Friday, April 9, 2010

Book Review: The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone, Samuel Escobar

Summary of Samuel Escobar’s Main Arguments

Samuel Escobar begins in chapter one, of The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone, by illustrating a new picture of global mission in the 21st century. He says, “Christian mission in the 21st century has become the responsibility of a global church (p. 12).” Gone are the days where just North Americans are primary senders of missionaries to the rest of the world. Now people from all over the world are being sent to the entire world. The Gospel speaks to people of every culture and is translatable to every culture (p. 12).

Escobar says that “The heart of “mission” is the drive to share the good news with all, to cross every boarder with the gospel (p. 13).” We live in a multicultural world where western Christianity is being confronted by the Christianity of the southern hemisphere, which is “marked by a culture of poverty, an oral liturgy, narrative preaching, uninhibited emotionalism, maximum participation in prayer and worship, dreams and visions, faith healing, and an intense search for community and belonging (p. 15).”

A shift has occurred in Christianity in the global south where Christianity is flourishing. The gospel is being preached by people with few financial, material, or technical resources, rather than by people with power and privilege [I would add, like those of us in the US] (p. 19). In other words missions is happening more from the “global south” and from other parts of the globe than it is solely from North America. Missionaries are being sent from “all nations” to “all people.” We are moving to an imperial missiology, to an incarnational and truly international missiology (p. 26).

In Chapter two Escobar begins his brief summary of Christian Missions by pointing out that both the divine and the human dimensions of missions should be considered. He also suggests that passion and commitment to Christ must be looked at when looking at missionaries along with “the good the bad and the ugly” concerning missions. Escobar gives us a two thousand year history of missions in chapter two which includes “the good the bad and the ugly” and ends with missions as it relates to all nations. Escobar notes that in our current point in time in history the church is most like the early church than ever before. We have gone back to smaller groups of Christians all around the world, and now there are now smaller communities of persecuted Christians all around the world as well.

In chapter three Escobar describes the current context of global missions noting, like Thomas Friedman in The World is Flat, that the world is indeed basically flat and that we live in a global economy and a “global village,” if you will. While the times are exciting and the potential is endless concerning missions, there are both good and bad sides to this “globalization of missions.” Economic potentials become factors in people’s worth and values and the current technological trends and advances can rob people of true biblical fellowship and incarnational ministry. Escobar says we should be mindful of the cultural context of missions work, and not be “just harbingers of the new globalization process (p. 63).”

Increasing poverty is also problematic in our current globalized community. On one hand some mission work is geared toward helping the poor and alleviating poverty and on the other hand the poor themselves are a missionary force to be reckoned with (p. 65). One outcome of this dynamic is the cooperative model of missions in which “churches from rich nations add their material resources to the human resources of poor nations in order to work in a third area (p. 67). Migrants are also acting as cross-cultural missionaries.

In chapter four, Samuel Escobar addresses the postmodern trends in western cultures. Post-modernity is characterized by critiques of Christian values, the glorification of the body, and an acute interest in consumption and materialism (p. 75, 76). Post-modernity characterizes western culture and should be evaluated on the basis of scripture and addressed as any other culture (p. 72). There have been some changes within the church that reflect the shift toward post-modernity in the church, notes Escobar (p. 80). Another reaction within the church to post-modernism and the rise of Islam is fundamentalism which leads to a militaristic and nationalistic approach to missions which should be avoided (p. 82).

In chapter five Samuel Escobar describes our God as a missionary God who “is active in the world, active in human history through the people He calls and sends, [and] is at the heart of mission (p. 86). God chooses people and then sends them out as missionaries while weaving a web of human relationships based on His love of human kind. Escobar maps out how God sends His Apostles throughout the Old and New Testaments. Throughout the history of the church the churches history of response to God’s call has varied between obedience and disobedience (p. 90-92). Escobar notes that missions should always be marked by our dependence on God and not our own strength (p. 94).

Chapter six outlines how Christ is God’s best missionary. Escobar states that “one might summarize the history of Christian mission as the way in which people in thousands of cultures and languages have come to know Jesus, the way in which the name of Jesus has been proclaimed and honored from country to country, from culture to culture, from language to language, from century to century (p. 98).”

Jesus continues to inspire people to give their lives in service to Him today, notes Escobar. He goes on to talk of how Jesus was sent by his father and how Jesus sends his disciples. This is noted in John 17 in Jesus’ prayer to His Father, and as the Apostle Paul states, this occurred at just the right time in history (p. 98, 99). Escobar also says that Christ is our pattern for mission and that “If Christ is at the center of the gospel and of missionary activity, His way of being God’s missionary also becomes a pattern for life and mission (p. 106).” Escobar then goes on in chapter six to describe how we are to be imitators of Christ in mission through compassion, serving, confronting, and being incarnational (p. 107-110).

Chapter seven of The New Global Mission is probably my favorite. It addresses the Holy Spirit in Christian Mission. Escobar begins this chapter noting from Bishop John V. Taylor, and I would add and from scripture, that “The chief actor in the historic mission of the Christian church is the Holy Spirit. He is the director of the whole enterprise (p. 112).” We must not underestimate the Holy Spirit in missions. Missions is not something that we do in our own power, it is what God does in His power through us.

While I was less interested in the history of the Pentecostal movement, the history of the Holy Spirit at work in mission, the spread of the gospel, and the growth of the church is essential and of extreme importance to all of us. Escobar ends this chapter strongly with some major premises of The Holy Spirit and mission. One, “the word of promise becomes a reality by the work of the spirit (p. 120).” Two, “the ministry of Jesus is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit (p. 121).” Three, “God uses people filled with the power of the Holy Spirit (p. 122).” Four, “Jesus teaches about the work of the Holy Spirit in Missions (p. 123).” And finally in his fifth point or premise, Escobar says, “the growth of the church in numbers and depth is the work of the Holy Spirit (p. 124).”

Chapter eight, Text and Context: The Word Through New Eyes, focuses on the importance of scripture and context in mission. The protestant reformation, notes Escobar, was an intense time of translating and distributing the Bible, which in turn contributed to mission and the growth of the church (p. 129). “Scripture was a fundamental component” of missionary methodology and still is (p. 129). Escobar makes a point that I think is key to this chapter, “The concern to put the Bible into people’s hands, in their own language, was related to the conviction that God speaks through His Word and by His Spirit in a way that the average Christian can understand (p. 131).” God’s desire is to communicate to His people. Scripture is Missional and is essential for mission.

In chapter nine, Mission as Transforming Service, Escobar points out that mission occurs in transforming service. This Biblical pattern of service encompasses Christian mission in human and social transformation (p. 146). John Stott, a consulting editor in this work, also wrote extensively about this type of holistic mission, that many evangelicals are leaning toward, in his work Christian Mission in the Modern World.

Escobar points out Matthew 9:36-38 and how “Jesus immersed among the people, ministering to their needs, and points clearly to the deep compassion that moved Him to action (p. 143).” The people we are ministering to should not be faceless projects but should be seen as “sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus’ mission was holistic and met all of people’s needs and our mission should be the same as we model what Jesus does (p. 146). Escobar ends this chapter emphasizing that “word and deed go hand in hand” when it comes to mission (p. 152-154). “Today mission should consist of service-service both of the spiritual in proclaiming the word and in the physical in meeting human needs, according to Jesus’ model and in His name (p. 154).”

Finally, in chapter ten, Escobar emphasizes a “New Way of Looking at Our World” when it comes to mission. The people of this world are people looking for meaning and purpose. “If the sick person is to be made whole, we must involve in the restoration process the center of personality where the quest for meaning and purpose exist (Fountain, p. 155).” We must transition to looking at the world through a kingdom lens so we regard no one according to this world or its point of view (p. 156). We must be on guard in missions not to depersonalize others (p. 156).

The theology of the early church changed the way other people were viewed and advanced the growth of the early church and advanced missions. This also provoked tensions in the early church, but it was necessary (p. 158). We must move from our secular world and world views and move toward a kingdom and biblical world view (p. 159). We must look at our western culture and societies as the mission fields that they are, and begin to re-evangelize the west (p. 162).

The shift is clear. People are being sent to share the gospel from everywhere to everyone. We must rethink mission and look to how missions are changing and we must look to send from everywhere to everyone, and even to our own back yards. The church is global and she is sending from everywhere to everyone and we must be a part of that. We also must look very differently at missions and look very differently at our world.

Evaluation: Assessing the Theological and Practical Relevance of The New Global Mission

The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone, by Samuel Escobar, is a very practical and relevant, theologically sound, and helpful piece of work for us to consider in reflecting on, thinking about, and embarking on missions today. It is extremely important for us to look differently at mission and to look at our world in a new way and through a different mission world-view. A new century is dawning in missions. “Christian mission in the 21st century has become the responsibility of a global church (p. 12).”

May we be sending the Gospel from everywhere to everyone! May we be missional!



Escobar, Samuel. The New Global Mission: The Gospel from Everywhere to Everyone. Intervarsity Press. Downers Grove, IL. © 2003

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