Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JBTM 5:1 (Spring 2008) p. 153
The Mission of Today’s Church: Baptist Leaders Look at Modern Faith Issues. Edited by R. Stanton Norman. Nashville: B&H Academic,
This collection of twelve essays originated with a conference entitled “The Mission of Today’s Church,” held at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in February 2005 under the auspices of The Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry. The Center for Baptist Theology and Ministry at New Orleans was directed by the editor, R. Stanton Norman, at the time of the conference. Since then, Dr. Norman has taken an administrative position at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri. Steve Lemke, the provost at New Orleans Seminary, has since been tasked with directing the work of this important locus of Baptist thought and practice. The purpose of the book is to explore what “Baptists believe about the nature and mission of the church and how that mission is contextualized in our contemporary world” (ix). The book meets its goal, but raises unintended questions about divergent views of the nature of the church and its mission. On the one hand, the commonalities manifested by Baptists within the book should be stressed.
On the other hand, the divergences expressed within the book should be noted, too. Below, we consider the book from the perspective of both unity and diversity with regard to Southern Baptist understandings of the Great Commission, the nature of the church, and the denomination’s direction. (Kenneth D. Keathley’s excellent essay on divine sovereignty and human salvation draws upon the Great Commission, but it is a heavier theological piece that is not easily classified within this book.)
First, it should be noted that the authors of the book are all Southern Baptists and are dedicated to Great Commission ministry within that denominational context. Beside Norman, the lineup includes one pastor, one state convention executive, three school presidents, three theology professors, and three other denominational servants. The preponderance of educators and denominational servants should not be seen as negative, however, for the writers collectively have many generations of pastoral experience between them. Moreover, the lives and words of each writer indicate that they are committed to serving the churches through their various roles.
Second, the editor comments that the authors are each passionately committed to fulfilling the Great Commission within the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention. There is little doubt in this regard, but the essays stress the mission of the church to varying degrees. The essays primarily devoted to consideration of the Great Commission as a practice include those by James Jenk...
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