Tuesday, May 5, 2015

God-centred, Integrative and Expansive: Book Review of Tim Chester's Mission Matters: Love Says Go

Tim Chester's new book is an excellent introduction to mission. Tim has the gift of writing theology which is both thoroughly biblical and winsomely engaging.

God-centred

Mission Matters is God-centred because it is biblical and theological. Tim draws his missiology from the Bible by expounding the Bible's grand storyline and showing how mission is first and foremost God's project. "The starting point is this," he writes: "God the Father loves his Son" (p. 17). Mission, then, is at the heart of who God is, in the relationships of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is not first of all what we are to do but what God already does. And because the Son sends us (John 20:21) we share in his mission. Few mission books are as carefully theological but this one is so without being obtuse in its language. It is a great example of writing that is thoroughly Bible-centred and readable.

Integrative

Tim has written before on the important topic of the relationship of evangelism and social action (Good News for the Poor). He follows the same track here arguing for a broad definition of mission while giving gospel proclamation a central position in that paradigm. Tim's later work (e.g. Total Church) comes through too with an emphasis on the role of the gospel community in mission: "Sustainable Christian evangelism or discipleship or development or social action all require sustainable Christian communities. Without a local church, whatever you do will end when you go" (p. 90). Amen to that.

Expansive 

There is a major problem with a lot of mission writing these days. With the collapse of Christendom there has been a much-needed rethinking about mission resulting in a renewed appreciation that the West is also a mission-field. So mission is from everywhere to everywhere. Churches in the West, then, need to be mission-minded in their posture to the ambient society. In short, they need to be 'missional'. All well and good. But some writers have been so taken with this new paradigm that they have all but abandoned the needs of vast numbers of people who inhabit far less spiritually salubrious locations than, say, the UK. After all, we have neighbours who need the gospel. Indeed, but that is only part of the ongoing story. Tim doesn't fall into this pitfall and argues that mission must be 'Everywhere with the unreached as the priority' (chapter 8). I would have liked to see a bit more on what this means on the ground but the task is clearly stated nonetheless.

Two small criticisms:

  1. it is odd that the publishers chose to use a title that was already used recently by Kieran Beville (see my review here);
  2. the frequent references to stories of missionaries who have been associated with the Keswick Convention got a bit tiresome to me, but then the book was written as part of a series for the Keswick movement so what would one expect.

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