Introduction to the Sociology of Missions

Article excerpt

Introduction to the Sociology of Missions.

By Robert L. Montgomery. Westport, Conn.; and London: Praeger, 1999. Pp. xxi, 183. $57.95.

This book is a worthy pioneering effort to make sociology as familiar and instrumentally useful to missiologists as anthropology. Having experience of both missionary work (in Taiwan) and the academy, Montgomery masterfully surveys the discipline of sociology and argues thatit can profitably supplement-- and sometimes correct-the contributions of anthropology.

He does so, after an opening chapter proposing the field of sociology of missions, by dealing with major areas of concern in sociology: social change theory, diffusion theory, missionaries and missions (a neglected field, he points out), religious movements, intergroup relations and social identity, sociology of religion, and several others. In each case he points out how awareness of that area would benefit missiology and what missiology could contribute in its turn.

He argues that in its use of sociology, missiology must go beyond mere description to theorizing. By this he means constructing not grand paradigms but "middle-range" theories, not far removed from the empirical data and heuristic hypotheses, but designed to explain phenomena in accordance with the canons of sociology, using the concepts of dependent and independent variables to sort out the social factors that contribute causally to specific phenomena in missions. …