and personal study may prepare us in the scriptural sense, anthropology (especially cultural anthropology) helps equip us for the latter of these two necessary elements.

Thus, Hiebert utilizes his book Anthropological Insights for Missionaries as a platform for surveying many of the various aspects of missions and of being a missionary, focusing on how anthropology aids in each scenario. Hiebert’s overarching aspiration is to enable the missionary to understand himself while seeking to understand the target culture and how God and theology are thus worked out in such a culture that is not one’s own. The volume is very well written and does not seek to enlighten without practical points of application, which, by default is comforting and useful. He details what it is like to go overseas, including many of the experiences that accompany such a venture and looks at how cross-cultural ministry changes us. He also is careful to point out many helpful anthropological insights that allow us to better understand both ourselves and the people to whom we are ministering—while discussing specifically various realities involved in international missions and precautions to bear in mind when engaging in such ministry. Hiebert emphasizes the function of anthropology for missionaries; he does so very well, as many times the discipline of anthropology is viewed in stark opposition to anything that is as myopic as is Christianity. Anthropology is after all a discipline that does indeed have many eye-opening realities to offer in lieu of cross-cultural ministry; and what’s more, it helps us to evaluate our own personal cultures in light of a greater human paradigmatic framework. Hiebert sets forth many principles that have missiological implications and can accordingly be applied. First of all he sets out to explain the “messenger” (i.e. the missionary) and then discusses the “message” (i.e. the gospel). This he follows by looking at the effect that these two entities have on the hearers, considering how it would be expressed in real-life situations. He sets forth the following principle for the messenger: make no assumptions and understand your own limitations. Other principles set forth by Hiebert to be concurrently employed are the following: go to your host culture as a learner, contextualize the gospel message, and identify with your host culture and people as strongly as possible without ‘going native’.

In the section entitled “The Gospel in Culture”, Hiebert stresses the following principle: “All authentic communication of the gospel in missions should be patterned on biblical communication and seek to make the Good News understandable to people within their own cultures.” (55) The first portion of the book is entirely focused on the above assertion and the use of anthropology to understand and unearth both the implicit and explicit meanings and forms of the receiving culture in order to effectively do just what this quote urges: speak the Truth in a fashion that your hearers will receive it. The natural flow of events in sharing any information—for our purposes, the gospel—goes from communication to understanding to a response. We as missionaries are seeking a response; for this reason, we must couch the information to be communicated in culturally relative terminology.

After intense focus on the messenger and the message and various anthropological insights that aid us in our understanding of these elements, Hiebert focuses on issues such as our incarnational witness, contextualization, self-theologizing and other issues which we face as missionaries, getting into our ministry and church planting on the field. This segment of the book is very practical and thus very helpful. Directly related to this segment is discourse of the latter portion of the book, devoted to our role as missionaries and how we are to allow the church to truly be autonomous, and realize our place in the grand scheme of things.

Critical Evaluation

In this work, Paul Hiebert has set forth to open the eyes of new missionaries, equipping them with some key anthropological guides and methods in order to better minister cross-culturally. His firm belief is that anthropology is a discipline that has much to offer us as missionaries. His goal has been accomplished with unwavering merit. Hiebert first stated his purpose clearly and then supported this thesis with numerous examples and life experiences that give tangibility to his work; naturally, this concreteness makes the book one that can be used practically by the average person who may know much about theology but little about anthropology.

In purposing to equip new missionaries, Hiebert affirmed time and again what an invaluable source that anthropology is as we serve cross-culturally. This claim is the basis for his writing this book. Throughout, his work sets forth principles of anthropology, allowing the reader to see how these basic tenets might apply to both current and future ministry experiences. The evidence for his claims (as mentioned above) is seen by way of illustration and real life examples. The only way to see whether or not anthropological methods are effective is to put them to the test; Hiebert, along with many others of whom he gives example, have done just that. Thus, his support for his claim(s) comes by relating stories of various missionaries. These illustrations help his claim to take life for his readers.

Hiebert’s failure to deal with counter evidence on his main thesis and goal is self-explanatory: the assumption is that the reader is interested in how to utilize the discipline of anthropology and her insights to minister as a missionary. The title itself is indicative of this. One may say that this is no good reason for lacking antithetical views; however, in this case such an argument seems irrational as it is clearly accepted that an interdisciplinary networking is the best way to go about mission work. Historically, we see the mistakes that have been made based on a lack of cultural sensitivity, contextualizing of the gospel, and truly knowing your focus people group, among others. These are the mistakes we are striving to correct and avoid in the future through the use of disciplines such as anthropology.

The belief that effective cross-cultural ministry involves use of anthropological methods is one firmly held by Hiebert. As an anthropologist and a former missionary, Hiebert sees the benefits of anthropology for missions; however, he does not undermine the power of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in ministry. In fact, in the concluding chapters of this book—after devoting more than three-hundred pages to articulating anthropological insights for missions—Hiebert makes it clear that he comes at this study from the perspective that God can and does work through us or despite us, no matter how contextualized or culturally appropriate our message. The bottom line is that the Trinitarian God works in the hearts and lives of people to bring amount ultimate change.

This book proves a very useful resource to those interested in any type of cross-cultural ministry—and especially missionary service overseas. Those with little knowledge about the field of anthropology might first read a short discourse on the discipline.2 This would help the reader to better understand Hiebert’s anthropological perspective and presuppositions. However, Hiebert’s work does stand alone; he elaborates as necessary on anthropological theory. Anyone involved in missions should pick up this book and invest a couple of days reading it and grappling with some of the issues that it presents; many are inevitable realities that each missionary will face in their overseas career.


Hiebert’s knowledge and experience in both missions and anthropology create a unique and helpful manuscript that is applicable to cross-cultural ministries—especially international missions. This work stretches me in thinking about my past experience in missions and in looking toward a future as cross-cultural laborers. Many times Hiebert’s work provokes more questions than it provides answers. This is good, however, as the positing of questions allows us the opportunity to grapple and deal with real life issues theoretically before we hit the ground running in our ministries abroad. As aforesaid all ministries must be conscious of many of the principles set forth in this work by Hiebert if they are to claim any effectiveness at all. In essence, we must be aware of the implications of colliding cultures, paradigm shifts, and the limited relativity of our theologies in order to prove successful in the aim of reaching the ends of the earth with the gospel message of the Bible. Paul Hiebert has worked very thoroughly—with years of experience and work both in anthropology and in Christian ministry overseas comprised in this volume—in his efforts to enable those of us called to missions to be effective ministers worldwide.

1 To guide our understanding, we will utilize a working definition of anthropology given by Stephen A. Grunlan and Marin K. Mayers in their work, Cultural Anthropology: “Anthropology is the study of man (humans). Anthropology is concerned with every aspect of human beings—their origin, their past, their present, and their future.” (Grunlan & Mayers, 34). To add, Hiebert is concerned here with the sub-discipline of cultural anthropology which looks at humans as they interact and live out their culture. This is the area of anthropology most helpful in assuming the missionary task.

2 A good beginning work might be S. Grunlan and M. Mayers. Cultural Anthropology. Grand Rapids,Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979.

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