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New book on Christian mission offers fresh approach for 21st-century outreach in pluralistic context

Jun 29, 2009
By Toya Richards Hill

From generation to generation, Christians search for new ways to present the gospel--ways that are relevant to the times, situations, and different cultures. In the global, religiously pluralistic context of today, two professors are presenting the idea of Christian mission as “gift.”

Christians can, according to co-author Dr. Frances S. Adeney, approach the world from the framework of “giftive mission” – Christian mission as a giving and receiving of gifts with people of the world’s religions.

“Giftive mission is a way of interacting with people of other faiths and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in their lives and ours,” said Adeney, the William A. Benfield Jr. Professor of Evangelism and Global Mission at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Her new book, Christianity Encountering World Religions:The Practice of Mission in the Twenty-first Century, is part of a new mission textbook series produced by Baker Academic. Adeney co-wrote the book with Dr. Terry C. Muck, Dean of the E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary. Muck also is Adeney’s spouse.

Mission work in the Christian church has been going on for 2,000 years, yet as history changes, “the ways of carrying out that mission … also constantly change,” Adeney said.

Their book, which is available at www.amazon.com, www.bakeracademic.com, and the Louisville Seminary bookstore, explores “Context, Text, and Pre-texts;” “Practices: Beyond Competition and Cooperation;” “Method: How Do We Do It?;” and “Giftive Mission.”

“We began by talking about how today’s religiously pluralistic context relates to the Bible and our theologies of mission,” Adeney outlined. “From there we moved into the historical practices of missionaries through the ages – how they approached people of other religions in innovative ways as contexts changed over the centuries.”

“Then we worked on method – how to actually approach individuals and communities of other cultures and religions,” she continued. “We conclude Christianity Encountering World Religions with our idea of giftive mission.”

Muck said he and Adeney came up with the term giftive mission in an effort to offer a new and creative perspective for 21st-century, global outreach that includes seeking to understand the ways of others, and sharing one’s beliefs through mutual interaction and education.

“We think that in doing mission, Christians should imitate the way Jesus related to people when he was on earth,” he said. “His fundamental approach was through grace.”

“That’s what grace is; it’s a gift,” said Muck, who is also the author of Ministry and Theology in Global Perspective: Contemporary Challenges for the Church. “We should be giving gifts, whatever gifts we are capable of giving.”

Adeney, whose books include Christian Women in Indonesia: A Narrative Study of Gender and Religion, said their hope is that people from other religions or those in the secular world will read Christianity Encountering World Religions and gain a new understanding.

They will hopefully come away with a different, “more user-friendly” impression of what Christian mission is about, she said.

We are hoping they will see that Christians are compelled to tell people about the way God has acted toward them, Muck said. “We would rather they see us talking about our faith as a gift,” which can be accepted, refused, or passed on to someone else, he said.

On October 22, 2009, Adeney and Muck will speak about their new perspectives on Christian mission as the guest speakers for Louisville Seminary’s annual Edwards-Presler Lectures on Justice and Mission. The lectures are open to the public, free of charge.

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