Thursday, May 07, 2015

Book Review of Spiritual Equipping for Mission by Ryan Shaw

Spiritual Equipping for Mission: Thriving as God's Message Bearers
by Ryan Shaw
IVP Books
Reviewed by Clint Walker

I recently went to a wonderful retreat led by a missionary serving my denomination in Mexico. He began to share about how he had been serving tirelessly on the mission field, and encountered a good measure of success in his ministry there. Yet, at the same time, he felt he was spread more and more thin in his ministry. He was doing and going for the Lord, and yet he felt less connected to the practices and disciplines that brought him strength and spiritual health in his missionary journey. The retreat leader spoke about how God led him to a place of spiritual renewal in his ministry, and how he has been called to help other ministers and missionaries grow deeper in their spiritual journeys as well.

Ryan Shaw in his book Spiritual Equipping for Mission has similar concerns to my new friend. As a leader of a student missionary movement, he sees that many people on the mission field need equipping to grow deeper in their faith if they are going to have sustainable journeys as message bearers of Jesus and if they are going to form disciples instead of simply making converts. This book is focused on helping cross-cultural ministry servants, but it could be equally helpful for gospel message bearers in local churches in the United States.

Shaw chooses to use the term "message-bearers" to refer to missionaries. He discovered that the term "missionary" has a top-down, negative, and colonial connotation. So the term message bearer is used for those in cross-cultural ministry in this book. This terminology has the added benefit of being more holistic. It speaks of a missionary as one who comes and lives and embodies the kind of life that Christ offers by what they say but also by how they live. It speaks in terms of identity instead of task. I think this is brilliant.

Most of the book details each of the 10 spiritual disciplines of cross-cultural message bearers. These include:

  • Being saturated in the powerful presence of God
  • Embracing humility
  • Hungering and thirsting for God
  • Being clothed in God's Word
  • Discerning God's Guidance and Revelation
  • Pursuing a Lifestyle of Prayer
  • Cooperating with God's twofold purpose
  • Understanding the Times and Seasons of God
  • Persevering with Steadfastness and Stability
  • Pursuing a Focused Life
This will be a great guide, not just for international missionaries, but for each believer on a mission to bear the message of Christ to the world.

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