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Learning to partner with God through holistic missions

Book by Abilene Christian University faculty offers ‘a guide for transforming global poverty and ourselves.’

Isaiah 58:6-7 is a passage that we seldom associate with mission efforts. Monty Lynn, Rob Gailey and Derran Reese, however, use Isaiah 58:6-7 to introduce the idea of holistic mission work in their book, “Development in Mission: A Guide for Transforming Global Poverty and Ourselves.”

Monty Lynn, Rob Gailey and Derran Reese. Development in Mission: A Guide for Transforming Global Poverty and Ourselves. ACU Press, 2021. 224 pages. $20.99.

Monty Lynn, Rob Gailey and Derran Reese. Development in Mission: A Guide for Transforming Global Poverty and Ourselves. ACU Press, 2021. 224 pages. $20.99.

Lynn and Reese are on the faculty of Abilene Christian University, and Gailey is a faculty member at Point Loma Nazarene University. All three have served on the mission fields of Africa, Asia, or Europe, and all three teach university-level courses in missions or global development at their respective universities.

In Luke 4, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61 and announces that “today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Professors Lynn, Gailey and Reese remind us that Jesus saw his work as not just bringing “good news to the poor,” but also “release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, (and) to let the oppressed go free.”

These words are explored within the concept of missio Dei, that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit send the church into the world, not just to promote belief in Jesus, but to bind up the wounds and heal the brokenness of the world.

In developing their concept of holistic missions, the authors suggest that the aim of evangelical Christianity has become much narrower than the missional spirit of the first century church.

The “Bible testifies to a more holistic vision of redemption ­— one of justice for the widow, orphan, and stranger; of welcome for the child; of giving shelter, drink, and food; and of taking on the mind of Christ as we consider others and humble ourselves.”

The second and third sections of their book seek to provide a variety of ideas churches can use to develop more holistic missions.

They do not propose that a church try to do everything suggested, but through extended prayer and self-examination, each congregation should seek to determine the best fit of its missions by considering the calling, capability, context and commitment of the congregation.

The authors make several specific suggestions for maximizing the impact of mission efforts, including assessment of mission effectiveness.


Related: Our poverty challenges us to cling to God


The final chapter is one that we should all read, as a reminder that the global church is dynamic. Just as the church globally is significantly different today than it was a half-century ago, the church by mid-century will be much different than today. In particular, the church in the “global South” will continue growing even as the church in the “global North” continues its decline in numbers and influence.

Let us not become an anachronistic diminishing American church, but rather let us embrace the growth of the worldwide church with awe and humility. Let us be strategic partners with God in its growth. “Development in Mission” offers helpful counsel toward this goal.

LEN FEUERHELM is emeritus professor of physics at Oklahoma Christian University and serves as a deacon over missions for the Wilshire Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.

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Filed under: Abilene Christian University book review Features Global church mission work poverty Reviews Top Stories

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