Zane Pratt, David Sills, and Jeff Walters. Introduction to Global Missions (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2014) 280 pp. $24.13 on Amazon [click image to the left to purchase]
Zane Pratt is the director of Global Theological Education for the International Mission Board. He previously served as dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
David Sills is the director of Global Strategic Initiatives and Intercultural Programs and the A. P. and Faye Stone Chair of Christian Missions and Cultural Anthropology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Jeff Walters is assistant professor of Christian Missions and Urban Ministry and director of the Dehoney Center for Urban Ministry Training at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Pratt, Sills and Walters have written a book together called Introduction to Global Missions. This book provides an intro to the many important subjects for missionaries. This book is written for one who feels called to full-time mission work, the pastor, and the member of the local church that seeks to be on short term missions. Introduction to Global Missions provides biblical foundations, history of missions, cultural studies and practical strategies to help the believer fulfill the Great Commission. The authors break the book into those four sections with an introduction (biblical and theological foundations, historical foundations, cultural studies, and practical strategies).
In the introduction, the authors take the task of understanding the missionary call, what it is and how it relates to not just the global church but to the local church as well. They also discuss knowing God’s will which includes knowing God, knowing his word, prayer, seeking counsel, through the desires of the heart, etc. “The way to find God’s will is to become so close to him that your heartbeat resonates with his own” (14).
In section one, the authors discuss the biblical and theological foundations to take the gospel to all the nations. The authors bring up three ideas to bring the gospel to all the nations.
The first is understanding the culture. The missionary must understand the culture to relate to the people. They use terms such as cross-cultural, intercultural, multicultural, and cultural relativism. Cultural relativism is when culture A live in a mud hut, and culture B lives in log houses (25). In times like this, we should show respect. “the missionary should study to know the culture and why it lives, believes, acts, reacts, and interacts as it does” (26).
The second idea is strategy. We must think about how we will engage the unreached people groups, which includes many that are in the 10/40 window. The 10/40 window is an area of the globe that covers Northwest Africa to Asia, which includes men and women in Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism.
The third idea is orality. Oral learning is when men and women learn by hearing. This is very important in cultures that do not have a high literacy rate to read something in their language, so it helps when one is able to tell the story of the gospel in oral form. The authors cover the missiological basis of the bible, in which God saves sinners. In creation, God made everything that exists out of nothing. It was good. But man rebelled, and fell.
Because of the fall, man was guilty and deserved death. God also gave the promise of redemption, that Satan would strike the seed of the woman, but the seed would strike the serpents head. The authors cover the Old Testament Law and Prophets, and the New Testament Gospels and Epistles. The Bible testifies of the glory of God, the messiah to come, and that Messiah is Jesus Christ! The nations will bring praise to King Jesus.
Also, in section one, theology is discussed as a foundation for missions. Evangelical theology is what the Bible teaches on the key subjects of faith and life (68), and theology and worship lead to mission (69).
In section two, Introduction to Global Missions discusses the historical foundations for Christian missions. Understanding the past is an important facet of missiology and can help twenty-first century Christians continue the work started by first-century disciples (96). The authors cover the works of the apostles, Luther, William Carey, and other men and women who have done a great deal for the advance of the gospel; some of whom even laid down their lives.
In section three, this great work brings about the thought of cultural and global studies. Culture is the learned and shared design or pattern of living for a group of people (138). It is very important to understand how a culture acts. Introduction to Global Missions does an excellent job of research to help provide the reader of understanding the culture, and then how to communicate in that culture. The authors use the word contextualization. Contextualization in international settings requires us to consider world views, languages, legal matters, and a host of other factors that may require some adjustment to our delivery style (150).
That is key, and the authors use a great example in scripture from 1 Corinthians 9, “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews”. We should understand the culture and identify the culture, so that we may reach the culture. This section discusses the other religions of the world and how Christ can not be added to another religious system. It is all of Christ, or not at all. Christians should seek the good of man outside the church, but also he or she should seek their salvation. The authors also cover brief and concise overviews of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Animism. This section is very help for all believers, it challenges us to know the context and the culture. For example, knowing the culture of a man in East Asia will help you share the gospel with him, because you know what he lives for, how he dresses, lives, works, and eats.
The fourth and final section of Introduction to Global Missions covers the practice of global missions. The authors make clear what a disciple is and what he or she should do. They should be striving to pursue holiness and godliness. Disciples make disciples. Church planting is an important to the global mission work. Church planting is concerned with local churches-the geographic, cultural expression of the universal church (210). The authors provide excellent practical advice for believers who are headed to the mission field, such as culture shock and rejection.
The local church at home is to be on mission and sharing the gospel with their local community. The authors say local churches are to be biblically understanding, having a global vision, understanding missiological principles (cultures), praying, connecting yourself to missions, and connecting the church to missions. When churches go on short-term missions, they must be well trained, but also this is a way to connect local churches to missions. The church or individual must be ready to define the task, do research, contextualize, and understand the access. The authors end Introduction to Global Missions by telling the reading to engage his or her city by open your eyes (praying and getting to know your city), open your heart (loving your city), open your door (love the people in the city), and open your mouth (share the good news).
Introduction to Global Missions provides an excellent overview of missions for the individual, the local church, and the world.
Analysis: 10 Takeaways
There are 10 takeaways from reading this book that I would like to discuss.
1. The book is understandable. This is not a book that will leave you in a fog. It is very clear and well written.
2. The authors hit on the consistent Bible. That the nations will bring glory and honor to King Jesus and we should be sharing the good news.
3. King Jesus is King over all nations. He is King in the United States, He is King over North Korea, He is King of All.
4. The authors focus on God’s glory is evident throughout this book. We share the gospel for the Glory of God, not for the glory of self.
5. The authors show a very important view of the history of missions. Missions has always been important in the New Testament Church.
6. The understanding of the culture and other religions. It will be helpful if you are sharing the gospel with a buddhist and you know what buddhism teaches.
7. Church planting is very important! We need good healthy churches that are a light for the gospel. I hope and pray that there are good healthy churches in your city. Attend them, and thank God for them!
8. The importance of local members sharing the gospel. If the gospel has saved us, share it. Why would you want to remain silent?
9. Believers are to care for the gospel and they are to care for one another. Love your fellow believers, but also love men and women who do not believe in Jesus. If your always around Christians, and never around non-Christians, your life needs to be shaken up a bit.
10. The importance of prayer. Prayer is not to be neglected. Pray for understanding of the culture, pray for understanding of Biblical passages, pray for discernment, pray for love of your neighbor and your church, pray for the gospel to spread, and pray for Christ to keep you, for perseverance, to keep pressing on in times of trial.
Evan Knies is an undergraduate student at Boyce College where he studies Biblical and Theological Studies. He lives in Louisville, KY with his wife, Lauren. You can follow him on Twitter @Evan_Knies.