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Samuel Escobar, a native of Peru and a leading Latin American theologian, was a key participant in the 1974 Lausanne Congress. He is professor emeritus of missiology at Palmer Theological Seminary and past president of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. His books include The New mostra'n més Global Mission and La Palabra: Vida de la Iglesia. mostra'n menys

Inclou el nom: Samuel E. Escobar

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Cómo Comprender La Misión (2008) 6 exemplars

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The twenty-first century calls for us to give up our nineteenth-century models for worldwide ministry.
 
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kijabi1 | Jan 4, 2012 |
The Author
Born in Peru, Samuel Escobar is a leading Latin American theologian. He brings a considerable amount of experience of mission to this book; he was one of the key participants in the International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1974; he is also president of the United Bible Societies and past president of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students. He is currently professor of missiology at Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, and theological consultant for the Board of International Ministries in Valencia, Spain.
It is no surprise, given the above, that Escobar is someone who is clearly passionately committed to the concept of mission - ‘the drive to share the good news with all, to cross every border with the gospel’ . He himself came to faith, after his parents, through the work of mission workers from New Zealand. Escobar sees mission as being not only legitimate , but fundamental to being church, and all other ‘functions’ of church are given focus and direction by that missional priority .
The book is framed by the initial observation that we are now entering a new era for the church, in which the centre of gravity of the Christian world has shifted from the West, to the South. He quotes Walter Bühlman as saying that ‘the Third Millennium will evidently stand under the leadership of the Third Church, the Southern Church’, from which the most important drives and inspirations for the whole church in the future will come. This has wide reaching implications that impact much of what Escobar goes on to say (and it is salient to return to the fact at the end of the book, and reconsider what it means for Escobar’s key points relating to context and culture); he notes straight away, however, that mission is no longer the preserve of the West, but rather that Christians from around the world must work together and learn from each other, in order to make mission more effective, more responsible, and more authentically what God intends. This is one of the focuses of the 1974 Lausanne Covenant, to which Escobar refers throughout the book.

History
Escobar spends some time in the first two chapters looking at the history of mission. In fact he splits this into two; the discussion in chapter 1 relates to developments, during the second half of the twentieth century, of a more explicitly evangelical missiology. The Lausanne Movement was a key part of this - preceding even that, however, was an address in 1966 by John Stott, to the Berlin World Congress on Evangelism. Stott ‘shifted the attention from the classic passage of Matthew 28:18-20 to the almost forgotten text of the Commission in John 20:21, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” ’ Reflection on this highly Trinitarian model of mission resulted in a growing conviction that ‘evangelical activism was in danger of carrying on mission as a purely human enterprise’ , and pushed people back to the concept of Missio Dei - a biblical vision of mission as God’s initiative, arising from God’s love, relying on God’s power.
Chapter 2 gives a helpful, longer historical overview of mission (from the first disciples onwards), including both highlights and lowlights. This history is partly to give a sense of context, but partly to highlight the fact that the context we have - the history that we are presented with - is biased and incomplete. Any history is told from a particular point of view, and Escobar points out some of the more glaring issues with this one - for example the lack of information relating to women’s involvement in mission, or that of lay people, or the elderly, or children.

The Current Day
Having looked at how we got here, Escobar goes on in chapters 3 and 4 to look at some of the specific societal challenges and opportunities that mission activity has to face today. One of these is Globalisation (in the widest sense of the term) - in a society that is being reshaped by ‘economic integration on a world scale’ , how does Christian mission fit in? Technological ‘advances’ that accompany this global change impact mission work (just as they affect everyone) - they can provide real improvements and efficiencies, but can also be ‘profoundly dehumanizing’ , subtly encouraging individualism at the expense of community. Escobar warns of the potential danger of economic or technical idolatry - an uncritical acceptance of modernization and globalization as supreme values; ‘powers regarded as almost superhuman forces that cannot be reined in or even challenged but are appeased or accepted as lords of our lives.’
Other issues today include the delicate balance between (on the one hand) encouraging local identity, and (on the other) tribalism; the paradox of increased missionary activity coming from the poor (how do the wealthy parts of the church deal with and react to that?); the reality of multi-cultural society and religious pluralism, bringing with it (from at least some national leaders) rhetoric akin to modern crusades; and the corresponding demise of Christendom. Of this last Escobar, far from being negative, notes that a new opportunity is arising ‘for the church to rediscover its specific nature’ .

Missional Theology
The next three chapters provide a helpful discussion on some of the key theology that underpins Escobar’s understanding of mission. These are clearly Trinitarian in design: the first looks at the idea of a Missionary God, expanding the idea of Missio Dei mentioned earlier, and re-emphasising that mission is not a human endeavour but rather is driven by God.
The next focuses on Christ: God’s Best Missionary, and on the captivating reality of the person of Christ. Jesus (suggests Escobar, echoing Howard Snyder) may fit post-modern sensibilities better than modern or pre-modern views , although at the same time there is a recognition here of the tensions that can sometimes arise between evangelical Christians and other faiths (or even some parts of the wider Christian church, notably Roman Catholicism) at the insistence of personal conversion. It may seem obvious, but defining the gospel (not in a limiting sense!) is therefore recognised as a key part of thinking about mission; hence relevant sections in documents such as the Manila Manifesto of 1989.
The final Trinitarian chapter looks at the Holy Spirit’s role in mission; the importance that Escobar gives to this can be summed up by Bishop John Taylor’s comment that
The chief actor in the historic mission of the Christian church is the Holy Spirit. He is the director of the whole enterprise. The mission consists of things that he is doing in the world. In a special way it consists of the light that he is focusing upon Jesus Christ.
The chapter notes the considerable growth of churches that can be described as Pentecostal or Charismatic, gives some history of those movements, and notes interestingly that the order of activity can be different to what we might assume. As Christians in the renewal movements of the 18th and 19th centuries ‘engaged in mission within their own context, they grasped truth about the Holy Spirit.’

New eyes, new lives
The final chapters include a challenging discussion not only on the power of Scripture, and of the role played by bible translators throughout the history of mission, but also of the importance of allowing scripture to be read, interpreted and understood in the context and culture of the readers. Without this, the whole church loses out. Why is it, asks Escobar, that
we have only recently witnessed the development of theologies that amount to “reading the Bible with new eyes”? Why, for so many years, was theology written by German scholars and explained by British or French professors? In his discussion of this question, Ghanaian theologian Kwame Bediako states that African students obtained advanced degrees and learned about Bultmann, Barth or Moltmann but were unable to understand the religious world in which they would conduct their ministry.
There is also commentary on the importance of holistic mission and service in the process of transforming lives. In one quote which may have something to say to the Baptist Assembly in Scotland, delegates to the Latin American Congress on Evangelism unanimously approved statements such as this:
To discuss whether we should evangelize or promote social action is worthless. They go together. They are inseparable. One without the other is evidence of a deficient Christian life. So we must not try to justify service for our neighbour by claiming that it will help us in our evangelism. God is equally interested in our service and in our evangelistic task.

Conclusion
This is a very accessible book which gives a good overview of the current situation in global mission, as well as historical background to it and a theological framework for it.
Clearly Escobar is no intellectual lightweight; refreshingly, however, one gets the feeling that he would be quite sympathetic with those, especially in the ‘younger’ churches, who are impatient with theological niceties when compared with the importance of spreading the gospel. There is a fine line to be walked between two extremes here, which I feel Escobar does well. For example, he notes, in relation to the forms of ‘grass-roots Christianity’ that have grown in the Southern hemisphere and are increasingly finding expression in the West, ‘Evangelical leaders who have long emphasized the clear and correct intellectual expression of biblical truth and the rationality of the Christian faith especially need to be sensitive to this new expression of Christianity.’
The New Global Mission, as the subtitle (‘From Everywhere to Everyone’) suggests, looks at mission in a wide variety of contexts and cultures. What the book doesn’t cover (nor does it ever claim to) is a more detailed, tactical approach to mission ‘at home’. It would therefore be interesting to explore how the insights of this book, especially as they relate to ‘global’ mission, can be applied to mission within (to make it very specific to me, for example) a Scottish Baptist environment.
… (més)
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Marcat
iankg | Mar 29, 2010 |

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