Well, after much more time that I thought it would take to get around to blogging through Tennent’s IWM, I wanted to start with the 1st Chapter which also serves as the introduction. Before I do, I will start by trying to situate this book amongst other introductions to missions. Then, I will share just a little from the 1st chapter to whet your appetite, and then I’ll cover the majority of the 1st chapter in my next post, hopefully tomorrow. So, without further ado…
First, this is very much a textbook. It is not light reading, though it isn’t boorish or overly technical. It isn’t easy, though it is neither pretentious, nor dry. I haven’t yet finished the book (am only on chapter 5) but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is NOT an Intro to Missions which is going to talk about “how to’s” such as “how to raise support,” “how to raise children on the mission field,” or “how to translate the Bible into another language.” I think what Tennent has to say will affect how you think about each of those issues, but this is not a handbook about navigating missionary life in the “bush.” Instead it is a Missiological text. Though if you type in “missiology” at Amazon, you will find many books with missiology in the title or subtitle, yet who function much more like the aforementioned missions handbook.
I am not knocking the handbook. I own and have read books like that, but you need to know before starting that Tennent isn’t writing a handbook, nor a mission history book, though he talks a lot about the advance of the Gospel throughout history. This difference is that he isn’t sharing so much the history of missionaries, but the history of the Gospel and what the Gospel has been doing throughout time. He doesn’t start with missions, but with God. And it’s hard to talk about God without talking about history, and since God acts in space and time, you will definitely see Tennent talking about history. Just don’t expect a mission history book full of biographies of folks living and dying in hard, remote places and eating weird things. I like those books too, but this isn’t one of them.
This isn’t even one of those books that picks 10 hot topics in missiology and covers the debate between opposing sides in each issue. While Tennent touches on many of the issues that might arise in those type of books, he’s not choosing hot topics so much as he is walking through a Theology of the Missio Dei (the mission of God) and dealing with issues that arise from that study. He is beginning with God. A novel place to start in mission books, no doubt. Seems like a no duh, right. It’s not. Again, I like those hot topic books…alot, but this isn’t one of them.
So, I share that in hoping that discerning what this book is NOT will help you understand better what it IS. It’s pure theology. The result in a book rich in reflection on the nature of the Triune God, the Church, Man, Culture, etc. While he definitely pulls together thoughts, and speaks his mind about what these things mean for today, he refrains (at least so far) in saying anything like, “Therefore, to do missions the right way, we must do these 7 things.” It isn’t that this book is not practical, it’s just that a person’s context will determine how these foundational truth will be applied to ministry. These ideas are not ivory tower pronouncements either. They have real meaning for real places, and Tennent’s 20+ years of ministry on multiple continents is proof.
So, if you want to be stretched in your thinking…if you want a stronger foundation in the nature of God, the Church, and what God is asking of the Church, then this is your book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Get it here.
So, now to actually talking through the 1st Chapter. But first, a short disclaimer here: I have tried to be faithful to Tennent’s ideas. Below you will see a melange of either his exact words or my summary of an idea that he communicates. I take no personal credit for anything profound, but all the blame for any misrepresentation. I didn’t want to spend a ton of time on formatting, so I’ve tried to just give the basic info regarding where a thought is found. So, I think that each post may look a little different. What I want to do with Chapter 1 is whet your appetite. After briefly illustrating the huge changes happening in the global church today, Tennent launches in with 7 megatrends that are shaping 21st Century Missions. In what remains, I will share just three situations that illustrate the monumental changes taking place in the church, and in the following post, you’ll get the 7 megatrends. What follows is found on page 16f of IWM and is taken from Barrett and Johnson’s World Christian Trends, also available online at googlebooks):
1. More Anglicans worship in Nigeria in any given week than all the Episcopal and Anglican churches of Europe and North America combined!
2. There are more evangelicals in Nepal than in Spain.
3. All 10 of the most gospel-resistant people groups in the world are located in Western Europe, whereas all 10 of the most gospel-receptive people groups in the world today are located in either China or India. In fact, China can now boast of the fastest growing church in the world, with an estimated 16,500 new Christians every day.
In short, the Western church is bleeding members while the churches of sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia are experiencing growth on a scale never though possible. I believe it was Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, who said that today’s average/typical/proto-typical Christian is a black, African woman in early adulthood. What a change that is from the era when missions was the white man’s burden!