A Review Essay Of Michael Goheen, A Light To The Nations: The Missional Church And The Biblical Story -- By: Bruce Riley Ashford

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 02:2 (Winter 2011)
Article: A Review Essay Of Michael Goheen, A Light To The Nations: The Missional Church And The Biblical Story
Author: Bruce Riley Ashford

A Review Essay Of Michael Goheen, A Light To The Nations: The Missional Church And The Biblical Story

Bruce Riley Ashford

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary


Historically, evangelical ecclesiologies have focused on the church’s organization, ordinances, and ministries. These realities, however, cannot properly be understood except in tandem with a serious exploration of the church’s core identity and self-understanding. A Light to the Nations provides just such an exposition of the church’s identity, arguing that the church is missional to its very core. The author, Michael W. Goheen, writes primarily for theological students and pastors, but succeeds in producing a book also accessible to thoughtful laypeople. This essay will argue that the book is a significant contribution in the disciplines of ecclesiology and theology of mission and, in spite of several minor points of critique, is strongly recommended. In addition to A Light to the Nations, he is the author or editor of five books which span the disciplines of theology, missiology, worldview, and intellectual history.1


A Light to the Nations is structured by the progressive unfolding of the biblical storyline. Goheen makes his argument in seven movements, which correspond to the first seven chapters of the book. In the first chapter, the author provides a summary statement of the significance of ecclesiology in relation to the concept

of mission. At the beginning of the biblical narrative, God responds to human sin by promising to redeem his image-bearers and restore his good creation. In keeping his promise, he chose a community who would proclaim and embody his redemption and restoration in the midst of human history. This community is a glimpse of what God had originally intended in creation and a foretaste of what he would provide in the future. God chose Israel to be that community, and continually renewed them as they failed in their task. Through the prophets, he promised Israel that one day he would give them a new heart, forgive their sin, and shape them into a new community. In accord with this promise, God claimed a decisive victory over Satan and sin through the crucifixion and resurrection and sent his newly gathered “Israel” to the ends of the earth as a tangible sign of his inbreaking kingdom. In other words, God’s church is missional at its very core.

For many Christians, “mission” refers primarily to the church’s geographic expansion and human activities to forward that expansion. Goheen, however, argues that mission is more comprehensive th...

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