God’s People in Mission: An Anabaptist Perspective
Stanley W. Green and Rafael Zaracho
Reviewed by D. Berg
What is the subject?
The 10 chapters of God’s People in Mission expound on the 10 missional statements developed by the Mission Commission of Mennonite World Conference. This document adopted in 2014 was developed out of five theological and missiological convictions shared by Anabaptist mission leaders:
- God as a missionary God.
- The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus is given meaning by the missionary purposes of God.
- The primary agency of Holy Spirit is to empower the church for missional engagement with the world.
- The entire Bible is a missional narrative.
- The whole church is a missionary community.
Who is the author?
Mennonite World Conference Mission Commission chair Stanley W. Green and secretary Rafael Zaracho edited the book, bringing continuity throughout the chapters. The impetus of the book was a desire to revive the mission perspective of Anabaptist churches.
One of the many highlights of God’s People in Mission: An Anabaptist Perspective is the multifarious contributors – from Spain, Colombia, the USA, DR Congo, Indonesia, Paraguay, South Africa, and Mexico, with long-term experience in France, West Africa, East Africa and Mongolia. As each author contributes both theological and experiential insights, the book becomes alive with variety and impact. The editors’ work is seen in threads that tie the principles together.
Why this book?
God’s People in Mission calls pastors, preachers, and teachers to inspire local and global mission. It is a plea to restore the value of mission to our churches.
According to the MWC Mission Commission, this book was meant to strengthen and revitalize the missional theology of Anabaptists. The authors systematically expand on solid missional statements through practical theology, and challenge the reader to pursue the call to live missionally.
Another highlight is the evidence of partnership between Global North and Global South churches. Churches all over the world are sending and receiving missionaries – each increasing diverse experiences of each other’s culture. Only as we share cultural understandings with other ethnicities will the church mature in the fullness of God’s kingdom purposes.
It can be difficult for many individuals to feel connected historically to the biblical narrative, as if we are a part of the ongoing narrative of Scripture. We often approach the Bible as though it is strictly a history book or an instruction manual. However, there are times we need to see ourselves as the ongoing narrative begun in the Old and New Testament.
The practical connection between biblical narrative and cultural identity, specifically regarding the Genesis creation story in the chapter by Mvwala Katshinga of DRC, is insightful. It flows into a theological/ethnic debate on the connection between the three sons of Noah and their possible connection with the tribes of Africa. This ethnic heritage is a significant study for many tribes as it holds the potential lineage of those from the cursed son of Noah.
What you disagreed with
In the introduction, the authors bemoan that, “Even while we continue to accent discipleship, we have muted the passionate, even sacrificial, commitment to evangelism.” While discipleship and evangelism could be seen as two distinct doctrines within Christianity, it seems dangerous to polarize them.
To say that Anabaptists are strong in discipleship while neglecting evangelism takes evangelism out of the discipleship process and makes it more of an event than an ongoing story of a person with God. Although evangelism is sometimes seen as a stand-alone moment inside the Christian journey, it could also be seen as a step in the discipleship process. This would conjoin both the work of salvation and the sanctification process in every believer.
However, I would agree that today’s generation needs to find ways to be effective evangelists within the discipleship process. We do need to continue to accent discipleship, but include sacrificial evangelism as part of the process. Transforming our thoughts from entitlement to sacrifice is a generational challenge we face in Christian maturity.
Who should read this book?
Each church should consider the sacrifice they must make to include evangelism as a key (if not central) aspect of their congregation’s commitment to mission both locally and globally.
Church leaders would particularly benefit from these principles as they look for theological purposes for their church.
Those considering career mission or those exploring evangelism would also benefit tremendously from reading the convictions presented here.
The third and final group who should read God’s People In Mission are those who simply want to understand the distinctives of Anabaptists. Every chapter includes insights into the narrative of Anabaptists including many dynamics of their historical background or the stimulant which keeps them inspired.
“As the Global South increases its engagement in cross-cultural mission, we now have the opportunity, as a polycentric community in mission, to discern what more thoughtful, sensitive and appropriate approaches in mission might look like. We can learn from each other, and from the past, in the hope of not repeating the mistakes of a previous era.”
Watching diverse nationalities working together towards mission is an exciting part of the new mission movement. North Americans, Europeans, Africans, South Americans, Asians, and Middle Easterners sharing the call to bring the gospel to every ethnic group is turning global mission into a partnership movement. As this continues, each group will need to discover their unique contribution to the process.
is a long-term worker with Multiply, based in Austria
We in North America and the Western world are such dualistic thinkers! If we look at the stories of Jesus he very much integrated his teaching, healing and calling out people to follow him as one smooth flow of ministry. We seem to have to continually learn to do that!