Contextualization in World Missions: A Brief Review

Recently I had the opportunity to read A. Scott Moreau's new work titled Contextualization in World Missions: Mapping and Assessing Evangelical Models.  I want to say "Thank you!" to Kregel for the gratis review copy.  I also want to say "Kudos!" to Dr. Moreau, who is Professor of Intercultural Studies at Wheaton College (Ill.), for producing a very fine and helpful work.  Indeed, I have even been able to engage this text for some of my dissertation work.

In this book, which spans 429 pages and is divided into 14 chapters across two major parts or sections, Moreau's goal is to interact with the major theories or models of contextualization that have been put forth within missiological studies over the last several decades.  Throughout he uses the analogy of a map (hence the subtitle) and also discusses the various "maps" of contextualization that others have developed.  As a Bible scholar I found Moreau's work helpful but, of course, I wish there had been much more engagement with exegetical and theological texts.  At the outset, however, Moreau remarks, "a discerning reader will see that only occasionally do I draw on theologians and biblical scholars.  They have much to say about our landscape, but I have chosen to develop this map from the ever-growing range of perspectives offered by missiologists.  While this constraint limits the sophistication in some areas, it also frames the discussion in light of the perspectives of those who most deeply engage in and explore the landmass of evangelical contextualization" (21).

While I have done quite a bit of study and research on contextualization, I'm not sure that by Moreau's standards I could be considered an insider to these conversations.  Even as I read, I found myself having to read pages over again several times to comprehend concepts, diagrams (or maps), charts, etc., which would seem to be in agreement with this fact.  For the most part the book is very readable and user-friendly.  That said, there are some difficult concepts to grasp.  Moreau strives to make things as easy to understand as possible.  His stories, definitions, questions at the end of each chapter, illustrations, etc., all help in this regard.  Even so and rightly so, there are some thick and intricate concepts that readers, especially readers new to this topic, will have to work to get through.

There were a number of typos throughout and one of the most unfortunate occurrences of this left off the beginning of a paragraph (84).  Of course, this may have been the typesetter's fault and not Moreau's as this sort of thing happens more often than one would think.  Besides Moreau's great descriptions of the various models he interacts with, the appendices in this book make it well worth the buy.  In fact, I found myself engaging the appendices very frequently throughout my reading of this volume.  To be honest, I don't think reading this book just once, especially for someone who is new to this field, is enough.  It wasn't for me.  I'm going to have to read this at least a couple more times.  I would highly recommend this work to everyone in my field and I can say with some confidence that in time, among missiologists and intercultural studies majors, this work will become a standard textbook and reference work.

Personally, I'm grateful for this work on many fronts.  I'm grateful for it as a student for whom it was a good resource during the writing of my dissertation.  I'm also grateful for it as one who is interested in overseas mission work.  Just as well, I am grateful for this book as an evangelical who has wrestled with many of the theological and ethical implications and ramifications of various passages in the New Testament that seem to be dealing with contextualization.  Finally, I'm also grateful for this work as a churchman, that is, as one who is often asked tough questions by laity about how to live faithfully in pluralistic contexts.  So, not only do I say thanks to Kregel for this copy, I also say thanks to Dr. A Scott Moreau for giving us all an insightful, helpful, and informative resource for how to responsibly, credibly, and faithfully advance the Kingdom of God in whatever context(s) we may find ourselves in.  So wherever you find yourself doing ministry today, I'd encourage you to enhance it by getting this book.  Do that by clicking HERE and heading on over to Kregel's site and getting your copy.

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