Advanced Missiology: How to Study Missions in Credible and Useful Ways
"No man ever steps in the same river twice..." (Heraclitus, 535–475 BC)
In Advanced Missiology, Dr. Kenneth Nehrbuss refers to this famous quote to introduce a theme of his book, that a river is a metaphor that describes the dynamic academic discipline of missiology. This river metaphor is the thesis imagery to understand the issues of the spread of Christianity across global cultures. Nehrbuss has an impressive resume of academic qualifications of teaching and writing, given credibility by his field work serving with his wife with Wycliffe Bible Translators translating the New Testament for a tribal language in Vanuatu. In Advanced Missiology, it is clear that Nehrbuss has a sincere passion to help the readers to be better equipped to make disciples across cultures. Nehrbuss still serves as a consultant of translation and anthropology for mission agencies, and his writing reflects fresh perspectives in the dynamic "river" of the field of missiology and its field applications, even with a view to the future of the discipline.
Advanced Missiology is designed to be a textbook for teaching missions or a resource for the serious missiologist or missionary. Accordingly, each chapter ends with a review and with reflection questions. The author gives an historical evolution of ideas and a prophetic view of missiology in the future. Early in the book, Nehrbass shows the symbiotic relationship between the academic institution and the mission field. This book was released in the context of a global pandemic, political turmoil in target areas of global missions, and global instability. As a result, Chapter 11 on "The Future of Missiology" was probably more relevant on the day it was released than when Nehrbass authored the text, and has crucial insights on the future of missiology in the 21st century.
One notable aspect of this work is that it intentionally addresses the issues of justice and diversity. The diversity that is discussed includes the academic work published by gender and ethnicity as well as cultures. Nehrbass devotes an entire section of the final chapter as to how missiology and missions will be more diverse in the 21st century. The era of modern missions has been dominated by male missiologists with a European or Western background. Nehrbass gives good information about how the future of missiological research and practice will likely be accomplished by a majority of academics and missionaries from places and cultures of global diversity, and likely more female missiologists than males. This final chapter on the future of the field of missions and missiology was quite thought provoking and informative.
As a professor who teaches missions, this reviewer was interested in the text as a potential resource for the classroom, and it has made that list. Additionally, as a practitioner of making disciples cross-culturally, this reviewer took notes to increase my skill and understanding of this biblical passion. The content was not only informative, but updated so that even historical ideas were freshened in their presentation. Chapters 8–10 focus on the definition and "Seminal Models for Cross-Cultural Discipleship," and every segment of these chapters was pregnant with missiological principles and practices. Of particular interest was Nehrbass's observation that the emphasis of "finishing the task" is even more challenging and elusive now due to the steady growth of Islam.
This reviewer found the Bibliography to be a valuable list of missiological material, especially to those of us who teach missions. It is extensive, updated, and relevant. Nehrbass used the classic sources, the historical sources, and the latest sources.
Advanced Missiology is a book for the serious student of missiology; it is written in a very academic style. Nonetheless, this presentation is very readable and easily understood. This book is also an important resource for the missionary who will be active in the field making disciples across cultures. It is presented in a format to enhance interest in the content by using excellent "figures" and graphs as visuals as well as highlighting very useful definitions of key ideas and terms in eye-catching boxes. This reviewer especially appreciated the excellent and inspiring profiles of missiologists, both past and present, that were inserted every few pages. The spotlighting of these "heroes" should motivate readers and students not only to learn more but to want to follow in their trailblazing paths. This reviewer was inspired by this work, learned from this book, and see it as an important contribution to the body of information that can help train future missionaries, missiologists, and teachers of the discipline.