The Trellis and the Vine is an interesting analogy. The authors suggest that the trellis is the church in maintenance structure and the vine as the Gospel growth through Christian co-workers. This is a helpful image, but one which soon breaks down when you see the ‘ministry mind shift’ they suggest. The first is ‘from running programs to building people’ and the second: ‘from running events to training people’. There are nine more. It is easy to argue that effective programs are people and good events are training opportunities. Having said that, I value the book precisely because it overstates the point and challenges the church to radically rethink how programs are people and events training opportunities etc. So, especially in the English context, this is provocative and challenging, but it is a challenge we constantly need to face if we are going to be congregations where everyone is engaged in evangelism.
Kirsteen Kim is an authority in England on the world church and is well placed to write about how the global connects with the local. This is a thoroughly researched text book with insight and comment from many and various contexts which inform the UK. Drawing on experience, insight and study from Latin America, India, Africa and North East Asia, Kirsteen considers social, religious and political cultures to inform her conclusions. Her common thread is the work of the Holy Spirit who inspires a wide range of mission, and the book explores a quote from Rowan Williams, ' Christian mission is finding out where the Holy Spirit is at work and joining in'. Comprehensive, well written and helpful to me when visiting an Asian congregation in Hounslow, it links with the Edinburgh 2010 anniversary conference in June, but will have much more significance beyond that.
This is the kind of book that makes you want to write another. Strident words and a particular viewpoint on a topic which has caused division and rift in the past is bound to be an interesting read. Here is an example, 'Please understand that I have the greatest respect for Christian works of compassion … however … we must never again allow social action to usurp the place of evangelistic ministry' (p108). The value of this book is the reminder a) of where we have come from in mission thinking and b) re-emphasis of aspects which sometimes need restating to get the balance right. So, here we have a controversial book, but well written, crisp and clear which defends a conservative evangelical theological viewpoint on foreign missions reaching people who have not heard the Gospel before. The task is still unfinished and this book will equip some to go and preach, while cause others to think again about what mission is all about.
Steve is a mine of information and very articulate in the way he puts it over. Here in his first major work he covers a vast range of topics re the Gospel in contemporary culture. Collecting facts and figures, research information, and a wide range of helpful source material he argues that even evangelism needs to be more mission shaped. By this he means engaging with the new spiritualities and 'Today’s Temples and Market Places', not in terms of open air preaching but real engagement with people and issues on the ground. The whole premise is probably summarised on p168, 'cross cultural evangelism is not about changing the clothing of an explanation of Jesus' death, but finding which parts of the whole story are "good news" within each culture and starting from these to explore the rest'. I warmly commend it.
- A practical Guide for Developing Missional Churches
by Alan Hirsch with Darryn Altclass
Here is another book which takes the reader / church leader through a process of moving a church from maintenance to mission, and looks, I think, one of the best around. It has a detailed programme but open approach; it is not English but speaks to the English church well; it facilitates a 'bottom up' approach, while offering leadership from the front. It will be a helpful resource book. Group sessions and reflections help to make this a spiritual journey even though a key is the action learning model which is used to facilitate new ways of thinking. Although Australian, I think this work will be well read and the principles applied to the UK context. The process emphasises the heart of church and mission being Jesus, the task of making disciples, with the mission impulse being incarnational. Nothing new you might think, but the exploration is helpful as often 'forgotten'. Do read.
This book has been long awaited by some, especially those who thought Roxburgh's early work was too academic. It addresses the question: 'How do we turn the church round from maintenance to mission?' Ten years ago he provided the theory and now he provides the practical framework for doing so, suggesting a congregational questionnaire / presentation / workshops / project plan framework. This is good for not providing high ideals and big targets, but Roxburgh's contribution is still best when cogently arguing for a missional church. His work can be transferred to this side of the pond and I found his most helpful quote from Rowan Williams (p20) who said, 'It is not the church of God that has a mission. It is the God of mission that has a church'.