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The Transfiguration of Mission: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Foundations.

"The model of mission established by Jesus the Messiah is the prototype for all faithful mission" (p. 12). The thesis of this book, developed collaboratively by six Mennonite scholars over eighteen years, is that there is indeed an authentic biblical expression of the mission of God that is as valid and relevant today as in the days of Jesus the Messiah and the first disciples. It is that of a "messianic community" in whose life the region of God is actualized, living out the messianic ethic in this world, and in hope anticipating the glorious consummation of God's reign. While superficially bearing a resemblance to the recent conciliar emphasis on "Mission in Christ's Way," this Mennonite vision of the mission of the Messiah is at once more solidly grounded, uses more of Scripture to develop a consistent foundation, and eschews isolated emphases such as "mission among the poor" or "mission at the margins" in favor of a more comprehensive description of the mission of Messiah Jesus.

The title The Transfiguration of Mission refers to Jesus' critique of the Pharisees' mission (Matt. 23:15) and his desire not to negate its intention but to purify it of legalistic and propagandistic features and rehabilitate it as a method of recruiting disciples for God's kingdom. The volume recognizes the inherent risk of distortion and co-optation in all missionary efforts. Indeed, the claims made by the authors for a "neo-Anababtist" messianic model rest not only on faithfulness to a biblical basis (especially in the Synoptic Gospels) but equally on the fact that the model represented has been tried and tested over many centuries in "the history of that Anabaptist messianic community which knew the intense suffering, persecution and martyrdom of non-resident powerlessness at the hands of the sacral Christendom" (p. 43), which it dared to challenge as antiChrist. A confessional undercurrent running through the book is the overthrow of corrupt and unbiblical Christendom models and the restoration of geniune New Testament messianic Christianity.

As a paradigm for mission that combines careful biblical reflection, a Trinitarian basis, an eschatological framework, positive ecclesiological alternatives, and a welcome synthesis of evangelization and ethics--all the while avoiding destructive polarizing dichotomies--this neo-Anabaptist proposal deserves more extended commentary than the present space allows and can be profitably studied by any serious observer of mission.
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Author:Scherer, James A.
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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