i have read so many good books in the last couple of years that i mean to review but i never seem to have the time to do them justice and then the time has gone. i still hope to review a number of those books on the blog at some point. but in spite of this I keep picking up new books to read - i can't help myself. i picked one up from the cms library the other week which is a new book on mission joining in with the spirit by kirsteen kim. if you want a book that is an introduction to the area of missions this is a a great choice - the theology, history, issues and challenges around missions in our world today. it's right up to the minute…
kirsteen is a global/transcultural Christian, married to a Korean and she has lived in the uk, korea, usa and india - at home and out of place in them all i suspect. she has taught missions and the material in this books has largely been formed out of her experience of teaching missions in birmingham at selly oak. she is now teaching in leeds. the book has a real depth to it. each chapter can stand alone as it explores a particular theme in missions but the references and the footnotes are wonderful to explore and follow up the leads kim gives.
the title joining in with the spirit comes from the notion that mission is finding out where God is at work and joining in which is certainly something john v taylor said, perhaps along with a bundle of other people. discernment then is the first act of mission.
after a couple of chapters of introduction to missions and contemporary ways of thinking theologically about mission each chapter then maps a particular theme or area in missions. there is an amazing chapter exploring issues of culture using 5 out of 6 of steve beans grid of contextual theologies (I wasn't sure why the anti-cultural model was left out ). i underlined so many pieces of this chapter to return to later. culture to my mind is such a massive issue - core to what the church is about and struggling to make sense of. i am on the train on the way back from teaching some ministers in the urc church and we were discussing the challenges of faith and culture and there was some anxiety about the dangers of syncretism. kim points out that syncretism is probably present to some degree in every form of christianity since new testament times and that maybe that's part of healthy inculturation anyway! discussions around faith and culture are alive and well in missions circles and have been for many years and as we seek to work out how to join in with the spirit in our own contexts there is a gold mine of wisdom to draw from. kim concludes the chapter with a discussion of fresh expressions raising questions about the wisdom of the approach of creating homogeneous expressions of church rather than a more multicultural expression and whether it has bought too heavily into a consumer taste mindset - definitely an issue to be debated further i think.
one chapter explores liberation and the spirit of justice and freedom as a motif covering the sweep of liberation theology, feminist theology, and black theologies. again there are footnotes and a bibliography to dig deeper. i loved the intro to feminist theology and have highlighted a few books to follow up on. she gives a different take (at least to what i had heard) of how to narrate the history of missions - a much less western view. there is a chapter on multi faith issues using india as the example, and another is an exploration of reconciliation using korea as the context. reconciliation is one of the big emphases in mission and a helpful way of thinking about what it means to join in god's work of reconciliation of all things. at the end of that chapter there is a discussion of mission spirituality which was as succinct a way of talking about it as i have seen that calls for an engaged spirituality oriented towards the world lived out in mission, a spirituality for the road. this is important as mission can sometimes degenerate into activism. there is also a chapter looking at the development of mission in western and postmodern contexts and one on mission and development.
in the last chapter kim explores the connections between local mission and global connectedness mission and how essential they are to the health of the church. without the global she say we will cut ourselves off from what god is doing in the world and be marginal to the movement of the spirit. the challenge is how to live as local global followers of christ and join in with what the spirit of god is doing in the whole of creation.
i'll definitely be using it as a text in the pioneer ministry training we are developing. love to know what anyone else thinks if you read it. i think it's an absolute gem...