Don’t let the seeming exclusivity in the title hold you back—this is the first of hopefully many books to be published by the World Reformed Fellowship, after all. For that matter, don’t let my past kvetchings about that other term in this title throw you either :). Because, in both cases—and I’ve said this elsewhere, too—being Christian has always meant being missional.
(Once again, the obligatory disclaimer: I was editor for this book. But I enjoyed working on this, and you should too.)
Nonetheless—and as the recent plethora of books on missionality indicate—this premise still isn’t a given in many sectors. Thus, as the title also suggests, this book is almost as much about why to be missional as it is about how to be missional, especially in the opening section “Laying the Foundation.” Much time is spent here presenting the theological/(church) historical grounds for having a missional focus. Fortunately, this section is also the shortest. And to be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this section, especially for those who still need convincing. However cogently, though, it’s basically making arguments I’d’ve thought were long-settled (but sadly, aren’t).
The second section, “The Church Reaches the World,” does a good job in moving us from the theoretical/theological and into the practical (if often very specific) facets of being missional. Thus, you’ll find chapters on missional responses to urban missions, migrant churches, secular Europe, Islam and the “hidden believers” movement, ministry to Israel, and the LGBT community, among others.
This section is also where the “heavy hitters” come out—including Tim Keller, Diane Langberg, and Boz Tchividjian. The latter two also provide two of my favorite (read: most visceral) chapters, on violence against women and child sexual abuse in the church, respectively. (Susan Post’s chapter on urban health care just prior to these is also a critical read.)
The third and final section, “Building the Church,” is ebook only, and that’s kind of a shame, because it’s my favorite of the three (although given its length, understandable—it’s easily another book in itself). Admittedly, it’s not dealing as much with “how to be missional,” but it addresses a very real corollary issue in the church today—i.e., how do you engage the world without being “of the world,” and what are some of the ramifications and consequences of doing so? Thus, we get chapters on the future of missional theological education; dealing with denominational schism (due to compromise of the Gospel); conversely, the importance of church unity (not uniformity); and just learning to embrace a more missional outlook in general at the denominational level.
My favorite chapter of the entire book, actually, is the final one, Craig Higgins’ “Word and Deed in Missional Worship and Ministry.” While many of the other chapters approach matters from a “big topic” and/or leadership perspective, this one gets down to the question most Christians are actually asking: How do I do this in my church? This chapter will help anyone to discover some practical ways to become more missional through the everyday context of their church—which ultimately is the goal of this entire book.
That said, most of the two dozen-plus chapters here will inspire you to see and think differently about the world around you—and maybe, just maybe, how to start engaging it as a Christian and be “salt and light” to it more visibly.