MissionShift: Global Mission Issues in the Third Millennium. Edited by David J. Hesselgrave and Ed Stetzer. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010. 312 pages. Softcover, $26.99.
Many evangelical missiologists remain locked in debate over a few missiological issues of vital importance. MissionShift will help to clarify these issues. Editors David Hesselgrave and Ed Stetzer differed with one another to some extent as they reacted to the thoughts of the other contributors to the book.
The book is a compilation of three essays with five responses to each. Stetzer wrote the introduction to the book and a response to each essay. Hesselgrave wrote the conclusion to the book. Charles Van Engen wrote the first essay: “‘Mission’ Defined and Described.” Keith Eitel, Enoch Wan, Darrell Guder, Andreas Köstenberger, and Stetzer responded to Van Engen. The late Paul G. Hiebert wrote the second essay: “The Gospel in Human Contexts: Changing Perceptions of Contextualization.” Michael Pocock, Darrell Whiteman, Norman Geisler, the late Avery Willis, and Stetzer responded to Hiebert. The late Ralph Winter wrote the third essay: “The Future of Evangelicals in Mission.” Scott Moreau, Christopher Little, Mike Barnett, J. Mark Terry, and Stetzer responded to Winter.
An apparent de-emphasis on biblical limitations to missiological creativity was a recurring theme in MissionShift. Van Engen explained that evangelicals are searching for creative definitions of mission (22). Eitel cautioned, however, that “creative tensions without biblically firm boundaries will result in compromises that undermine the message we have to offer to the world” (34). Köstenberger agreed with Eitel (64). Stetzer’s characterization of Eitel’s position was inappropriate: “He applies his concerns to any ‘creative’ missiology. This is the slippery slope argument—which the Pharisees applied to Jesus and the Judaizers to Paul” (73). Eitel only applied his concerns to creative missiology “without biblically firm boundaries.” Stetzer also used the term “Pharisees” in his response to Köstenberger and said that “Köstenberger follows Eitel’s argument down the slippery slope” (78). In contrast, Hesselgrave agreed with the concern of Eitel and Köstenberger: “Left to their own devices, Evangelical mission thinkers and practitioners tend to become overly creative and unduly adventurous” (278).
In his response to Hiebert’s essay, Whiteman endorsed C5 contextualization, which can involve believers attending a Mosque and continuing to use Muslim forms. Whiteman said, “I am convinced that there are no sacred forms, only sacred meanings” (124). Geisler correctly noted, however, that “forms communicate meaning” (142). He explained that “the C5 approach leads to syncretism, as field research has shown” (141).
In the final essay, Winter advocated a larger role for social ministry in evangelical mission work, and he spoke glowingly of the philanthropy of Bill Gates and Madonna (188). Little provided an appropriate retort: “Oprah can build schools; Madonna can sponsor orphanages; and Bill Gates can promote global health, but only the church is entrusted with the apostolic role of gospel proclamation” (217). Evangelicals who exercise good stewardship of limited resources will prioritize gospel proclamation over social ministry. A thorough reading of MissionShift will encourage caution in contextualization.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary