Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Theology of Mission: A Believers Church Perspective

Magazine article International Bulletin of Mission Research

Theology of Mission: A Believers Church Perspective

Article excerpt

Theology of Mission: A Believers Church Perspective.

By John Howard Yoder. Edited by Gayle Gerber Koontz and Andy Alexis-Baker. Downers Grove, III: Inter Varsity Press, 2014. Pp. 432. $45.

Best known for his work on ethics and especially for his defense of pacifism, John Howard Yoder taught theology of mission from 1964 to 1983 at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries, in Elkhart, Indiana. Since Yoder planned to have the lectures transcribed and printed for his students' use, the course was recorded twice. The transcription and printing, however, did not occur, and the tapes were lost for more than thirty years. The editors of the present volume transcribed tapes from the 1973 course along with the nine lectures that still exist from the 1976 course, thus fulfilling Yoder's original plan. While Yoder's insights on mission are valuable, the lectures are dated and reflect the situation when he delivered them, especially the theories of mission prevalent then. One can only wonder how Yoder would have modified them in light of the last forty years.

The great value of the book is Yoder's thorough defense of and advocacy for the believers church model by which he means a gathered church of committed members. Standing firmly in the Anabaptist tradition, he bemoans the Constantinian shift, which moved primitive Christianity from a voluntary organization to an organ of the state. In Yoder's reading of Paul's missionary work, Paul planted churches only in areas where there were existing communities of prepared people, namely, synagogues. Not that he thinks that all members of synagogues converted to becoming Christ followers, but that those who left the synagogue, along with believing Gentiles, became a new community of faith. This gathered community model is worked out in a consistent manner, though he strains to describe the expansion of the church before the Radical Reformation, since for Yoder the presence of a group of believers in a missionary environment is necessary for the Gospel to advance. …

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