Christopher J. H. Wright
John R. Franke
Peter J. Leithart
Jason S. Sexton, General Editor
Zondervan, 2017. 208pp.
Religion/Christian Theology, General
If I could use four pictures to describe this book they would be: Run to the Savior/Lord (Jonathan Leeman), Run to the Bible (Chritopher J. H. Wright), Run to the Social Sciences (John R. Franke), and Run to the Table (Peter J. Leithart).
Leeman begins with a salvific approach to the mission of the church: “Broadly, Christ authorizes a church-as-its-members with a kingly authority to represent him as God-imaging sons and citizens, whether gathered together or scattered apart…Narrowly, God authorizes a church-as-organized-collective with a distinctly priestly authority to publicly separate sinners from the world and to reconcile to himself and his people through renaming and teaching” (p.40).
Wright has a participatory approach: “1. Cultivating the church through evangelism and teaching, co-laboring with Christ to see people brought to repentance, faith and maturity as disciples of Jesus Christ. 2. Engaging society through compassion and justice, in response to Jesus’s commands and example, to love and serve, to be salt and light, to be “doers of good” (p. 81).
Franke uses a contextual approach: “The participation of the church in the mission of God to reconcile the world through Jesus Christ means that our primary commitment is not to any particular form of Christian community, but rather the interaction and relationship between the gospel and the particular cultural contexts in which we are situated….In other words, there is no one way to be the church in the world, and appropriate forms of communal life are the product of particular social and historical circumstances….This serves as a reminder that no one of us, no one of our churches, traditions, or theologies can bear the witness and mission of God alone” (p. 133).
Leithart steps to the beat of a sacramental approach: “Every theology of mission rests on or implies a soteriology, but soteriology is intertwined with anthropological convictions. To know what it means to be saved, we must have some inkling of what humans are. We must start with creation….If we are to formulate a balanced missional theology [of humankind], we must highlight the role of baptism and the Supper. If we are to carry out the mission of the church in practice, baptism and the Lord’s Supper must play a prominent role” (p. 157).
Each entry is followed by responses from the other contributors. This is where you begin to see the personalities of each contributor, as they point out the positive points while inserting the negative nuances in a thrust-and-parry type of jousting. Jason Sexton bookmarks the content with an introduction to the essays, and a final thought on recalibrating a church for mission.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
If you want to examine the broad range of evangelicalism today, you will encounter some major proponents in these pages. This is academics talking nuances. This is historical debates updated. This is not an easy read if you are ensconced in only one tradition of theology.
You will find that you must reorient yourself to the varied uses of words. Each author has their own vocabulary—which you must learn to understand their concepts. The feedback section of each contributor will help you to hone what is being said.
The benefit comes in giving a reset to the vocabulary of your previous mission/missional studies (if you grew up in a previous generation), or confirming your biases if you have recently completed theological studies. Remember: read those on different sides well to understand what you think you think you understand!
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
This Lifeway Pastors review was written by Ron Baker.