Samuel T. Logan, ed. Reformed Means Missional: Following Jesus into the World. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2013. 288 pp. $19.99
It is a popular misconception that those who are Reformed care much about doctrine but neglect evangelism and missions. This erroneous notion is probably grounded in the assumption that if one believes that God has determined who will be saved, there is no impetus or urgency for evangelism and missions. However, the falsehood of this assumption can be shown from Scripture/theology as well as history. From the Apostle Paul comes some of the clearest Scriptures about election (e.g. Romans 9:11-12) and simultaneously some of the most provoking charges for evangelism and missions (e.g. Romans 10:13-15). He lived what he preached, so to speak, having spread the gospel throughout much of the known world in his lifetime. Moving to modern history, some of the greatest evangelists and missionaries have been Calvinists – e.g. John Calvin, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, William Carey, David Livingstone, Adoniram Judson, etc.
Yet in some ways, the misconception of Calvinists not caring about missions is somewhat understandable. You don’t hear Calvinists talk about (or see them do) evangelism and missions as much; and you definitely don’t see nearly as much writing (this is starting to change at the popular level, thanks in large part to the missionary zeal of John Piper and evidenced most profoundly by the recent inaugural Cross Conference). Sometimes Calvinists do need a reminder to get their noses out of their theological tomes and get out in the streets and out to the nations. These are some of the reasons why I was so excited about this new book from New Growth Press, Reformed Means Missional: Following Jesus into the Real World.
This book is a collection of essays edited by Samuel T. Logan, International Director of the World Reformed Fellowship (WRF). It begins with a foreword by Christopher J. H. Wright that sets out what the word “missional” means. Drawing from his book The Mission of God, Wright shows that we need to shift our perspective to see that mission is God’s. The church was made for God’s mission. ” ‘Missional church,’ therefore, is something of a tautology (like ‘female women’); if it isn’t missional, it isn’t church” (ix). Then, in the introduction, Logan provides a bit of the history of the WRF’s new Statement of Faith. Drawn up at the WRF General Assembly in 2010, the statement sought to fill a lack within the great historic Reformed confessions by providing an outward (missional) perspective within historical Reformed orthodoxy. This book in many ways seeks to give concrete expressions to the affirmations of the “Missions and evangelism” section of the statement of faith, and seeks to describe how and why to be both Reformed and missional.
The main body of the book begins with three chapters that lay the theological foundation of missionality in Reformed theology. The chapters here address the marks of the church’s mission and the marks of a missional church, the relationship between orthodox belief and moral behavior vis–à–vis the relationship between justification and sanctification (by way of examination of Jonathan Edwards’s Religious Affections), and the missional mandate from the book of Romans (why mission and theology must go together). With the theological foundation in place, part 2 then presents ten chapters that explore in detail some of the practical areas in which Christians will be involved as they follow Jesus into the world. These include issues such as poverty and social justice, violence against women, child sex abuse, homosexual strugglers in the church and the gay community, etc. Finally, a concluding chapter ties it all together with a look at the history, nature, method, and future of Reformed theology.
This is a great book on missions that calls the Reformed church to take the whole gospel to the whole world. First defining missional and laying a theological foundation for the what and why, this book then touches on a whole host of practical areas in which Reformed Christians are doing incredible, holistic missional work.
Having said that this is a great general book on missions (both in terms of theological foundation and broad diversity of practical implications explored), I think the “Reformed” part is a bit lacking. Books abound on missions, evangelism, and social action. Because of the title of this book I was expecting a tying of missions theology and practice to Reformed theology, but that is not really present in this book. Part 1 covered why theology and missions go together (which is important and commendable, since it’s common to see Christians embrace one while largely neglecting the other), but what it didn’t do (which I expected and hoped for) is show why specifically Reformed theology and missions go together. Furthermore. many of the chapters in Part 2 had a transformational regenerational approach, which probably not all Reformed folk would agree with (I think specifically of Kevin DeYoung and his book What is the Mission of the Church?). My final quibble is that I wish Part 2 would have had a chapter specifically devoted to unreached people groups.
In the final analysis, though, this is a great book on missions. For Reformed Christians and all Christians passionate about doctrine but unawakened to the call to be God’s witnesses in Word and deed from our immediate context all the way to the ends of the earth, this book would give theological grounding and practical inspiration for being missional.
*Many thanks to M.W. and New Growth Press for sending me the book in exchange for an unbiased review!