Missionshift: Global Mission Issues in the Third Millennium. Edited by David J. Hesselgrave and Ed Stetzer. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010. 314 pp. $26.99. Purchase at Amazon for $17.63.
Dr. David Hesselgrave is professor emeritus of mission Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He also served as a missionary to Japan for a dozen years and was the executive director of the Evangelical Missiological Society. Ed Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research as well as the missiologist in residence. He has a Ph.D. in Missiology. You can read Ed’s blog and thoughts on missions here.
Missionshift is divided into 20 chapters. Three of these are position essays with five response essays. The first essay is Charles Van Engen’s definition and description of “mission.” There are two response essays to Van Engen and then a response to all three of these essays with Stetzer responding to all four (when you are the editor, you can do that). The second essay is written by Paul G. Hiebert and looks at the gospel in human contexts. Here, the discussion looks at the oft misunderstood concept of contextualization. Again, the introductory essay is responded to in like fashion above with Ed Stetzer offering the summary essay.
Chapter fourteen looks at the future of evangelicals in mission. This essay is written by Ralph D. Winter. Yet again, the same format of response and summary response is followed. David Hesselgrave offers a fascinating conclusion to the entire work.
I greatly enjoyed the style of this work. To have one essay followed by numerous essays responding to one another was extremely helpful. In editing the work in this manner, the reader will see missions from an extremely broad, albeit biblical, brushstroke. The mixture of contributors greatly added to the flavor of the book. Most of the contributors are (or were) professors at the seminary (or above) level with most, though not all, having extensive missionary experience.
Perhaps the one negative (and it is not quite a negative as much as it was noticeable to me) was Ed Stetzer offering the final essay in each section. While Ed is an excellent writer, thinker, and theologian, it would have been nice to have someone else offer the final essay. Having Ed do all three in addition to the introduction can give the appearance of giving him (and consequently, the SBC) complete control over the concepts being shared in the book.
That being said, I want to make it very clear that Ed did not push an agenda nor did he run ‘roughshod’ on any of the contributors. Rather, he offered genuine reflections and clarity to the subject matter.
If you are interested in engaging in missions work, regardless of your Christian denomination, Missionshift, offers a wonderful starting point. The truth is, we are living in an ever changing world. We need to know how to take the same gospel message from 2,000 years ago to the men and women of the world today. This resource offers wonderful insight into that endeavor. The 21st century promises to be exciting times in the Kingdom of God and I believe Missionshift will help us to understand our various roles in the spreading of that Kingdom.