Recently I’ve read a couple of (very different) books on Christian mission that I’d recommend: Ryan Kuja’s From the Inside Out and The Symphony of Mission by Jim Mullins and Michael Goheen.
As I said, these are two very different books and their authors are coming from disparate vantage points. But I commend them both, in equal measure, to anyone who wants to be more thoughtful about local and global service. These are books to chew before swallowing.
Kuja’s background in relief/development, medicine, and counseling all illuminate the book’s title. Here, his focus is on learning from and avoiding the mistakes of the past – from (well-known) imperialistic tendencies to neglect for psychological, emotional, and spiritual health, especially for those experiencing trauma. God knows these things ruin lives and undermine the missio Dei.
Let’s put it this way: I endorse most of his “prescriptions” even if I see many of the “illnesses” he identifies as being largely – though certainly not totally – contained. I’ve spent much of my childhood and adult life in global missions and development circles, and The Poisonwood Bible‘s Nathan Price is not a stand-in for most of the people I’ve known. Still, pathologies have a way of going undetected, and this book helps us pay attention.
Jim Mullins is a friend (and fellow Tempe resident!) and Mike Goheen a theologian I’ve learned from over the years, both in writing and in person. If mission is a play, its setting is all of life and its cast is all of us.
Or, to take this book’s motif, it’s a symphony and we all have a part to play. Goheen serves as theologian-in-residence in these pages while Jim’s imaginative heart and mind are set loose. It’s an original book in a crowded field, and really something to behold.
While Kuja’s book is aimed at people like me – those already active in community development and world mission – Mullins and Goheen are writing for those whose daily life and work seem less frontline but are in fact no less important in God’s Kingdom.
Whereas Kuja takes us to South Sudan and Central America, Mullins and Goheen introduce us to garbage truck drivers and teachers and waitresses in the very city where I live. It’s true: any grasp of mission will be incomplete if it doesn’t include neighbors both near and far.
Anyhoo, there you have it. A couple of thoughtful books for stumbling, bumbling pilgrims like us – discerning in fits and starts what it means to be servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.