Book Reviews

Encountering Missionary Life and Work

Preparing for Intercultural Ministry

Tom Steffen, Lois McKinney Douglas Grand Rapids 2008-06-01

Steffen, professor of intercultural studies at Biola University, and Douglas, professor emerita of mission at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, both former missionaries, have produced a text that introduces a new generation of students to mission and missionary service. This volume explores the issues of preparation for intercultural mission work that builds on J. Herbert Kane’s Life and Work on the Mission Field (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980). It is a textbook and is designed for classroom use.

The book is divided into four parts, “each focusing on elements that all missionaries can expect to face as they seek to follow God’s prompting to bring Christ to those who do not know him” (p. xix). Part one presents select missionaries from the past and present for the purpose of drawing lessons from their lives and motivating the reader. Starting with Luke and his record of the first missionaries, this section also highlights the period between Constantine and Martin Luther, emphasizes the importance of Zinzendorf and the Moravians, discusses the impact of William Carey, Eleanor Macomber, J. Hudson Taylor, “Lottie” Moon, Ralph Winter, Martin and Gracia Burnham, and others. This chapter draws the reader into the rest of the text.

Part two discusses missionary preparations on the homefront. This includes decision-making, spiritual formation, personal readiness, ministry readiness, opportunities for cross-cultural ministry, finding one’s niche, and getting started. Part three faces the reality of “learning how to live well in a new culture” (p. xx). This part is invaluable in defining culture and cultural adjustments. Part four helps the reader work through personal issues that face today’s missionaries as they adjust to their new home culture and begin their ministry. In the final chapter the authors offer a “glimpse of several trends in missions and the implications they have for those who serve God in cross-cultural settings” (p. xxi).

Each chapter contains sidebars and case studies designed to engage the class in discussion and reflection on the subject highlighted in the section. At the end of each chapter is a summary, often suggesting implications, definitions, or applications while also introducing the next chapter.

Chapter three on decision-making and how to know God’s will in missionary service, chapter 10 on culture and “like-stories” within all cultures, chapter 13 on women in missions, and chapters 14–16 on the importance of the family, make this text very useful in dealing with the crises most missionaries will face.

This volume will be useful in cross-cultural courses in Bible colleges, universities, and seminaries.

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