Friday, February 7, 2014

Book Review: Scott Sunquist. Understanding Christian Mission.

Scott Sunquist. Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory. Baker Academic, 2013.

One of the most important and exciting changes in theological education today is the growth and proliferation of the field of missiology. Missiology is one of those technical, academic words that simply means “the study of mission.” When I attended Pittsburgh Theological Seminary long ago in the 1980s I never had a course, nor do I believe one was offered, focusing of world mission and global Christianity. This actually is surprising given the heritage of the Presbyterian Church and our massive contributions to what was called foreign mission. The Presbyterians were a driving force during the heyday of the missionary movement in the era between the Civil War and the First World War. I am convinced that the future viability of our Presbyterian Church (USA) is closely tied to our ability to create close partnerships with churches all around the world. The study today of Christian mission is an important bright spot in the Church. Today it is very common for our theological seminaries to have full professors in world mission and global Christianity.

Long after I left Pittsburgh Seminary a full professorship in world mission was created and Scott Sunquist, a PC(USA) Teaching Elder, joined the faculty. Sunquist recently moved to one of the premier academic positions in the field of mission studies. He is now the Dean of the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. Sunquist has recently published what may be considered an essential textbook for this field: Understanding Christian Mission: Participation in Suffering and Glory, (Baker Academic, 2013).  This is an important book. If you have never had a comprehensive, seminary level course in the study of Christian mission this book is now available to fill that gap. This is a huge, sweeping book that requires careful study and attention. Divided into three parts the book includes an important review of the history of Christian mission, a theological and biblical foundation for mission, and a discussion of the practices of mission today. This book requires a significant investment of time and study; it is not casual. This book makes a significant contribution toward our connections with global Christianity today; a vital task for our Church.