Book Review: Contextualization in World Missions by A. Scott Moreau

contextualization-in-world-missions-mapping-assessing-evangelical-models-a-moreau-paperback-cover-artI’m not gonna lie, this isn’t the type of book for me. Though I am very interested in missions and it’s branches I usually tend to stay in the realm of biblical and systematic theology. From reading this book I not only am reminded of a module I took back in the day on church planting but also the sheer immensity of taking the truths of the bible and making them applicable to all the nations. This book is very thoroughly researched and it’s clear that Moreau has done his homework to such an extent that would make all other research somewhat less exciting.

The Gist

Examining more than 5000 reference items Moreau has put together a monumental survey of the contextualization landscape. Though this book is not an extensive measure to produce every reference it is a “map” of the missiological landscape in which much of the work of contextualization is done. The language used throughout this text is that of mapping and landscapes. Moreau tells us that what he intends to do is offer a travel guide to the evangelical continent which makes up only a small portion of the contextual world.

I offer a “travel guide” of the evangelical continent rather than a global map. We know some of the parts of our continent very well and are quite comfortable with them. We know other parts less well, and they may seem strange but not threatening. However, we also need to explore some of the more challenging, even dangerous, corners of our continent, and the ways evangelicals warn fellow evangelicals to stay away from them.

The Ups

I like the language used in this book. It helps me to wrap my head around the complex thinking behind this vast wave of information. Perhaps one of the more favorable things Moreau has done is be purposely careful to draw on perspectives offered by missiologists rather than those of theologians. The latter has done a great job of formulating a workable theology but the former have far outdone themselves in the application of that theology. Another very helpful aspect to this text is the short chapter overviews which are placed at the beginning of every chapter, followed by a brief outline of its main points. The outlines allowed me to follow along with the text and saving me from drowning in the sea of technical terms. This leads me to the next thing I loved about this text. Moreau places at the end of each chapter three sections which will help the reader advance in an understanding of the chapter. He includes these sections; Keywords for Review, Questions for Reflection, and For Further Study. Not only are the review terms helpful for an understing of contextualization, they are also useful for practical application to one’s own ministry.
The high point of this text came to me in the form of chapter 4 which sought to point out the good contextualization from the bad. Up to that point, and even after I kept asking myself and even scribbled in the margins, “What does this mean or have to do with me”? I thought this chapter did an excellent job in bringing together both a practical application into my own ministry but it also led me to a point where I understood more deeply the ways in which contextualization may be best used for my ministry in the future.

The Downs

All this being said I did have some points in this text where I was thoroughly confused by all the technical jargon used by Moreau. I believe that missiologists would be able to pick up these terms quite usefully but here I find that the fault lies with me. I’m just not used to this sort of language hence the confusion on my part. When you pick up a text on missions and it’s methods I don’t think one automatically assumes to have knowledge of Apostolic accommodation, Existential controlled contextualization, Critical Realism, Naive Realism, the CAMEL evangelism method. Though this may be assumed on the part of the author, after all, why would you pick up a text regarding the assessment of missiological models unless you had some knowledge as to what those models may be? That being said this book was helpful but I believe only to the few who have a working knowledge of models and methods of contextualization, particularly those whose context finds itself vested in another culture on a nation half-way around the world.

 

Concluding Remarks

Overall Moreau does an excellent job of drawing on all sorts of research to formulate this text many will find helpful. If you’re not in a missional mindset and don’t plan on being so then I would not recommend this text for you. This text is more for the layperson in the church who has a passion for missions and seeks to bring into their ministry a way of categorizing methods in which they can reach their communities for Christ. Being of that mindset, at least a bit, I found this volume to be quite daunting but with helpful points where I found myself refreshed in the midst of the immensity of this text.

Additional Resources

Contextualization in World Missions: Mapping and assessing Evangelical Methods
Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2012
429 Pages
Paperback Book
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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