New book by MNU professor explains the fullness of mission
The Christian mission to the world must include “telling, doing and being,” without shirking any of those three elements, explains MNU professor Dean Flemming, Ph.D., in a new book.
The book, Recovering the Full Mission of God: A Biblical Perspective on Being, Doing and Telling, was published by InterVarsity Press in October 2013. The book’s topic was prompted by Flemming’s observation that it has become popular for some Christians today to focus almost totally on the “doing,” actions such as serving the poor, while others think Christian mission is primarily about proclaiming the Christian message with words. He wanted to discover how Scripture views the relationship between speaking and living the gospel.
So to explore the topic with scholarly research, Flemming did an overview of the Old Testament, then examined the New Testament message in the Gospels, Acts, Paul’s letters, 1 Peter and Revelation.
“I found that there was a seamless integration of all three elements of telling, doing and being,” he said. “I think that can be instructive for the church today.”
In the past, evangelicals have often focused on the telling, while today many Christians focus on the doing of social justice and deeds of compassion. At the same time, many Christians have neglected “what is behind the doing and the telling, and that is who we are, our identity. Our missional identity is integral,” he said.
One reason Flemming wanted to tackle this subject comes out of his own experience. “In the church settings in which I was raised, mission was primarily seen as a verbal activity. It meant preaching the gospel to all nations, winning converts and planting churches. On a personal level, it meant witnessing to others with words.”
“Then I went to teach the Bible to Asian students in the Philippines. Many of my Christian friends there were struggling with how to biblically approach issues like poverty, injustice, and corruption. I saw people in desperate need everywhere I looked. I realized that caring for human needs was as much a part of the church’s mission as telling the story. They couldn’t be separated. More recently, teaching in Western Europe, I saw that people there, above all, were initially attracted by lives that had been genuinely transformed by the love of Christ. The text they read in our lives can nurture an openness to hear why we live and love the way we do.”
Flemming, who came to MNU in 2011 after 24 years in mission service in Asia and Europe, is professor of New Testament and Missions. He wrote the book in non-technical terms for easy access by students, pastors and anyone in cross-cultural missions, he said. “I really tried to find a marriage between mission studies and Biblical studies in this book.”
This is Flemming’s second book with InterVarsity Press, which is a division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA. The first, Contextualization in the New Testament, received a Christianity Today book award. Flemming also published Philippians: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (Beacon Hill Press), which was a given the Smith/Wynkoop book award by the Wesleyan Theological Society.
Reviews of the book have been strong. In a review, Christopher J. H. Wright of the Langham Partnership wrote that “the portraits of Jesus and Paul are particularly balanced and convincing, while the lessons we learn from the early church and the book of Revelation are truly eye-opening.” Reviewer Michael Goheen, a professor of missional theology at Newbigin House of Studies in San Francisco, wrote that “With sterling biblical scholarship, Dean Flemming demonstrates clearly from the biblical story, and especially the New Testament, that the church's mission is full-orbed, encompassing life, word and deed.”
Flemming, a 1975 alumnus of MNU, has taught at Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary in the Philippines and European Nazarene College in Büesingen, Germany. He is an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene and has pastored churches in Ohio and Japan. His book is available at InterVarsity Press at http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=4026, or at Amazon.com.