Title: Spiritual Equipping for Mission: Thriving as God’s Message Bearers
Author: Ryan Shaw
Publisher: IVP Books, 2014
Book review by: Karen Davison,
NSW/ACT Personnel Manager
Available from Koorong (print and ebook) and other Christian bookstores
Ryan Shaw is involved in cross-cultural ministry and in equipping others for mission. He has written several books and other publications.
Although I’m often sceptical when picking up books by American authors, I was drawn by Shaw’s focus on the spiritual life of the ‘message-bearer’. As Tom Lin says in his introduction, “One of the most urgent and strategic issues in the mission field today [is] nurturing the spiritual life of the missionary.” The recent history of mission has placed a great deal of emphasis on the task of evangelism. Many ‘message-bearers’, both in the cross-cultural context and in our churches at home, are focussed on the task of making the gospel known but are neglecting the importance of growing their own inner spiritual life. Ultimately, they will be ineffective in their task, claims Shaw.
“The Great Commission is a spiritual work, not merely a strategic one. It’s effectively served through spiritual people, full of the Holy Spirit, obedient to Jesus, consistently tending the garden of their inner life.” In this book, Shaw explores 10 ‘Spiritual Keys’ that are the inner-life characteristics of effective and thriving message-bearers.
This book should be read prayerfully, with time to reflect on each area. I liked the emphasis it places on deepening spirituality, whilst remaining very grounded in Scripture, the cross, and the task of ‘message-bearing’. I found it challenging and at times confronting, yet also practical and encouraging. This is a timely and relevant read for all ‘message-bearers’, at ‘home’ and in a cross-cultural context
Author: Christopher D Marshall
Book review by: Christine Gobius
Available from Pandora Press, 2001.
Marshall argues that Christians have something special to say about human rights because the notion of human rights is deeply, and uniquely, grounded in the biblical story. Many secularists would object to this position because of their fundamental belief that religious views lack neutrality and universal application in contrast to a secular worldview.
Furthermore, Marshall describes how the fundamental legitimacy of a universal human standard is increasingly being rejected. He maintains, however, that a continuum of moral values exists, with some being universal and others more culturally defined. Marshall spends most of the book demonstrating that there are “sweeping implications of a human rights kind” (p.51) in God’s teaching on righteousness and covenant community. He does this by examining what he terms six key narrative moments – Creation, Cultural Mandate, Covenant, Christ, Church, and Consummation.
He says of the church that as it follows Jesus’ example it most powerfully demonstrates human rights by exercising its role as reconciling community, where individuals transcend private advantage for the benefit of others. True freedom is “emancipation from oppression”, both outward (from exploitation and injustice) and inward (from sin and guilt). The latter he emphasises is a most powerful force in the subversion of outward structures of oppression.
Marshall laments the lack of serious theological reflection in this area but strongly encourages Christians to engage in human rights dialogue to allow the distinctiveness of the Christian voice to be heard. “Those who look to the Christian Scriptures for guidance … should become both the world’s greatest champions of human rights and the world’s greatest critics of rights gone awry” (p.22).
As we are overwhelmed by the violations of human rights on the world stage week after week, reading Marshall has sharpened my sensitivity to these issues, intensified the pain I feel, confronted me with my own complacence and encouraged me that God’s kingdom both now and not yet is the hope we hold on to.
Breaking Calabashes: Becoming an Intercultural Community is a timely new book offering practical ways to break our assumptions about others in the interests of becoming communities in which all are truly valued and included. God’s vision for our diverse world is that we all be one in Christ. By drawing deeply from interviews with a range of people, lessons from missional endeavours, and personal stories, including questions for individual reflection and a Leader’s Guide for groups, Rosemary Dewerse seeks to help us realise this vision within our communities so that we might act as light and salt for our world.
About the Author
Dr Rosemary Dewerse, a Kiwi wife and mother, has lived in the UK, Central Asia, and now Australia where she is the Director of Missiology and Coordinator of Postgraduate Studies at the Uniting College for Leadership and Theology and the Adelaide College of Divinity, and a lecturer in the Department of Theology at Flinders University, South Australia.
This is a readable and stimulating book, full of intriguing stories on how we can live together more kindly in our world. Rosemary skilfully uncovers obstacles and issues that prevent us from living authentically as an intercultural community in our various contexts. She enumerates four clear suggestions on how we can do this interspersed with probing questions for reflection. I found this book to be inspiring, provocative and practical in its emphasis on how we can make a difference if we are willing to break our own sacred calabashes for the sake of the other.
Dr Cathy Ross,
Kiwi missiologist based in the UK, former CMS missionary in Africa
General Secretary of the International Association of Mission Studies.
In this book Rosemary dares us to glimpse the truly revolutionary promise of the Gospel – a genuinely Intercultural community in Christ. Scholarly and personal, visionary and practical: this is good reading! I warmly welcome this timely book and encourage Christians everywhere to read it – together if possible – and to practice the principles of Intercultural living and discipleship it uncovers.
Rev Prof Andrew Dutney
President, Uniting Church in Australia