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What Is Mission? Theological Explorations.

By J. Andrew Kirk. Minneapolis: Fortress Press; and London: Darton Longman & Todd, 1999. Pp. viii, 302. Paperback $19.95/[pound]12.95.

Author of numerous books on mission, Andrew Kirk is dean and head of the School of Mission and World Christianity at Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham, England. Kirk explains his purpose as "an attempt to present the crucial material on theology of mission in a convenient form ... intended to guide the student through some of the relevant discussion on a fairly wide range of issues" (p.1). In conversation with David Bosch's Transforming Mission, Kirk nevertheless interacts primarily with missiological reflection within the ecumenical movement.

The book is divided in three unequal parts. In part 1, "Laying Foundations," Kirk draws heavily from his earlier work, The Mission of Theology, and from perspectives flowing from the 1989 San Antonio gathering of the WCC's Commission on World Mission and Evangelism under the theme "Mission in Christ's Way." Part 2, "Contemporary Issues in Mission," is the heart of the book, where Kirk answers the question in the book's title. Part 3 is a single chapter that outlines briefly some of the directions of mission in the future as Kirk sees them.

What is mission? Kirk gives a fivefold answer. Mission is: (1) "announcing the Good News in culturally authentic ways; (2) struggling to right the wrongs caused by economic malfunction, environmental degradation and conflict; (3) engaging with people of different beliefs; (4) establishing new communities of disciples; and (5) seeking the unity of Christians and human communities" (pp.233-34). Many readers may disagree with the choice of issues Kirk has chosen to highlight. An additional provocative chapter is called "Sharing in Partnership." Here Kirk gives the reader much food for thought, though it is offered in small, bite-size morsels, almost in an outline form. One would wish Kirk had expanded this chapter to include a discussion of the goal of mission partnerships in our new reality of the world church, the majority of whose members are now in the South and East.

Kirk defines mission perhaps too broadly as "what the Christian community is sent to do" (p. 24). He defines theology of mission as "a means of validating, correcting and establishing on better foundations the motives and actions of those wanting to be part of the answer to the prayer, 'Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven"' (p. 21).

Readers will be encouraged by Kirk's emphasis on the mission of the triune God, understood from a kingdom of God perspective. He is correct in his strong emphasis throughout the work that the church is missionary by definition (p. 30) and thus that "there can be no theology without mission... no theology which is not missionary" (p. 11). Evangelicals may be dissatisfied with Kirk's somewhat apologetic approach to evangelism (pp. 57-74). Readers in church growth circles may be disheartened to see that Kirk ignores the movement's theoretical developments after the early 1980s, erroneously reducing church growth theory to issues of the homogeneous unit principle and people groups (p. 221).

This book will make a helpful text for students who wish to think deeply and creatively about the mission of the church. We are all in Andrew Kirk's debt for this clear, concise, broad, challenging, and stimulating work.

Charles Van Engen is the Arthur F. Glasser Professor of the Biblical Theology of Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary's School of World Mission, Pasadena, California.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Engen, Charles Van
Publication:International Bulletin of Missionary Research
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2001
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