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Holistic Mission, A Review Essay by Tony Richie

Potentially at least, there are a few red flags too, such as proselytism and conversion issues. My work on the recently (June 2011) completed 5-year international ecumenical process of developing the first ever document jointly approved by the Vatican, World Council of Churches, and World Evangelical Alliance, representing more than 90% of all Christians globally, “Christian Witness in a Multi-religious World: Recommendations for Conduct,” taught me that there is great concern among Majority World cultures that wealthy Western Christians may use “aid evangelism” as unfair bait to lure devotees of local religions into Christian conversion. Glen Miles and Ian de Villiers insightfully address the concerns of some secularists that CNGOs are “Trojan horses for proselytism”. They forthrightly take on related issues of helping communities in need without either coercion or compromise. However, this crucial conversation needs to be expanded to include other Christian ministries as well.

One more thing, though this may sound minor or even petty. Terminology like “Christendom” is problematic. I was startled to see this term recurring in a book that expresses intent to move beyond the damages and ravages of colonialism. “Christendom” is not a synonym for “Christianity.” It signifies a period in Christian history when efforts to build an international empire (“Christen-dom” equals “Christian kingdom”) at the expense of all nations and cultures and religions dominated Western (i.e., Europe and North America) nations. A philosophy of Christendom is what drove colonialism! Accordingly, it’s not wise to employ this term when talking about Christian mission. Christian mission endeavors everywhere need to learn to be more sensitive regarding their use of language. For example, the unfortunate use of “crusade” by some contemporary Christian leaders has needlessly exacerbated already taut and tense relations between Christians and Muslims. Christendom is the same. Except that it manages to anger or hurt other groups as well. By the way, for those who often hear with fear that the West is becoming a post-Christian culture, mostly all this means is that it’s becoming post-Christendom—the cultural, economical, ecclesiastical, and political alliances that dominated and decimated the late medieval and modern world, colonizers and colonized alike, has crumbled. That’s nothing to lament. Christianity is still alive and well.

Holistic Mission is a great book with a grand purpose. Its attempt to set forth Christian mission as an expansive effort to minister to the spiritual, psychological, emotional, and physical needs of individual and communal humanity is impressive. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Tony Richie


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Category: Ministry, Winter 2012

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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