The New Global Mission

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 While Samuel Escobar’s book, The New Global Mission, provides a brief overview of mission history and theory, the later chapters provide a more in depth discussion on the new missionary force, and on what an evangelical mission should look like.  In the later chapters of the book, Escobar attempt to provide an answer for his question presented in Chapter 1, “What is the church’s mission in the world?”  He provides a framework of an answer for the evangelical church that comprises both evangelism and social work.  In his own word, the church must be concerned with both “love and justice.”  (Page 146.)

 

Escobar mentions throughout the book examples of non-professional missionaries, who in his eyes, are some of the most important sowers of the gospel seed.  The book starts with the example of a Bolivian housewife who became an immigrant missionary as she shared the gospel in Germany, and became the seed of a Spanish speaking church there.  Later, in discussion a “Brave New World Order,” Escobar emphasizes the global nature of the modern church.  This new, global church, does not simply consist of believers across the world, but means missionaries will be coming to and from each of the continents.  Escobar proposes that the new missionary force will not be Europe or North American but, “a large part of the future of mission belongs to the missionaries of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania.”  (Page 165)  For Escobar these missionaries will not simply be going to and from these four continents, but will also participate in what he refers to the “reevangelizing of the West” (Pg 162) as a result of our post-Christian and postmodern societies.

 

As individuals we are all missionaries.  While not directly stated, one gets the impression that Escobar strongly values the day-to-day evangelism that occurs when individual Christians share their faith within their own social circles.  There is a strong emphasis on the need to return to what one might call a faith-based mission.  Escobar strongly criticizes viewing mission as a human institution with business plans and quantitative results.  Escobar encourages a remembering of the “divine dimension of mission.”  (Page 29)  The challenge for mission organizations is how to encourage, and participate in the new movement of “missionaries from below”, which he specifically refers to as missionaries from the poorer countries of poorer circumstances.  The next wave of missions while be from missionaries who minister within their own daily context, within their own social circles or do so as migrants in other countries.

 

Escobar’s strongest focus seems to be on the transformation that must occur within the nature of mission.  He first alludes to this when discussing the great commission presented in John 20:21 and the emphasis on the way which Jesus (and us subsequently) accomplished mission.  Specifically he refers to the need to abandon the “imperial mission mentality” (Pg 26), however one could also apply this to his later chapters discussing the need for integral mission.  He provides the example of the integrality of Jesus’ work among the crowds, and if we too concern ourselves with the means of accomplishing mission we should have an integral mission.  It is also helpful to consider mission on an individual level as well as a social level.  One must consider the testimony and mission style as an individual missionary, as well as the testimony and influence the body of Christ, the church, has within its society.

 

In The New Global Mission Escobar ties social activity directly to evangelism.  In the author’s opinion the two cannot be separated.  In his words, “I also believe that providing relief and service cannot be divorced from evangelism, because the world needs both their presence and their proclamation.”  (pg 151)  Fundamentally, Escobar’s own believes are conveyed through a statement of the 1968 US Congress on Evangelism that, “evangelism and mission could not be carried on in faithfulness to biblical standards unless this holistic dimension was taken into account.”  (145)


The church then must be an incarnational presence within the society.  The missionaries of that church, professional and lay, must also be a presence within their society both through social action and proclamation.  A church must interact with society, and social action becomes the consequence of, bridge to and partner of evangelism (pages 152-153.)  The society in which the church resides should know the gospel both through the proclamation of the Word and the social presence of the church.  The challenge to churches is to not simply carry on “business as usual” but to ask themselves what their role should be, and why God has placed them, “as a community, at this time, in this neighborhood, in this city, in this country, in this world.”  (Page 93)  The act of being a missionary church, which Escobar calls all spirit-filled churches, should be continually providing and demonstrating a response to this question.  As a consequence, one could rephrase Escobar’s original question to read, “If the church is unable to recognize the world it is in, and be a prophetic voice and social actor in that world, is the church fulfilling its mission, or is the church just another social organization?”