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The Story That Chooses Us: A Tapestry of Missional Vision

Author: George R Hunsberger
Published By: Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
Pages: 166
Price: £16.99
ISBN: 978 0 8028 7219 7

Reviewed by Alun Brookfield.

I opened this book with some misgivings, put off by what seemed a rather pompous and pretentious title. However, I was in for a surprise – in my personal questioning of my faith as a result of over 40 years of mission and evangelism, this is one of the best books I have ever read. If you can get past the title, you really need to read this book if you have any kind of heart for the mission of the Christian community in these times of changed and changing culture.

The author is Professor Emeritus of Missiology at Western Theological Seminary, Michigan and is founding co-ordinator of the Gospel and Our Culture Network which seeks to build on the work and writings of Lesslie Newbigin.

The book consists of a series of essays written at different times between 1991 and 2006, sometimes with final sections to update them for the present day. You might then assume that there is nothing to say in this book which has not already been said and heard and responded to, but, in my opinion, you’d be wrong. This is a call to face a very uncomfortable reality.

The central thesis is that, as a result of the Reformation, in spite of all the good things brought to us by Luther and his successors, we have ended up with a model of church in which the church is generally regarded as a place where certain things happen. In effect, the church (of whatever denomination) has become a purveyor of religious products: “a congregation becomes a retail outlet or franchise of the denominational brand. Staff at all levels become sales and service representatives. The denominations is the corporate headquarters in charge of everything from research and development to mass media imaging” (p.34)!

Needless to say, this is far from the community which Jesus envisaged and a radical rethink is therefore required – urgently. I now know why I’ve been so uncomfortable as a minister in denominational churches for the last 30 years! I also know why every vision and mission statement I’ve ever encountered has made me very uncomfortable. In the search for answers, it’s important to ask the right questions, and this book makes that possible. Buy it, read it, pray over it, weep over it.

Alun Brookfield

Editor of Ministry Today

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You are reading Issue 64 of Ministry Today, published in July 2015.

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