A comparatively large number of well done books on the sharing of the Good News at home and abroad appeared during 1972. The book that generated the greatest interest is Why Conservative Churches Are Growing by Dean M. Kelley (Harper & Row). The author, an executive with the National Council of Churches, charts the membership decline of the ecumenical bodies and the rapid growth in many evangelical or sectarian groups. Kelley says a clear statement of a place to stand (ultimate meaning), a test of the readiness of prospective members, and tight internal control of authority characterize growing churches. The book challenges the assumption that to be successful, churches must be reasonable and open to criticism from the world’s point of view. Eternity magazine selected it as the most significant book of the year for evangelicals.
MISSIONS The debate over the goal of mission and the meaning of evangelism continues. The Eye of the Storm: The Great Debate in Mission, edited by Donald McGavran (Word), lets widely differing viewpoints focus upon the question whether attempts to convert others are outdated. Differences between ecumenical and evangelical understandings are clearly evidenced. These differences are also evident in the essays on The Future of the Christian World Mission, edited by William Danker and Wi Jo Kang (Eerdmans) to honor leading missiologist R. Pierce Beaver. McGavran also edited Crucial Issues in Missions Tomorrow (Moody), in which several evangelicals write on theological, anthropological, and practical issues.
Catholic publishers were busy dealing with revolution and political theology in Liberation, Development and Salvation (Orbis) by René Laurentin and The Church and Revolution (Orbis) by François Houtart and André Rousseau. Laurentin is representative of the increasing number of theological writers emerging in the third world. His thought reaches beyond the traditional theological categories to the categories of “liberation” and “revolution.” From the African scene the changes in mission theology are represented in Mission and Ministry (Sheed and Ward) by Adrian Hastings.
In a readable short book, The Validity of the Christian Mission (Harper & Row), Elton Trueblood states that the greater danger today is to have service without evangelism. Two other small volumes, however, may have more significance for evangelicals. Peter Beyerhaus has become well known in North America, largely through being a chief architect of the Frankfurt Declaration. In Shaken Foundations (Zondervan) Beyerhaus clarifies the underlying theological issues and the history of the declaration. He appeals for a return to a more biblical definition of mission and maintains that biblical hermeneutics is the starting point. For a fuller understanding of his thinking one should also read his Missions: Which Way? (Zondervan).
Strachan of Costa Rica by Dayton Roberts (Eerdmans) is much more than a biography of the late leader of Latin America Mission and founder of Evangelism-in-Depth. It is also, as the subtitle indicates, full of “missionary insights and strategies.” A book that could lead to further debate in evangelical circles is Frontiers of Missionary Strategy (Moody) by C. Peter Wagner, formerly of Bolivia and now at Fuller’s School of World Mission. The church-growth school of thought has often been criticized for not having an adequate theological undergirding. Wagner outlines several theological principles related to a strategy for church growth.
Church-mission relations continue to draw much attention in evangelical mission circles. The papers of Green Lake ’71, a major conference on this theme, are included in Missions in Creative Tension, edited by Vergil Gerber (William Carey). Out of the conference emerged the desire to articulate more clearly the issues of the relation between mission agencies and both the sending and the receiving churches. A more polished volume to grow out of Green Lake is Church/Mission Tensions Today, edited by C. Peter Wagner (Moody). Sending and receiving churches, mission agencies, missionaries, national workers, and the complex of relations among them are discussed in twelve essays.
Besides the many special studies, there is a notable new comprehensive treatment available, A Biblical Theology of Missions by George W. Peters (Moody). The author is a Mennonite and has taught for many years at Dallas Seminary. The book will doubtless be used as a text in many seminaries and Bible colleges.
Special mention should be made of Patterns of Christian Acceptance: Individual Response to the Missionary Impact, 1550–1950 (Oxford) by Martin Jarrett-Kerr. The author cuts across all church boundaries and gives a readable and scholarly account of the missionary impact in the lives of some significant but lesser-known persons of the third world. The book brings together much information not readily accessible elsewhere. Another book of reference interest is Bibliography For Cross-Cultural Workers by A. R. Tippett (William Carey).
EVANGELISM The year of Key 73 is upon us, and several 1972 books on evangelism demand attention. The All-Mennonite Consultation on Evangelism resulted in Probe: For an Evangelism That Cares, edited by Jim Fairfield (Herald). The purpose is to put to rest once for all the division between evangelism and social action. The Christian Reformed Church called a consultation to discuss what the Scriptures had to say about the nature of the Church and evangelism in the twentieth century. Who in the World? (Eerdmans), edited by Clifford Christians, Earl J. Schippers, and Wesley Smedes, is the result. Evangelism Now (Baker), edited by Ralph G. Turnbull, surveys different means of evangelism. Evangelism Alert: A Strategy for the Seventies, edited by Gilbert Kirby (World Wide), presents the papers of the 1971 European Congress on Evangelism. The Explo Story by Paul Eshelman (Regal) tells about the huge meeting of youth to promote evangelism in Dallas last year.
A book of great practical value is the Congregational Resource Book, prepared by the Committee for Key 73 (418 Olive St., St. Louis, Mo. 63102). As the title suggests, the book consists of numerous specific suggestions and lists of suitable materials.
Every year sees a number of books on personal evangelism. Among the more interesting and fresh ones this year were A Coward’s Guide to Witnessing by Ken Anderson (Creation House), Say It With Love by Howard Hendricks (Victor), and Explosive Evangelism by George Jaffray, Jr. (Tyndale Bible Society).
George M. Marsden is associate professor of history at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has the Ph.D. (Yale University) and has written “The Evangelical Mind and the New School Presbyterian Experience.”
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