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Review of Gregg Okesson, A Public Missiology: How Local Churches Witness To A Complex World

Gregg Okesson. A Public Missiology: How Local Churches Witness To A Complex World. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2020. Paperback. 288 pp. $18.79.

In this multidisciplinary work, Gregg Okesson, former missionary in East Africa and Dean of the Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism at Asbury Theological Seminary, affirms local Christian congregations as the “basic unit of a new society” (143), called and gifted by God to witness to the world from within. Yet, he laments that many local congregations manifest a “thin” soteriological witness, focused primarily on individual conversion and transformation, insufficient to address the complex, “thick” realities found within the public spaces in which people actually live. Okesson argues that, to offer a more complex, “thicker” witness that addresses the concerns of the world, congregations must understand the power and ubiquity of the public realm and ground their mission in the “movements” of the Trinity.

While I reserve some criticism for the way Okesson employs certain Trinitarian concepts, this extensively researched book manages to balance specialized theological reflection with concrete ecclesiology in ways that are suitable for a wide audience. The book is constructed in two parts: the first establishes a theological framework for a thicker public missiology, while the second provides examples of this kind of thick public missiology at work in three ethnographic case studies.

Within the book’s opening chapters, Okesson attempts to give readers a sense of the vast, complex nature of the public realm. He offers a concise overview of the history of “publicology” through the major historical, sociological, and philosophical movements which shape contemporary public life. Although the public realm evades easy categorization, we are ultimately given a broad definition of publics as “spaces both real and imagined, where people participate in life together and form opinions based on the circulation of texts” (41).1 These spaces are so ubiquitous and closely woven together that it is impossible to speak of the public realm using any singular term. It is a tapestry of human communities which “interpenetrate” one another, distinct enough to be identifiable but with borders that are porous and often difficult to distinguish. Nothing in the public realm is truly independent of anything else. Therefore, strict distinctions between public and private, secular and religious, or ways of categorizing various “cultural domains as discrete wholes” (51), must be abandoned. For Okesson, this idea should dispel any illusions of isolation from or separation within the public realm. Congregations exist as one of many alternative publics which are constantly in a state of dynamic exchange with other surrounding publics.

This exchange between congregations and publics, which Okesson refers to as “movement,” “weaving,” “dance,” or “engagement,” is fundamental to his argument. It connotes a wide spectrum of interactive activities in public spaces which result in a greater awareness of complexity, understanding, or thickness. Such movements could consist of virtually any interaction in which Christians engage the public realm– joining a school’s parent association, participation in civic culture or politics, or participation in online social networks. In short, the amount of movement a congregation experiences within the public realm directly correlates to the thickness of its soteriological witness. On the surface, this seems like an obvious affirmation of the need to contextualize the Christian witness, but Okesson goes further. Movement thickens witness, not only because it allows congregations to orient the resources of the Gospel to the contextualized needs of the world, but because such movement finds its inspiration (and power) in similar movements found in the persons of the Trinity (106).

In Okesson’s work, the Trinity is presented as an essential element of the Christian faith that must lie at the heart of any missiological approach to the public realm. Drawing on scriptural narratives and Trinitarian theologies from Moltmann, Newbegin, Tennant, and Volf, he suggests the immanent and economic movements of the Trinity are both inspiration and source for thick congregational missiology.2 As the Trinity achieves a “thick oneness” through internal movement between its distinct, yet interconnected, persons, and moves outward into all of creation, congregations should similarly develop a “thick witness” via the worship of the persons of the Trinity (71) and movement into the public realm.

Okesson’s use of the Trinity as a model for good missiology is in keeping with current trends which assert that the Trinity is well-understood and that its nature should be authoritative or exemplary for the Church. The parameters of a book review do not allow for a thorough critique of this approach to contemporary theology/missiology; however, I believe that Okesson overstates, and ultimately undermines, his case by founding aspects of his theological argument on aspects of the immanent Trinity that cannot be truly known. The doctrine of the Trinity may allow us to affirm the triune nature of God and (most importantly) Christ’s place within the Trinity, but it does not allow us to assume we have some intimate understanding of what this three-in-oneness is like or how it relates to itself.3 Furthermore, even if we could know something about the internal divine relationship, it does not mean that any lessons derived from the Trinity should be considered normative or directly applicable to human beings.4 Even setting these theological concerns aside, in appealing to vague, inherently mysterious, Trinitarian concepts, Okesson fails to give his lay readers concrete conceptual footholds for orienting Christian missiology. Ultimately, these arguments frustrate Okesson’s laudable attempt to provide a compelling missiological vision which is accessible to a wide audience.

The final chapters indicate that Okesson may be aware that his Trinitarian approach could be too esoteric for some readers. He turns from the theoretical/theological to the concrete, offering three ethnographies that illustrate thick witness in churches in Kenya, Canada, and the United States. These churches model Okesson’s missiological vision by naming and mirroring the distinctive persons of the Trinity in their doxology, by expanding their notion of salvation beyond the mere forgiveness of personal sin on the cross, and by deliberately engaging the complexity of the public realm in their teaching and ministries. In Okesson’s words, these are examples of churches that employ his notion of movement to “save people in and for their publics” (254). These chapters, along with Okesson’s conclusion, are helpful insofar as they allow readers to see where the author identifies “thick witness” at work in the actual, lived reality of Christian ministry. Although I remain critical of the immanent Trinitarian models employed, Okesson’s book certainly has value and is certain to spark critical dialogue in the church and in the academy regarding how congregations understand and witness to the visible and hidden publics outside, and inside, their church walls.

Mark Barneche

Associate Director of the Lausanne Program

Pepperdine University

Lausanne, Switzerland

1 Okesson sources the term “texts” from Karin Barber’s work, The Anthropology of Texts, Persons and Publics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007), which gives a spacious definition encompassing oral, embodied, and written materials.

2 “Movements between the persons of the Trinity result in the creation of the world. And if this is true for the Trinity, we must later reflect on how the church reflects the inner life of the Trinity through public witness, sowing seeds of new creation into the present” (75).

3 For a more thorough critique of uses (and misuses) of the Trinity, see Karen Kilby, “Is Apophatic Trinitarianism Possible?” International Journal of Systematic Theology 12, no. 1 (2010): 65–77.

4 See Kathryn Tanner, Christ the Key, Current Issues in Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 207–46.

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Online Theological Higher Education: Reflections on Past Practices for Future Endeavors

Advances in online learning make it possible to connect seminaries with church leaders around the world, fulfilling the mission of theological education in new and exciting ways. Part retrospective, part hopeful forecast, this article highlights current developments in digital education with an eye toward future missional possibilities.

I started teaching in theological higher education almost twenty years ago. I taught my first online class soon after. And while part of me still feels like that fresh-faced doctoral student, the rest of me knows full well that a lot of things have changed in the last two decades. There are many ways I could talk about the past and future of online theological education. But perhaps starting with a personal approach is most interesting.

I decided to pursue a career in theological education as a missionary endeavor. A college internship with Pioneer Bible Translators confirmed my gifts for language, exegesis, and teaching while simultaneously confirming that a life on the mission field wasn’t the best choice for my health. So I got a PhD, committed to equip others for the mission work I could not do myself. By God’s providence, one of the professors on my dissertation committee was an “early adopter” in the field of online learning. The few conversations we had about his discoveries teaching online classes were enough to get me appointed to the distance education committee in my first job after graduation.

The University of Dubuque Theological Seminary had begun offering online classes a few years before as a way to serve the growing lay pastor population in the Presbyterian Church (USA). To my colleagues, online education was a useful choice for those poor souls who weren’t ready—or willing—to move to Dubuque for a “real” seminary degree. Sadly, that perspective was mirrored in many schools at the time. Online learning was a second-class citizen compared to traditional, brick-and-mortar schools. That “better than nothing” approach persists in some places even today. But for me—a missionary wanna-be disguised as an assistant professor—online learning was a revelation. Here was a way to spread the gospel, to equip men and women for lives of service and leadership around the world. After all, that was the mission statement of the seminary. Why would we not use this tool to expand our reach at every level? When the distance education committee proposed our first online master’s degree, we pointed to the seminary’s mission statement as justification for our crazy idea. I volunteered to lead this new initiative with all the enthusiasm (and naivete!) of a new missionary. When the Association of Theological Schools gave us permission to launch the first accredited Master of Divinity degree online, I had no idea how that move would change the trajectory of my missional-academic career.

Needless to say, I learned a lot during my time in Dubuque. I learned about learning management systems. I learned about accreditation and institutional assessment. Unfortunately, I learned that not every faculty member was as enthusiastic about teaching online as I was. But most of what I learned was about learning itself. It’s astonishing how little I actually knew about teaching when I started teaching. Aside from a voluntary lunchtime workshop, my alma mater did not offer any formalized training in educational theory to their doctoral students.

I may be wrong—I would like to be wrong about this—but I do not think that is unique to my experience in theological education. We send newly-minted graduates into classrooms of their own, assuming the transition from the student’s desk to the teacher’s desk will happen automatically. Most faculty members simply repeat the examples—both positive and negative—that they experienced in their own education. Perhaps that explains the continued use of long, boring lectures. Oftentimes, we do not realize there is any other way to teach. And once we become teachers ourselves our personal insecurities cause many of us to become defensive when someone asks us about the way we teach. You stay out of my classroom—special emphasis on the “my”—and I will stay out of yours. But when I started teaching online, I did not have any past experience as a student in an online class. I was a blank slate, staring at a blank course site. I had to swallow my pride and ask for help: from colleagues who had been teaching in the lay training program before me, from books and articles in the growing field of online pedagogy, and from workshops and conferences offered by groups like the Wabash Center and the Association of Christian Distance Educators.

We joked about our first cohort of MDiv students at Dubuque being guinea pigs. I felt like a guinea pig, myself. But as I started to gain experience in online teaching, the missionary in me came to life. I had finally discovered better ways to connect with students, ways that moved me out of the spotlight as the “sage on the stage” and put students at the center of the teaching and learning enterprise. On top of that, the things I was learning about student engagement and community building in online classes worked nicely in traditional classroom settings. I could not contain my enthusiasm.

That enthusiasm for online learning led me to my current position at Abilene Christian University. I met future colleague Tim Sensing at a Wabash Center workshop on spiritual formation in distance education. My missionary zeal for online learning spilled over into a dinner conversation and the (joking!) offer that when ACU decided to get serious about online programs he should give me a call. Be careful what you say out loud: two years later I found myself interviewing for a newly created position as Director of Distance Education for the Graduate School of Theology. This missionary found herself in a new place, a seemingly foreign country, speaking a foreign language about learning management systems and online pedagogy to a group of colleagues who were trying to wrap their minds around hiring a woman to join the faculty. Talk about culture shock! I made mistakes in those first years that still haunt me today. But thanks to the grace of God and lots of grace from my co-workers, we have managed to launch four online master’s degrees for students pursuing various types of theological education.

One of my favorite aspects of our distance programs is the partnerships we have developed with ministry programs in Africa. There is that missionary again, bringing the good news of education to evangelize the next generation of leaders for the church in Ghana and southern Africa. While the Graduate School of Theology had connections with Heritage Christian College and Africa Christian College long before I joined the faculty, their graduates faced huge financial challenges to qualify for a student visa to come to Abilene for their master’s degree. In addition to the financial hurdles, those few students who did manage to qualify had to leave their ministry behind along with family and friends for years of study. I have so much respect for our international graduates who manage to pursue their dreams in Abilene. But we can equip many more ministers, to serve many more churches, by offering high-quality theological education right where they live. God has seen fit to extend the technology needed to participate in online classes into many more places around the world. It is our responsibility to steward those resources wisely for the good of Christ’s Kingdom.

What lessons can be learned from this missionary-cum-educator’s adventures in online learning? A handful come to mind:

  • Sometimes the doors that close lead you to even better opportunities you were not looking for.
  • There are no second-class citizens in the kingdom of God. What started as many schools’ “better than nothing” to bolster declining enrollment is the delivery method of choice for a majority of student-ministers.
  • A little humility goes a long way. Even seasoned teachers can benefit from insights gained through online pedagogy.
  • For those to whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48). Theological schools have been blessed beyond measure. It is up to us to decide how we will pass along those blessings where they are needed most.

Our friends at the Association of Theological Schools have learned a few lessons themselves over their 85-year existence. The 2017 Educational Models and Practices in Theological Education Report1 provides a good summary of lessons learned by both the Association and its member schools. Of the 18 individual reports, two focused specifically on online education. Most of the others had at least some connection to online learning even if their assigned topic focused on a different aspect of theological education. While time will not permit a full review of the 200-page report, the “central themes” deserve our attention:

  • A focus on learning outcomes and the wide-ranging implications of that focus.
  • The key outcome of student formation, recognizing the different understandings and emphases among the schools.
  • Emerging forms of context-based education that utilize places of ministry and service as full educational partners.
  • Access to theological education that takes a variety of forms.
  • An emphasis on cultural competence across institutions.
  • Understanding the role of theological schools as one part of the full life span of Christian/theological education.2

It would appear that the past practices of the 110 member schools who participated in the Educational Models and Practices Project inform the present emphases of theological education. This report fed directly into the new Degree Program Standards, which were adopted by the Association in 2020. Those standards reflect a much more open attitude toward online learning, representing an almost 180-degree turn from the predominant thinking during my early days of navigating accreditation requirements based on residential delivery assumptions. We have come a long way.

So, what is next? I am not a fortune-teller or a prophet. I don’t have a crystal ball to foresee exactly what online theological education will look like twenty years from now. I hope I am around to see it, though. The past twenty years have taught me that God can use anything for his purposes, whether that is a failed mission internship or the morally neutral World Wide Web. Recent developments give me good hope for some of the following possibilities:

  • Growing leadership in the developing world. The church has shifted geographically; we should look for seminaries to follow.3 Wherever those schools physically reside, their faculty and student services staff will need cultural competence and humility to learn from past mistakes in educational assumptions. Perhaps our friends in missiology can help us with that.
  • Programs in languages other than English, taught from diverse perspectives by non-Western professors who are well-trained to teach online. The Association of Theological Schools is encouraging this possibility in Spanish through their partnership with the Association for Hispanic Theological Education. They are expanding options for schools to offer culturally-sensitive online theological education for students in and from Latin and South America.4
  • Open Educational Resources providing high-quality educational material directly in online courses, reducing or perhaps even eliminating the need for expensive textbooks.5 Increasing facility in digital literacy coupled with continuing technological advances will make online theological education more affordable and accessible, while simultaneously making it easier for authors from diverse backgrounds to share their work with the world.
  • Better (real, honest) partnerships with congregations and other constituencies. Educators must practice open communication and a willingness to listen instead of assuming that what we’ve always offered is what everyone needs.

Maybe that last one is more idealistic than research-based. But a girl can dream. I am not the only dreamer, either. Former Executive Director of the Association of Theological Schools, Dan Aleshire, puts it this way: “The coming moment calls on theological schools to emphasize some things that have been present but in the shadows, for them to do some of the things the church used to do so there will be a future in which the church might be able to remember its task.”6 I would add that theological educators also need to remember their task, which should be focused more on our mission and less on the delivery method.7 We must break down the walls of the ivory tower just as Joshua led the Israelites to break down the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:1–20). I can already hear the trumpets sounding.

Melinda (Mindi) Thompson serves as Associate Professor and Director of Distance Education for the Graduate School of Theology at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She is currently President of ACCESS, the Association of Christian Distance Educators.

1 The Association of Theological Schools: The Commission on Accrediting, Educational Models and Practices Peer Group Final Reports, The ATS Models and Practices Project,

2 Ibid., 5.

3 “The future for American Christianity in this century will be defined by persons of color… [who] will constitute the majority of students in US theological schools within two decades” (Daniel O. Aleshire, Beyond Profession: The Next Future of Theological Education [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2021], 69).

4 See the Asociación para la Educación Teológica Hispana (AETH),

5 The 2021 Educause Horizon Report includes Open Educational Resources as one of its key technologies and practices. See Kathe Pelletier, et al., 2021 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report, Teaching and Learning Edition (Boulder, CO: EDUCAUSE, 2021),

6 Aleshire, 104.

7 “Negotiating the shift to online learning in a beneficial way is as much an educator mind shift as it is a shift in delivery modality” (Debra Dell, “Resonance and Current Relevance of IRRODL Highly-Cited Articles: An Integrative Retrospective.” International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning 22 [2021]: 1, 12).

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Review of Darrell L. Bock, Cultural Intelligence: Living for God in a Diverse, Pluralistic World

Darrell L. Bock. Cultural Intelligence: Living for God in a Diverse, Pluralistic World. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2020. Paperback. 160 pp. $15.99.

In Cultural Intelligence, Darrell Bock engages the exploding arena of cultural intelligence, cultural engagement, and cultural competence. Bock serves as the Executive Director of Cultural Engagement at The Hendricks Center and is a Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He approaches this topic primarily from a biblical perspective, drawing upon scriptural resources to inform the church’s interactions with the shifting cultural landscape in North America.

Bock begins his discussion of cultural intelligence by noting that he applies a nontechnical sense of the term. What he writes is more about creating a sensitivity, which “sets the table for moving into developing cultural intelligence,” for “one cannot get to being intelligent about culture(s) without being willing to engage, listen, and many times, learn” (9).

The approach Bock advocates focuses on the “tone and the relational dimensions of such (cultural) interactions” (8). The focus of this tone and sensitivity are those issues that are part and parcel of the significant cultural changes since the 1950s (e.g., birth control, abortion, gun control, and LGBTQ issues). Not only has cultural consensus on many of these issues shifted, Bock notes the loss of what he terms the “Judeo-Christian net” (5). This is the general familiarity and worldview framework that established Christian sources of authority (church, religious leaders, the Bible) that have existed for much of American history. That “net” can no longer be assumed.

This book then is not about cultural intelligence but, rather, about culturally significant issues for which Bock proposes a framework for engagement. To say this another way, what Bock utilizes is not an anthropological notion of culture but theological ideas and commitments. He notes, for example, Reinhold Niebuhr’s work Christ and Culture as the point where many start this type of conversation. Bock argues for a more “relational” approach that challenges the individual believer about questions of engagement and action. To this end, he applies important New Testament texts, creating a framework from “six key biblical texts that discuss engagement” (8). These are Eph 6:10–18, 1 Pet 3:13–18, Col 4:5-6, Gal 6:10, 2 Cor 5:17–21, and 2 Tim 2:22–26. Bock defines cultural intelligence with insights he draws from these six foundational passages.

The book is organized clearly enough. Section 1, “A Theology of Cultural Engagement” (which is properly more of a biblical midrash on his key texts), includes Bock’s summary points and short exegesis of each key “cultural engagement” text. He then looks at the example of Paul (Section 2, “Back to the Future: Lessons on Engagement from Paul”), contrasting the Pauline critique of the first-century Greco-Roman and Jewish world in Rom 1 with the more nuanced and charitable engagement with Greek philosophical thought in Acts 17. Section 3, “Difficult Conversations: How to Make Them Better,” provides wisdom aimed at helping negotiate conversations about difficult issues. The very brief Section 4, “What is the Purpose of Salvation and the Biblical Imperative of Love?” challenges Christians to think about salvation as something that has specific, political, real-world effects. Finally, Section 5, “Intelligent Cultural Engagement and the Bible: A Second Effective Way to Teach Scripture” challenges believers to move from a “Bible to Life” approach to reading back from “Life to the Bible,” which requires close listening, supple and theologically informed wisdom, and a kind of theological translation.

Bock’s short work offers a pastorally sensitive and grace-oriented approach to difficult issues that puts as much emphasis on the how of engagement as it does the what or content of that communication. Also, Bock offers an approach that assumes the Christian experience of salvation is not merely a heavenly, personal experience. Rather, Christians have a creation mandate that involves managing the world well while being in relationship with others. Bock correctly highlights how many shifts in North America have led to a place where Christian authority is no longer assumed and, indeed, may be scorned. This is, of course, what the missional conversation has been voicing for some time: North America is in a type of post-Christian existence that is best suited to churches that assume a “missionary” posture and read and engage culture as missionaries do. He notes how this forces the church to make new arguments based on new foundations, which rightly draws our attention to early Christian approaches. His “Life to the Bible” approach is one such option.

This approach assumes a move not from an authoritative text to application but rather from life back to the text. Bock frames this as reversing the traditional polarity from “It’s true because it is in the Bible” to “It’s in the Bible because it is true.” This allows, Bock argues, for moving conversations past likely roadblocks with those who do not begin with scriptural authority.

Bock provides several concrete examples of how he sees this working, including a discussion of how he grounds such an approach in Paul’s ministry. Bock places the Paul of Rom 1 (direct critique) and the Paul of Acts 17 (contextually aware bridge-building) in conversation to illustrate how he envisions Paul instructing us today. Noting Paul’s use of the Athenians’ belief system as a starting point, Bock argues that “working with a shared cultural story can be the bridge to the divine story” (49). Essentially, this means that Christians enter into the public sphere and make arguments that do not assume scriptural authority. It requires, among other things, an experiential apologetics and a public theology, two things Christians have not had to develop recently in their North American Christendom context but now must consider in order to communicate effectively.

For Bock to accomplish the book’s goal, readers must engage important and contentious contemporary North American public issues more openly, be more ready to listen, and function as more able apologists for their own beliefs. Bock reminds us that engagement serves “not to defeat the other person but to move toward mutual understanding about why you disagree or where the differences and tension points are” (50).

I see several deficiencies in this work. First, Bock utilizes a definition of culture that literally comes from the Oxford English Dictionary, one that, unfortunately, assumes culture in a more elitist and colonial sense. It simply conflates culture with society. Nowhere does Bock engage in or demonstrate awareness of important discussions of culture from anthropology, critical theory, or theology. Because of this, Bock fails to discuss essential elements of culture such as power distance, indirect discourse, individualism-collectivism, honor/shame and face issues, and so on. Additionally, Bock does not offer an approach to reading culture. Though full of helpful communicative suggestions, Bock’s approach is one of attempting to find ways to apply a relatively conservative evangelical theology through a frame of “cultural” issues.

Finally, though he notes that the image of God is a critical issue (“how we engage culturally and intelligently is how we reflect the image of God, honoring him” [79]), I wish he would have discussed the imago Dei as a warrant for engaging the “other.” He grounds the call and the mode of engagement in a theology of redemption rather than a theology of creation. It seems to me that an approach assuming more of a central role for the imago Dei would fit better with his call to experiential apologetics and serve as a better foundation for the type of cultural listening and engagement he advocates.

Bock’s book won’t satisfy those who have already thought deeply about culture or cultural intelligence. To learn about cultural intelligence as a foundational skill for the contemporary North American church, readers might consider Many Colors: Cultural Intelligence for a Changing Church by Soong-Chan Rah or Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends by Kevin Vanhoozer. More advanced readers would do well to consider the important work by Kathryn Tanner, Theories of Culture: A New Agenda for Theology.

Christopher L. Flanders

Professor of Missions

Graduate School of Theology

Abilene Christian University

Abilene, TX, USA

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Review of Sadiri Joy Tira and Tetsunao Yamaori, eds., Scattered and Gathered: A Global Compendium of Diaspora Missiology

Sadiri Joy Tira and Tetsunao Yamaori, eds. Scattered and Gathered: A Global Compendium of Diaspora Missiology. Rev ed. Carlisle, UK: Langham Global Library, 2020. Paperback. 680 pp. $44.57.

As a missionary working among diaspora communities in the five boroughs of New York, the following, from Elias Medeiros’s “Local Churches in Missional Diaspora,” was one of many passages I felt compelled to “amen” while reading Scattered and Gathered: A Global Compendium of Diaspora Missiology: “Diasporas are, doubtless, a global irreversible phenomenon with significance for every local church in the world. . . . As a matter of fact, diasporas have always been vitally important throughout the history of redemption and contemporary history, and it is especially crucial in Christian missions today. [Any] Evangelical local church, denomination, or Christian institution that is indifferent toward this theo-graphical historic moment in regards to diaspora missions is already failing regarding the Great Commission” (213).

The book is a revised edition, collecting various works of scholarship that originated from the Lausanne Movement’s Global Diaspora Forum, which took place in Manila, Philippines, in March 2015. Running the gamut of missiological studies, the book’s essays range across a multitude of topics such as: data-heavy analyses of demographic trends around the world (49–69),1 exegetical reflections on diaspora in Scripture (149–64),2 case studies of transnationalism and diaspora congregations in various countries (459–72),3 and thoughts about church planting among maritime workers in the international shipping trade (255–62),4 just to give a few examples.

As with many works of its kind (i.e., compendiums) Scattered and Gathered contains a wealth of scholarly information out of a diversity of contexts—both theologically and geographically—but readers will likely find the essays to be of varying levels of helpfulness depending on their own context and mission. This would be a particularly helpful read for those seeking to understand the phenomenon of international migration or a robust hermeneutic of the gospel’s concern for the migrant or “the other.” And, were it possible for me to begin again as a new missionary, this work is one I would want in hand. It offers essential theological framing, biblical foundations, relevant sociological study, and practical case studies for much of what my team experienced and could have used better frameworks for in our early years in the field.

That said, it is a massive work,5 one I would anticipate most readers using as more of a reference book than consuming as a whole. While the information contained within it is an enormous contribution of scholarship, the academic style of most of the writing requires much of its readers, and the average congregational minister would likely need a deep passion for the subject to engage the majority of these studies.

Despite its scope, I finished the work wishing it had included more practical suggestions for engaging in mission among the diaspora. Readers seeking principles and frameworks for ministry or an understanding of global trends should be more than satisfied by the works contained here. But for those with questions about how to initiate spiritual conversations with their diaspora neighbor, how to become a good cross-cultural learner, how to facilitate a Bible study cross-culturally or not in English (for ministers who are monolingual), or how to acquire other practical skills required for missions among diaspora communities, Scattered and Gathered will prove a valuable resource but likely not one that equips them with steps to take toward beginning such a ministry.

The church is on mission in a world increasingly shaped by the migration of international people groups. The nations Christ sent us to in the great commission may now live next door, providing the opportunity for the people in our pews to act as missionaries even where they live, work, and play in their everyday lives. Publications like this one are vital. I would recommend any church planter or missionary have a copy of Scattered and Gathered in their library. Without reflection on the type of missiological thinking contained within it, they are likely ill-equipped to work within our globalizing context. Yet, I also hope that works like this serve as a catalyst for the writing of diaspora ministry books more oriented toward the practice of cross-cultural discipleship. If the thinking contained here cannot bridge from the academy to the ordinary believers in our pews, then the church will remain unprepared to bear witness to the nations now living among us.

Seth Bouchelle

Director of Equipping

Exponent Group

The Bronx, NY, USA

1 Gina Zurlo, “Migration, Diasporas, and Diversity: A Demographic Approach,” ch. 2.

2 Paul Woods, “God, Israel, the Church and the Other: Otherness as a Theological Motif in Diaspora Missions,” ch. 7.

3 Stanley John, “Transnational Ties of Indian Churches in the Arabian Gulf: Kerala Pentecostal Churches in Kuwait,” ch. 27.

4 Martin Otto, “Diaspora Missions on the High Seas,” ch. 13.

5 The paperback edition contains 625 pages, not counting the appendices and glossary.

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Review of Rob Martin, When Money Goes On Mission: Fundraising and Giving in the 21st Century

Rob Martin. When Money Goes On Mission: Fundraising and Giving in the 21st Century. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2019. Paperback. 287 pages. $14.99.

In a recent conversation with a distinguished Christian grantmaking organization, Rob Martin’s When Money Goes On Mission was recommended as a handy map for the task of fundraising for Christian mission. Martin’s résumé includes working for a Los Angeles rescue mission, a brief stint as US Director of the Lausanne Committee, and nineteen years as the executive director of First Fruit, Inc., an estimable Christian charitable foundation. He currently coaches ministries and foundations in fundraising, among other organizational issues, as well as serving as a Senior Associate for Global Philanthropy and a seminar leader on Fundraising for the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. Clearly, Martin is well-versed, well-traveled, and well-positioned to pen a book on the topic. This is affirmed by a slew of enthusiastic endorsements from an impressive list of stalwarts in the fields of Evangelical Christian philanthropy and mission. And though I have no expertise in the intersection of these enterprises, with this review I add my voice to those applauding Martin’s work. When Money Goes On Mission delivers an engaging and insightful guide to the (commonly thorny) terrain of mission fundraising.

Martin traverses the terrain in four parts, each containing several chapters. The chapters navigate various issues and perspectives of both funders and funded, but together they are calibrated to Martin’s thesis that missional fundraising should nurture “a communion of giving and receiving” (63). This is Martin’s true north that orients money on mission. Thus, throughout the book he works to redescribe fundraising as a relational partnership (“communion”) that is transformational rather than merely transactional. At the end of each chapter, he nicely captures that chapter’s particular contribution by completing the sentence “When money goes on mission . . ..” A notable strength of the book is the intermingled real-world narratives that advance Martin’s direction or illustrate his directives. His stories are entertaining and substantive, in no small part because they are frequently autobiographical. His narratives, his conversational writing style, and his relative concision—given the expansive ground he covers—help make this book an ideal compass for missionaries and mission funders.

Part one argues that the shifting landscape of mission to the global South calls for a new paradigm of partnership between local, Majority World “missional entrepreneurs” and moneyed, Western givers (Martin prefers the clumsier “autochthonous leaders” to designate indigenous mission leaders for reasons never adequately justified). This new paradigm contrasts with previous eras/models of mission work in that it values balanced mutuality between giver and receiver. Genuine mutuality is hard if not impossible to come by, Martin avers, where the giver and receiver are not interdependent within their local context—that is, “financially sustained for their own core operations within a local context” (50). Such a forceful statement should give pause. Commitment to this core value means that indigenous leaders should seek local funding strategies and plan for sustainability accordingly without foreign financial dependence. When it is appropriate, cross-cultural giving ought not short-circuit the discipleship, joy, and freedom that arises from local sustainability and accountability. Martin’s prescription will necessarily raise eyebrows; nevertheless, he rightly attempts to come to terms with the unfolding era of locals truly owning their own mission efforts—their governance, finances, results, and growth—and hence, partnering as trusted equals with outsiders who are called to accompany them.

Part two meanders between the themes of faithful trust in God and excellence in practice. In my estimation it lacks the same degree of constructive focus as the other three parts; the chapters could have been consolidated to make for an even tidier read. Martin holds up a commitment to excellence as the essential counterpart to relying on God’s provision when working or investing in mission. If one is practiced without, or at the expense of, the other, then money on mission operates in dangerous territory. Faithfulness cannot be translated willy-nilly into measurable outcomes, but neither ought it be used to excuse inefficiency. How givers and receivers measure efficiency should be rooted in organic effectiveness—which can often only be discerned up close—rather than transactional benchmarks viewed from a spreadsheet. Throughout this section Martin uses the metaphor of catching the wind on a sailboat to express the connection between the human and divine roles in the communion of giving and receiving (though the chapters in this part have much more to say to the receiver than the giver).

Part three examines in sequence the themes of trust, purpose, character, ideas, and track record as marks of excellence of leadership with money. In these chapters Martin comes across as a coach in the locker room of mission leaders who want givers to join their team. He stresses the need for accountability (“if you can’t be fired from your position, you’re not accountable” [139]). He emphasizes that leaders must clearly define mission direction in view of clearly defined needs—and they must be able to articulate how they are making progress. Martin lifts up trustworthiness as an essential character trait for mission leaders. Yet, he perceptively parses trustworthiness in terms of being a person with courage in the face of weakness, change, challenge, or opposition. Opposition is sometimes “disguised as good ideas that are not necessarily God’s ideas” (166). Martin recommends strategic planning for the short term (~18 months) that aligns strategies with missional context and purpose. Givers fund strategy when they ascertain and agree with its destination. Extensive long-term planning, however, usually wastes more resources than it contributes in the dynamic circumstances of mission. Finally, a ministry’s track record discloses not just the ability of the mission but also the future potential of the mission—and the latter helps especially to build investor confidence. Leaders should not neglect honestly relating the “Ebenezers” (1 Sam 7:12) and even the failures in communicating the mission’s way forward.

Part four distills practical recommendations on the nuts and bolts of the fundraising process. Martin gives direction, among other things, on board-executive relationships, the hunt for potential donors, communication with existing donors, and grant proposals. These chapters offer a trove of advice, accumulated by years of experienced fundraising and funding, for mission leaders seeking concrete “how to’s.” In offering his wisdom, Martin continues to underscore that mission fundraising must aim to nurture a communion of trust and accountability that leads to a mutually transformative relationship.

The task of uniting givers and receivers in responsible, faithful partnership is not simple, especially when money crosses cultures on mission. It takes thoughtfulness, transparency, patience, hard work, and humility—in a word, love. Love, Martin emphasizes in the concluding chapter, both maps the way and is the destination of giver and receiver. Martin is to be thanked for plotting the topography for the journey and showing us with wit and wisdom that the journey can be—indeed, should be—a pilgrimage of love.

Nathan Bills

Senior Lecturer and Head of the Department of Theology

Heritage Christian College

Accra, Ghana

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Theological Partnerships

In order for theological education to fulfill its mission of preparing church and global leaders, partnerships are a must. This paper explores partnerships between institutions in the Global South and scholars in the Global North as a practical strategy to benefit both sides.

Theological Education today is facing two concurrent situations that require our active participation. First, theological education institutions in the Global South (GS) are growing in numbers and opening programs in new places. Second, there is a surplus of graduates with theological and biblical degrees in the Global North (GN) competing for a limited number of openings every year.1 My aim in this paper is to present a proposal that will address both situations in a way that will benefit both sides.

Institutions of theological education in the GS face several challenges, one of them being limited access to qualified faculty. There are several explanations for this. First, most local people with theological or biblical degrees find employment in the GN. For example, only two out of ten Africans studying theology in the GN return to Africa.2 It is hard for the seminaries in the GS to compete with the wages and benefits institutions in the GN offer to faculty. Second, the growing anti-Western sentiment in many countries makes it unpopular for Western scholars to serve in the GS.3 Views of colonization, imperialism, and relationships between North and South are part of the difficult dialogue affecting cooperation and missionary involvement. More specifically in missiology, the talk is about “Americanization” of the gospel and the church. In the words of John Gatu, general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in East Africa: “[Our] present problems can only be solved if all missionaries can be withdrawn…. The churches in the third world must be allowed to find their own identity…the continuation of the present missionary movement is a hindrance to this selfhood.”4 Third, recently most traditional mission agencies have shifted to concentrating their efforts on the “unreached,” leaving theological education to the side. The current trend in many mission agencies is making it more difficult to raise funds for ministries like theological education.

Among the mission agencies still open to supporting theological education in the GS is the one I am affiliated with: United World Mission (UWM). UWM has a specific program, the Theological Education Initiative (TEI), to come alongside institutions in the GS and help them connect with qualified faculty mostly from the GN. To quote John Bernard, president of UWM:

Our Theological Education Initiative (TEI) is built on the assumption that contextualized theological education is critical for the church everywhere, but especially in the global South in the light of the growth of the church over the last 100 years. The enterprise assumes that North American Christians—for a significant portion of our TEI cohort of missional scholars are daughters and sons of the North and the West—still have an appropriate and important role in the world, particularly in the area of leadership formation and theological education. Finally, TEI builds on the assumption that global partnership is an imperative of the global church and that partnerships that strengthen local institutions and leadership are highly strategic as they seek to build local capacity and sustainability. We have deep respect for our brothers and sisters who are serving in churches and institutions around the world. As we seek to roll up our sleeves, come alongside and serve in ways that strengthen the church as it fulfills its identity and pursues its mission.5

I want to highlight some of the concepts John Bernard mentions. First, he underscores the crucial need of “contextualized theological education.” Contextualization is something we in Latin America have been working on for a long time. Even as early as 1929, Mexican professor Gonzalo Baez Camargo invited the emerging evangelical leaders to “latinize” the gospel, to make the message touch the realities of our Latin American people.6 This is a key element in TEI’s approach to theological education: it needs to be contextual, avoiding imperialism and foreign impositions but maintaining an open dialogue among the global Evangelical community. TEI wants to recognize local need, culture, and idiosyncrasy in the process of vetting candidates for faculty in the GS. The time of exporting agendas and programs without any consideration of the indigenous capabilities is over. UWM emphasizes that in the twenty-first century, missionaries must go as learners, collaborators side by side with the local believers, under native leadership and supervision. This marks the end of the idea that the West knows best.

The second concept I want to highlight is partnership. In our globalized world with immediate global access and networks, partnership is a must. Real partnership “strengthens local institutions and leadership” and benefits both sides equally. In this kind of partnership, both voices are heard, no one side receives or gives more than the other, and any side can terminate the partnership anytime. In this kind of partnership, there is a high degree of collaboration between the partners. There is no room for paternalism, or simply considering one side better than the other. This is a Christian partnership between two sides that are committed to the values of the kingdom of God, a partnership that brings glory to God and serves the church. As a North American professor teaching in the GS said, “I have learned so much and benefited most by coming to serve in this country. I have learned so much more than was possible had I stayed in my country.”

Finally, Bernard states that theological education has as its ultimate goal to serve “in ways that strengthen the church as it fulfills its identity and pursues its mission.” The church is the primary beneficiary of theological education. History teaches us that institutions that started within the church and later became estranged from their ecclesial roots lose relevance and even their Christian identity. We must be aware of the danger of turning theological education into an exclusively academic exercise that loses contact with its bases and severs its connection with the church. Academic excellence and pursuits are laudable only when they are put to the building up of the people of God.

These three concepts—contextualization, partnership, and church—are in the DNA of TEI and the partnerships we pursue. As TEI’s director, David Baer says:

At the Theological Education Initiative, we seek adroitly to place missional scholars on the faculties of select partnered theological communities. Anchored in partnership by this placement of highly trained personnel, we then scan for opportunities to enhance faculties as they pursue in concert the particular vocation of their theological community. None of this is simple. None of this is easy. We seek to break cycles of mediocrity in teaching and research. We strive to interrupt damaging patterns of poor vocational alignment that load missional scholars with burdens which break down their capacity to pursue the calling God has woven into their lives over long years of discernment and preparation. This is our calling, no higher or better than anyone else’s, but ours. This is our insertion point in the missio Dei.

To conclude in answer to the two situations above—difficult access to qualified faculty by theological institutions in the GS, and the surplus of graduates in theology and related fields in the GN— we as TEI provide a platform where both sides meet and find solutions to their dovetailing needs. We have seen that this is possible and produces excellent outcomes.

J. Daniel Salinas is originally from Bogota, Colombia. He holds a PhD from Trinity International University in Historical Theology. He is the author of several books in English and Spanish on the history of Latin American Evangelical theology. Currently, he teaches for Biblical Seminary (Medellín, Colombia), Asian Theological Seminary (Manila, Philippines), and Life Theological Seminary (Bhubaneswar, India). He is the associate director of the Theological Education Initiative, a program of United World Mission. He is married to Gayna, and they have three children.

1 According to, 32,172 people graduated in theology in 2019.

2 David A. Livermore, Serving With Eyes Wide Open (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 41.

3 Regarding the call for a missionary “moratorium,” see “Churches Renewed in Mission: Report of Section III of the Bangkok Conference,” International Review of Mission 62 (1973): 223.

4 Quoted in F. Albert Tizon, “Remembering the Missionary Moratorium Debate: Toward a Missiology of Social Transformation in a Post-Colonial Context,” The Covenant Quaterly 62, no. 1 (2004): 13.

5 Email to the author on October 11, 2018.

6 Baez Camargo Gonzalo, Hacia la renovación religiosa en Hispano-America (Mexico City: Casa Unida de Publicaciones, 1930), 30.

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Theological Higher Education in Africa: Why (Much of) Africa Needs Institutions of Higher Learning Rather Than More Preacher Training Schools

As a consequence of the expanding academic profile of many young professionals within the Churches of Christ in Africa, the “pew” appears to have outgrown the “pulpit” in relationship to levels of education. Such a growing phenomenon poses a challenge to ministers who have been equipped by Schools of Preaching (SoPs) as the nature and scope of courses taught in SoPs are inadequate to respond to the contexts and challenges facing the emerging generation of African Christians and churches. The School of Preaching (SoP) model introduced by Western missionaries now calls for an African recalibration.


In many places within the Churches of Christ in Africa, the “pew” appears to have outgrown the “pulpit” in regard to levels of education. The expanding academic profile of many church members, especially those of a younger, professional demographic, poses a challenge to ministers who have been equipped by traditional schools of preaching (SoPs). Generally speaking, the duration, nature, and scope of courses taught in SoPs are inadequate to respond to the contexts and challenges facing the emerging generation of African Christians and churches. As a consequence, the SoP model introduced by Western missionaries now calls for an African recalibration.

Context Then and Now

As a leadership training model, the SoP was timely for the context in which it was introduced. For many students who grew up in the pre-independence era of Africa, no occasion was more desirable than the day one graduated from middle school (junior high). In that era, the knowledge and competencies a middle school graduate had acquired were adequate enough for him (or the people in his community) to think that middle school education was tantamount to “finishing school.” After all, he was among the privileged few to receive formal (Western) education despite the fact that it was only a middle school standard of education.

Such was the background in which the pioneer American missionaries of the Churches of Christ set up the SoPs to develop ministers or church leaders in different places on the continent. Thus, the level of formal education of most ministers of the gospel who graduated from SoPs, in comparison with that of the average member of the church at the time, was equivalent to, if not above, those in the pew.

Today, however, the story is different. Much of post-independence Africa has seen considerable growth and development in the education sector, particularly in the last twenty-five years. Whereas twenty-five years ago college graduates represented less than 1% of Ghana’s youth, now college/university graduates represent 5% of the youth population (between ages 15 and 35), and this figure will only continue to rise.1

On the global scene in the areas of humanities, science and technology, business, and so on, growing numbers of young, migrant Africans make significant scholarly/professional contributions because they have had the benefit of attending institutions of higher learning. In religious traditions other than Churches of Christ in Africa, growth in higher education among members is quite apparent because those church traditions embraced higher education as an integral aspect of their mission endeavors for the primary purpose of developing the human capital of their churches. It is, therefore, a common characteristic in Africa, among faith traditions other than the Churches of Christ, to find gospel ministers whose academic and professional profiles are comparable to their educated church members because both categories have had the opportunity to study in institutions of higher learning established by their church traditions.

Within the Churches of Christ in (much of) Africa, levels of higher education among the more youthful membership manifestly have outpaced the level of education of most of those who are trained in SoPs. The SoP model of training leaders, without doubt, has been a tremendous blessing in preparing evangelists and leaders for the churches (and continues to make a positive impact in some places on the continent). This notwithstanding, the duration, nature, and scope of education offered by the SoPs, as well as academic capacity of many of their teachers, libraries, and so on, call into question whether the graduates are adequately equipped to address the complex social, political, economic, and religious contexts that now confront most emerging professionals.

Current Challenges Confronting SoP Graduates in Churches of Christ

As a consequence of secular higher education and exposure to the negative aspects of Western culture, young people in the church (i.e., the church’s future leaders) are increasingly questioning the realities that their parents and grandparents took for granted. Large numbers of the educated, young Christians seem unsatisfied with the answers their Christian parents or preachers provide them: for example, belief in the Bible/Christianity as the only source of truth, compatibility of science and religion, slavery of Africans and colonial entanglement, and so on.

Part of the apparent disillusionment of many youth in the Churches of Christ in Africa comes as a consequence of unmet expectations that their preachers provide persuasive philosophical/theological responses to questions and issues prompted by the cultural milieu. They expect (even need) the leaders of the church to put into place practical interventions that would address societal problems like youth unemployment, livelihood empowerment, tribal/civil war, terrorism, and environmental degradation. Therefore, beyond teaching people what they must “do to be saved,” church leadership and especially preachers require help in being equipped to provide reasonable, Christian responses to the concerns of the burgeoning generation of leaders of the African church.

The Need for Christian Higher Education Institutions in Africa

What is urgently needed is the establishment of private Christian universities on the continent of Africa (apart from public universities) to address the holistic needs of the people. This is especially so for Churches of Christ. The SoP model of leadership training falls short in some key domains that are better addressed by institutions of higher learning. In the following, I present three reasons that make the task of building institutions of higher education a critical work for the next chapter of participation in the mission of God in Africa.

First, SoPs attract only a slice of the student population that universities accommodate. SoPs largely neglect women, who represent the vast majority in most churches. SoPs also have little place for most of the talented young men in churches who do not have the calling for full-time ministry. The Christian university, in contrast, provides a broad spectrum of learning that integrates Christian faith and values for all categories of people in and even outside the church.

In short, Christian colleges and universities empower both young Christians and those with the calling for full-time ministry with the necessary intellectual, theological, and vocational skills (beyond what the SoPs provide). The issues of concern to young professionals in the pew—and to their contemporaries outside of the church—will continue to plague this demographic even if SoP ministers have successfully taught them the “truth of the gospel.”

Second, SoPs cannot offer the comprehensive, or holistic, education that today’s preacher needs to equip churches and Christian young men and women. Beyond training in preaching and traditional “church work,” today’s ministers need a wider base of knowledge and an advanced skill set that is the purview of a university curriculum. So, for example, ministers who know how to carry out verifiable research on the communities where they plant churches, place their research into conversation with published literature, or set up ministry intervention(s) that would transform the conditions of life in the context where they serve are better equipped for ministry today.

Third, SoPs lack the institutional bandwidth to produce more contextually appropriate literature for the African context. It is no secret that SoPs in Africa perpetually depend on written-for-the-USA textbooks to train African church leaders.

Implications of Establishing Christian Colleges/Universities within Churches of Christ in Africa

The time has come for Churches of Christ in Africa to collaborate with Christian universities and supporters in America to develop accredited, contextually appropriate Christian colleges in Africa. This certainly presents a number of vital implications, but for the sake of brevity I submit only three:

Implication #1: The Churches of Christ in Africa must take the lead to establish institutions of higher learning as a Christian response to continental need. These institutions stand a much greater chance of survival in what admittedly is often a precarious social, economic, and political environment if they are inspired and led by indigenous Africans.

The story of Heritage Christian College (HCC) in Ghana may serve as a case in point. Five years ago, under the auspices of the elders of the Nsawam Road Church of Christ in Accra, Ghana, we started HCC after receiving government accreditation. With 37 students, HCC began as an African-led church response to a continental need. Current student population stands at 382, and the vision of HCC is “to become a flagship Christian university in Africa for the purpose of advancing the kingdom of Christ and national development.” Apart from offering academic degrees, HCC operates a number of practical training institutes and centers, including the Center for Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy and Ethics (CEPE), where we require all students, regardless of their area of study, to take a series of hands-on practical entrepreneurial classes. As a part of this sequence of entrepreneurship training, students propose business plans and are given the opportunity to compete for seed-capital to fund their business start-ups.

Implication #2: Christian university administrators and faculty, particularly those in the United States, likewise have an obligation to assist in helping to establish Christian universities in Africa.

I recognize that this is a strong statement. Nonetheless, I believe administrators and faculty members of universities affiliated with Churches of Christ have a duty to God to collaborate with the few institutions of higher education that are emerging in Africa. Yes, a duty to God, because scholars and professionals in the West have the wherewithal that positions them as those who “have plenty for supply” for those who are less resourced in relation to higher education. As the apostle Paul reminds us, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack” (2 Cor 8:12–15).

It is no secret that the task of setting up a chartered Christian university requires major funding to develop the needed physical infrastructure. But it is also the case that there is a great need for credentialed faculty in nearly all the major fields of learning. In this regard, the West has an embarrassment of riches. Thus, the commitment on the part of Western Christian universities and Western Christian scholars to offer a helping hand involves figuring out how to encourage Western academics (and administrators) to find ways to contribute—both in the short-term and long-term—in African institutions of higher learning.

Implication #3: Western sponsors of mission in Africa should prioritize work and workers that fill the gap of the needs of today and tomorrow and not yesteryear.

At the present time, there is little need for American missionary families to be sent to evangelize or plant churches in most of Africa, primarily because the SoPs on the continent can train nationals to do more effective and efficient mission work. Instead, what Western mission-minded churches and sponsors can do is, first, partner with mature local church leaders or the leadership of an existing SoPs to train more indigenous cross-cultural evangelists. Second, American churches need to reconsider who counts as a “sponsored missionary.” More specifically, I am thinking of the need for churches to send “missional scholars” who have the academic credentials needed in emerging colleges/universities in Africa.


The SoPs have undoubtedly served a very useful purpose in the mission work among Churches of Christ in Africa over the years. Nonetheless, at this point in the Christian movement, as the continent of Africa moves to center stage in the global expansion of Christianity, Christian higher education beyond the SoP model is urgently needed to give depth and breadth to leadership training. By establishing accredited Christian colleges/universities, a plenitude of learning opportunities will be made available for the current generation in the Churches of Christ. These opportunities will develop God-endowed intellectual and vocational gifts and deploy such gifts in ways that will contribute to the holistic growth of the kingdom.

A Christian institution of higher learning, unless it has lost its core identity, can serve as a missional laboratory as it intentionally prepares the minds and faith of young people with education that integrates Christian faith and learning. Africa needs such institutions.

Sam Twumasi-Ankrah (EdD) is the President of Heritage Christian College, Accra Ghana. He also teaches leadership, Bible, ministry, and mission courses, having served previously as minister of the Nsawam Road Church of Christ for three decades.

1 Ghana Statistical Service, “Ghana Living Standards Survey Round 7 (GLSS 7). Poverty Trends in Ghana 2005–2017,” 2018,

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Andrew F. Walls: Apostle of World Christianity

Andrew Walls (1928–2021) “may be the most important person you don’t know.”1 During his life, he was broadly recognized as the doyen of the study of world Christianity—that is, the study of world Christianity as a single, though multidisciplinary, field incorporating church history, missions history, missiological theory, and missional praxis. Through his tireless work with the Centre for the Study of Non-Western Christianity (which he founded at Aberdeen, then moved to Edinburgh, later renamed as the Centre for the Study of World Christianity) and with the Yale-Edinburgh Group on World Christianity and the History of Mission (which he co-founded with Lamin Sanneh of The Gambia, then a professor at Yale), and through his mentoring of so many leading scholars who take the approach of world Christianity rather than a traditional Western approach, Andrew Walls is rightly recognized as a principle founder of the study of world Christianity. This essay reviews the impact of his life and scholarship on the fields of world Christianity and missions studies and aims to introduce him to Missio Dei readers who may not be familiar with his work.


The world of missiologists, historians of African Christianity, African theologians, and scholars of world Christianity was recently saddened to learn of the death of Professor Andrew F. Walls on August 12, 2021. Walls has rightly been celebrated not only as a preeminent historian of Christian missions and missiologist and as a strong advocate for African Christianity but also as the leading founder of the study of world Christianity.2 So it is an appropriate time to introduce his life and work, which have had a tremendous impact on the missional theology and praxis of so many of us, to those who are not familiar with him.

Andrew Walls’s original plan for his life was to serve as a missionary in China, like Hudson Taylor. The communist revolution and consequent expulsion of missionaries put an end to that plan. Instead, he spent a term as a missionary teacher in Sierra Leone followed by a term in Nigeria (the civil war there, 1967–1970, prevented his return for a second term). These vicissitudes of history ultimately led to his founding of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World at Aberdeen, which later moved to Edinburgh and was eventually renamed the Centre for the Study of World Christianity—key events in the development of the study of world Christianity as a multidisciplinary academic field, which examines local expressions of Christianity across time and geography on their own terms. It no longer privileges Mediterranean and European traditions, which typically have separated the history of Christianity outside of Euro-American Christendom from “church history” proper, ascribing to non-Western Christianity the (assumed lower) status of either “missions history” or, as I have frequently heard it, “the history of those heretical Nestorians and Monophysites.” Consequently, the study of world Christianity operates from a perspective of academic and epistemic humility, much as Andrew F. Walls himself was accustomed to do.

I first came under Walls’s influence through his writings as a graduate student. As his books became available—The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith (1996), The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission and Appropriation of Faith (2002), and the volume he edited with Cathy Ross, Mission in the 21st Century: Exploring the Five Marks of Global Mission (2008)—I have become one of many whom he has “caught on fire.”3 More recently, as a PhD student I became one of his many mentees. His thought—through his writings, lectures, and especially a seminar course I took from him—has been equally challenging and transformative for me. I learned from him that “theology is always a hazardous business”4 and that “the past cannot be suppressed, nor can it be left untouched by Christ. The past, with its identity-shaping cultural traditions, has to be converted, turned toward Christ.”5 Those insights have shaped and directed my own approaches to ministry as a career missionary.

In this essay introducing the person and impact of Andrew Walls, I start by offering a short biography. As he began his life as a missional scholar of Christian history, it is fitting that I then move to examine the “then and now” of scholarship arising from Christian mission, as seen through Walls’s eyes. I then examine five key elements of his scholarship: recognition and exploration of the place of Africa in Christian history, the “indigenizing” and “pilgrim principles,” the nature of Christian conversion, the possibility for contemporary “Ephesian moments,” and the serial nature of Christian expansion. Along the way I touch on Walls’s understanding of the translatability of both Scripture and of the Christian faith itself, with the concomitant importance of vernacular theologizing. While I try to refrain from writing a hagiographic panegyric, I close with a brief tribute to articulate my grief at the death of a man who was a dear mentor to me.

Biography: The Origen of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries?

From Scotland to Africa to Scotland to the World

Walls once went “in Quest of the Father of Mission Studies.”6 He determined that this was the second- and third-century Christian theologian, scholar, and pastor Origen of Alexandria. Origen provided a new theological synthesis between Hellenistic culture and learning and the Christian faith in a fashion that enabled Greek learning to lead people to God in Christ.7 He did this through immense scholarly achievements and either invented or enlivened “new areas of scholarship” while acting as an effective mentor with pastoral sensitivity. In many ways, Walls is the Origen of his generation. He is a pioneer—and many say the father—of the study of world Christianity as an academic discipline. His emphasis on the place of Africa within Christianity and the polycentric nature of Christianity, his re-discovery of the serial nature of Christian expansion, his development of the “indigenizing” and “pilgrim principles,”8 and his contribution to a proper understanding of what Christian conversion is (and is not), have all played an important role in this shift. Within the English-speaking world, he may have been the foremost missiologist and historian of Christian mission within his lifetime. His influence has been immeasurable.9 His roles in the founding of three academic journals; his founding of the Centre for the Study of World Christianity, sparking a proliferation of other such institutions; and his co-founding (with Lamin Sanneh) of the Yale-Edinburgh Group on World Christianity and the History of Mission indicate the breadth of his influence. Missiologists as diverse as Lamin Sanneh, Peter C. Phan, David Bosch, Wilbert Shenk, and Brian Stanley all have spoken highly of him with gratitude for his impact on their own work.

While the lists of Andrew Walls’s published articles and chapters make a long bibliography (the list I maintain fills 36 pages), he was not a prolific author of monographs. This is because—consistent with emphases in his teaching—he was not particularly interested in scholarly prestige and advancement.10 He was rather interested in the advancement of God’s kingdom. His own contribution to that advancement is perhaps best seen not in his own preaching on the Methodist circuit in Scotland or through his tremendous academic output but rather through the many people whom he has mentored. One of his most famous mentees was Kwame Bediako, the author of Theology and Identity: The Impact of Culture upon Christian Thought in the Second Century and Modern Africa and the co-founder, with Professor Gillian Mary Bediako, of the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture (ACI) in Akropong, Ghana. Bediako notes that Walls has authored “many more books that can’t be listed on paper; I am one of those books.”11 Andrew Walls was interested in making disciple-making disciples for whom scholarship arises from Christian mission and serves to continue the mission.

Background: Oxford Scholar and Methodist Preacher

Educated at Oxford University (BTh with honors [1948], MA [1952], BLit [1954]12), Walls studied patristics under F. L. Cross.13 At around the age of 25 (in 1953), he became a lay Methodist preacher in the Aberdeen area.14 I. Howard Marshall observes that in his preaching on the Methodist circuit in the Aberdeen area as a young man, ministering to ordinary folk well outside of the academy, “there is never any attempt to lecture the congregation or give a display of scholarship. There is, needless to say, a depth of understanding in [his sermons] that equally appeals to the more educated and theologically literate members of the congregations.”15 He was well-known locally for his hymnody, composing enough hymns to fill a small hymnal for use in the local Methodist congregations.

Missionary Beginnings: Sierra Leone and Nigeria

In his thirtieth year (1957), he moved with his wife Doreen to Sierra Leone to serve as a lecturer in church history at Fourah Bay College (later the Fourah Bay University College Theology Department). Classically trained, his vision of church history followed the Western bias of moving from Jerusalem to Antioch to Rome to the Protestant Reformation to the Reformation in the British Isles, with everything to the South and East being largely forgotten with each historical progression. He was fully prepared, as was customary, to impart the lessons of church history “to the ‘younger churches’ from the accumulated wisdom of the older ones.”16 It was while in Sierra Leone that a seismic shift in his thinking took place. While teaching African students the history of Christianity in the second century, he realized that he was surrounded by an analogous moment in Christian history. This led to new paradigmatic approaches in his teaching and to an awareness of the importance of the interaction of Christian faith with cultures and of the importance to study non-Western Christianity as Christianity on its own terms. While he was certainly already a competent lecturer and scholar,17 he later took a rather dim view of his approach to scholarship and teaching prior to his shift in vision: “I still remember the force with which one day the realization struck me that I, while happily pontificating on that patchwork quilt of diverse fragments that constitutes second-century Christian literature, was actually living in a second-century church. The life, worship, and understanding of a community in its second century of Christian allegiance was going on all around me. Why did I not stop pontificating and observe what was going on?”18 This marked the beginning of his journey as a student and scholar of world Christianity. Before his time in Africa, he had made the effort “to learn Old Norse in order to study the pre-Christian primal religions in Europe,” adding that to the Greek, Latin, and Syriac which he had learned19 to study Christian origins and to his working knowledge of French. He now recognized the importance both of African languages and traditional religions within their cultures. While teaching at Fourah Bay College, in 1959 he became the founding editor of The Sierra Leone Bulletin of Religion, published by the school’s Faculty of Theology to address the very concerns and contextual realities to which Walls had recently awakened.

In 1962 Andrew Walls was invited to establish the Department of Religious Studies at the new University at Nsukka in Nigeria. It was during his tenure there that he realized that, compared to what we know about pre-Nicene Christianity within the Roman and Persian Empires, there are abundant resources to study the contemporary African Church. He began to study African Christianity in earnest, not just as a local missionary expression of the Western Church.

Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World

At the age of 38, in 1966 he answered a call to become a lecturer in church history at the School of Divinity of the University of Aberdeen, where he taught from 1966 to 1985. In 1967, he became the founding editor of the Journal of Religion in Africa (published by Brill). In 1970, Walls was appointed as the founding head of the newly established Department of Religious Studies at Aberdeen. Eventually, in 1982, Walls founded the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World (CSCNWW) at Aberdeen. After his time in West Africa (in Sierra Leone and Nigeria), and having observed the ongoing demographic shift in world Christianity from the West to the Global South,20 he had “no doubt that the immediate future of Christianity lay in the southern hemisphere. But he had also become increasingly aware that this new and exciting chapter in Christian history could not be adequately written in the years to come unless some serious and urgent initiatives were taken to document and interpret the rapid growth and rich diversification of southern Christianity. The Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World developed from Andrew’s awareness of this compelling need.”21 Walls’s work with CSCNWW led directly to his insights on the place of Africa in Christian history, the global nature of World Christianity, and the serial nature of Christian expansion throughout history; these developments will be discussed below.

In 1986, Walls was persuaded by James P. Mackey, then Dean of the Faculty of Divinity at New College, University of Edinburgh, to move from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, talking CSCNWW with him; the Centre was renamed “Centre for the Study of World Christianity” (CSWC) in 2009.22 In 1987, he was appointed to the additional position of Professor of Theology, Mission, and Culture at the newly founded Akrofi-Christaller Institute (ACI) in Ghana; he remained intimately connected with ACI for the rest of his life, taking the time to become conversant in the Twi language. In 1992, he co-founded the Yale-Edinburgh Group, which has proven an immense benefit to scholars of Christian mission and of world Christianity around the world. Upon retirement in 1995, Walls established the journal Studies in World Christianity, with Mackey serving as the founding editor. His role in establishing this journal, as the establishment of the two aforementioned journals, was motivated in part by his personal emphasis on encouraging the scholarship of others. In the first article of the first issue of Studies in World Christianity, Walls defines what we now call the study of world Christianity as “the interdisciplinary study of the Christian faith in its worldwide manifestations and in its relations to other faiths and cultures.”23

Post-“Retirement”: Doyen of World Christianity

Professor Walls has retired and come out of retirement more than once, and he continued his faithful ministry until his recent death at the age of 93. From 1997 to 2001 he served as Guest Professor of Ecumenics and Mission Research at Princeton Theological Seminary and Visiting Professor of World Christianity at both Yale University and Harvard University. In 2008, Liverpool Hope University founded the Andrew F. Walls Centre for the Study of African and Asian Christianity, hiring Walls out of retirement again. At the time of his death, he held two academic posts in the UK (Professor of the History of Mission at Liverpool Hope University and Honorary Professor at the University of Edinburgh) and two in Africa (Professor Emeritus at the Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture in Akropong, Ghana and Research Professor at the Centre for World Christianity at Africa International University in Nairobi, Kenya).

Within the context of Walls’s African experience, he has brought to light—in both the ancient and contemporary church—the multicentricity, non-Westernness (including the recent Southward demographic shift of Christianity), and dynamism (especially as related to translation and culture issues) of the global church. In his teaching methodology, Walls “believes that students should learn to enter the minds of those who belong to the periods they study. Accordingly, most of his quotations are taken directly from the persons under study—the primary sources—and not from others’ comments about them or references to the period. Since he considers primary sources the vital indicators of mission activity, he would rather cite documents from the specific periods.”24 To honor both his memory and his method, in the following sections I will use more and longer quotations from Prof Andrew’s work than is customary.

Scholarship Arising from Mission: Then

The crossing of cultural and linguistic boundaries by Christian mission demands theologizing. Noting that “a lively concern for Christian living and Christian witness has repeatedly called scholarly activity into existence,”25 Walls has often discussed this process in the early church, pointing out that such concern is a need for scholarship whenever the gospel crosses a cultural frontier. The first cultural frontier which the gospel encountered was “that between Israel and the Hellenistic world. The business of constructing a Hellenistic Christian lifestyle, a Greek way of being Christian, was intellectually demanding. In particular once the word about Jesus Christ was translated into Greek, and entered into a Greek thought-world without the built-in controls natural to Greek-speaking Jews, all sorts of new questions (for instance, about the proper way to express the relationship between the divine savior and the one God), were raised that were not likely to be aired when all the believers in Jesus were Jews.”26 This is evident in the writings of the New Testament, which were written in Greek to churches composed of Christians of both Jewish and Hellenistic backgrounds. It is only to be expected that “as the Christian mission to the Greek world expanded, Christian theology expanded too.” All languages have both strengths and limitations. Christians who think in Hebrew or Aramaic or even in Greek within the context of traditional first-century Jewish worldviews were able to make a certain set of discoveries about the Christ, whom Simon Peter identified as the (Jewish) Messiah and the Son of the living God (Matt 16:15). But when Christians thinking and speaking in Greek from within “Greek indigenous categories” of thought and worldview expressed their deepest convictions about Christ within indigenous forms of communication, rhetoric, and debate, they were able to make new discoveries about Christ. Theology is always contingent upon language and culture. This can be a strength or a weakness. The role of Christian scholarship is to separate the wheat of “genuine discoveries” from the chaff of “false trails.”27 Walls explains this process through the examples of Paul, Justin Martyr (c. 100–c. 165), and Origen (c. 184–c. 253).28

As Christianity crossed the cultural frontiers from Messianic Judaism into Hellenistic thought, new theological issues were opened which “could only be pursued in the Greek language, using Greek categories of thought such as ousia and hypostasis and Greek methods of debate, the intellectual materials to hand.”29 This new theologizing took place when Christians asked “Greek questions in the Greek language, questions that were neither raised nor settled by using Hebrew categories such as messiah.”30 The Jerusalem Council discerned that conversion rather than proselytization was the way forward, thereby setting aside circumcision and strict Torah-observance. As a result Christians were “forced . . . to make choices” as “a new Christian lifestyle had to be devised under the guidance of the Holy Spirit now poured out on Gentiles: a Hellenistic way of following Jesus and a converted pattern of Hellenistic social and family life.”31 New converts were tasked with modeling “converted Hellenistic social life as the old believers modeled converted Judaism. . . . The new Christians were not proselytes, following the converted cultural pattern of earlier believers; they were converts, needing, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to turn the ways of their own societies toward Christ. Conversion is less about content than about direction. It is about turning toward Christ what is already there.”32 How is this to be done? In studying the earliest days of the church, scholar Eckhard Schnabel observes that “the question is not whether Christians should adopt or reject the behavioral patterns of non-Christian society—that question is posed by outsiders. As insiders, Christians ask which values and behaviors of society they must reject because they have become different people through new birth, and which values and behaviors they can retain because they do not adversely affect life with God, and which values and behaviors they can and should transform so that they reflect the values of God’s new creation more authentically.”33 It was in this context that Justin Martyr wrestled with “the relationship to his own culture of the gospel.” Whereas Western scholarship focuses on Justin’s doctrine of the Logos in terms of the history of the developments of the doctrines of christology and Trinity, “it is hardly accidental that it is a modern African theologian, the late Kwame Bediako . . . [who] argues that second-century Greek theologians and mid-twentieth-century African theologians had exactly parallel concerns.”34

After Justin Martyr, Irenaeus (c. 130–c. 202), and Origen, the next important development in Christian theology and praxis was the rise of the monastic movement. This movement had its beginnings in Egypt and Syria in an attempt to wrestle with the twin indigenizing and pilgrim principles discussed below and resulted in both mission and scholarship. Walls notes that Antony, the founder of Egyptian monasticism, “cannot be understood apart from his African Christian view of a power-packed spiritual universe where Christ’s victory must be displayed.” Walls notes that with many similarities to the story of African Christianity during the past century, “the first stream of African Christian witness” as represented in the martyrs of Scilli met the principalities and powers in the structures of society and paid with their blood. The second stream, represented in Antony, met them as spiritual forces deep in the constitution of the universe. They realized that those forces were impregnable to easygoing discipleship. Only when disciples took up the cross in order to be indeed Christ’s disciples were they broken.”35

Scholarship Arising from Mission: Now

Andrew Walls observes, “each time the gospel crosses a cultural frontier, new issues will arise, first of the ‘What should I do?’ and then of the ‘How should I think?’ category, many never faced by Christians before. Each time the gospel crosses a cultural frontier, a fresh set of intellectual materials is available for the task.”36 Thus “subsequent crosscultural movements of the Christian faith open the way to theological discovery by raising questions in other languages that have no answer in the terms of another culture.”37 The modern “missionary movement, out of its essential concern to communicate the gospel, was forced”—repeatedly—“into innovative scholarship.” Walls notes that “cross-cultural diffusion (which is the life-blood of historic Christianity) has to go beyond language, the outer skin of culture, into the processes of thinking and choosing, and all the networks of relationship that lie beneath language, turning them all towards Christ.” This “deep translation,” which takes place over several generations because those cultural processes themselves took generations to develop, is “the appropriation of the Christian gospel” within a given culture “down to the very roots of identity.”38 Indeed, the “Christian faith must go on being translated, must continuously enter into vernacular culture and interact with it, or it withers and fades.”39 Walls observes that this long act of translation “helps not only to communicate the gospel, but to enlarge and enrich the church’s understanding of it. Such deep translation needs the sustained exercise of corporate examination (individual insights, however brilliant, are inadequate), and steady discrimination. Deep translation is necessary to deep mission. So periods of active mission need to be periods of active scholarship. The converse is also true; when the sense of mission is dulled or diverted, the death knell sounds for Christian scholarship.”40 Because “authentic theological scholarship must arise out of Christian mission” it must arise “from the principal theatres of mission. Theology is about making Christian decisions in critical situations, and it is in the southern continents that those decisions will be most pressing, and the key theological developments are accordingly to be looked for.”41 We will now turn our focus toward one of those southern continents.

1. The Place of Africa in Christian History

Walls discussed at length the essential non-Westernness of Christianity. Western Christendom, or Christianity as territorially expressed in Europe, was long assumed by its members to be Christianity. But Christianity as a specifically Western faith was a historical anomaly that has now retreated. This does not mean that Western forms of Christianity are not or cannot be authentically Christian. Rather, it means that it is no longer possible to assume that Western forms of Christianity are representative of world Christianity as a whole. Though Walls was among the first to notice this, historians of Christianity and other observers have increasingly recognized that there has been a major shift in the center of gravity of the Christian world from the West (specifically Western Europe and North America) to the Global South.42 Already,

more than half of the world’s Christians live in Africa, Asia, Latin America, or the Pacific, and . . . the proportion doing so grows annually. This means that we have to regard African Christianity as potentially the representative Christianity of the twenty-first century. The representative Christianity of the second and third and fourth centuries was shaped by events and processes at work in the Mediterranean world. In later times it was events and processes among the barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe, or in Russia, or modern western Europe, or the North Atlantic world that produced the representative Christianity of those times. The Christianity typical of the twenty-first century will be shaped by the events and processes that take place in the southern continents, and above all by those that take place in Africa.43

Within Christendom, it was once reasonable (though myopic and ill-informed even then) to equate European culture with Christianity, but that is no longer the case. Today “Christianity has become so much a part of the fabric of sub-Saharan African life that scholars in a wide variety of disciplines who want to undertake serious study of Africa need to know something about Christianity.”44 Walls hastens to add that “anyone who wishes to undertake serious study of Christianity these days needs to know something about Africa. It follows that the student of Christian history not only must know something about Africa but also must consider the part that Africa plays in the total story of the faith.”45

Walls seems to savor that “a special place for Africa in the history of redemption is hinted at in the New Testament itself.”46 In Luke’s second volume, The Acts of the Apostles, his primary purpose is to show (some of) the story of how the Christian faith traveled westward from Jerusalem to Rome. The first chapters recount “the development of the Jerusalem church and the life of the Jewish Christians who had recognised in Jesus the Messiah of Israel. Later chapters “show the birth of Hellenistic Christianity at Antioch and the westward progress of the message about Jesus across Asia Minor over southeastern Europe to Rome.”47 Sandwiched between these two narratives is the episode about Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch, an official of the kingdom of Meroë in the Sudan (ancient Nubia).48 Walls ponders why the Lucan narrative, which joins “Stephen with Saul and the church of Antioch,” is broken to record this short episode. We don’t learn what happens after this African government official returns home, and the pericope ends abruptly. But Luke emphasizes

the providential nature of the meeting; it is no chance encounter. The whole way the story is framed is a reminder that Africa, the lands beyond the Nile, will have a Christian history too—one that is not yet charted, and one that is distinct from the story of Asia and Europe, which is the concern of the Acts of the Apostles. It is distinct, but not entirely separate; the Ethiopian is, after all, an international traveller who knows the highways of the Greco-Roman world. In the Acts story, he comes as a pilgrim, and returns as a Christian. Perhaps it is not too fanciful to take a hint that he, or his spiritual descendants, may one day travel those highways again as the representatives and bearers of the Christian gospel.49

Many assume that “the early history of Christianity in Africa has nothing to do with the contemporary Christianity of Ghana and Sierra Leone and Nigeria” and “that Christianity is essentially an import from the West.”50 Walls highlights three factors which refute such assumptions:

  • “the unbroken historical continuity of the churches of Egypt and Ethiopia of today and the ancient world;”51
  • “the degree of commonalty between northern and sub-Saharan Africa. . . . No purely geographical factor finally divides Mediterranean Africa from tropical Africa;”52
  • “the wider use of the name Ethiopia” in which “Ethiopia stands for Africa indigenously Christian, Africa primordially Christian; for a Christianity that was established in Africa not only before the white people came, but before Islam came; for a Christianity that has been continuously in Arica for far longer than it has in Scotland, and infinitely longer than it has in the United States. . . . African Christians today can assert their right to the whole history of Christianity in Africa, stretching back almost to the apostolic age.”53

An African Christian theologian, Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 296–373), could well be called the father of Orthodox Christian Theology in view of his successful defense of Nicene doctrine against Arianism. It was African Christian theologians—Origen and Athanasius in the Greek east together with Tertullian (c. 155–c. 220) and Cyprian of Carthage (c. 210–285) and Augustine of Hippo (354–430)—who were responsible for laying the foundations of Western Christianity. More than this, “one might say that the vernacular principle in Christianity was earliest exemplified in Africa; among the earliest known translations of the New Testament are the Sahidic of Lower Egypt and the Latin of Roman Africa.”54 Indeed, because “the principal early Christian interaction with Latin language and culture took place in Roman Africa” we should note that in point of fact, “Western theology is an African artifact.”55 Today Christianity is as African as it has ever been. One evidence of this is that “in most parts of Africa . . . the Christian God has a vernacular name—a name in common speech, to indicate the God of Israel and of the Scriptures”56 and thus we can see that “it is Christianity, not Islam, that has struck its roots into the vernacular past”57 of Africa.

As I share Walls’s heart for the African Church, it is fitting that I conclude this section with the concerns of a Wallsian missiological focus, looking forward toward future tasks of Christian theology in Africa. Walls has noted that African Christian theology requires an African theological education that is not dominated by a particular chapter of church history during which the West was dominant. I once heard him remark that the majority of Christians had “no experience with the 16th century,” observing that while the Reformation and Counter Reformation were and are important, they are not the whole of the Christian story and should not form the template that the Western church forces the rest of the church within world Christianity to follow. Thus in African theological scholarship, Africa’s past cannot be suppressed but must be both remembered and incorporated.58 In this task, Africa has the benefit of not being mired in the categories of Enlightenment thought.59 African theological activity must arise out of ongoing “Christian mission and Christian living, from the need for Christians to make Christian choices and to think in a Christian way” in African contexts.60

2. The Indigenizing and Pilgrim Principles

According to Walls, two forces arise from the gospel’s interaction with a culture: the indigenizing principle and the pilgrim principle.61 The indigenizing principle can be expressed as the attempt “to live as a Christian and yet as a member of one’s own society.”62 The pilgrim principle reminds the believer “that he has no abiding city and warns him that to be faithful to Christ will put him out of step with his society.”63 In Christ, God does indeed “take people as they are”—this is the indigenizing principle at work, which enables our faith to be made “a place to feel at home” and “associates Christians with the particulars of their culture and group.” But God “takes them in order to transform them into what He wants them to be.”64 The resulting displacement caused by that transformation is the pilgrim principle. The experience feels like displacement but may be better called replacement, as the Christians are newly associated “with things and people outside the culture and group” as an expression of the universalizing element of the gospel.65

Walls observes that “all churches are culture churches—including our own.”66 Because this is the case, culture matters. While Jesus spoke in Aramaic or Greek to those in first-century Jewish and Hellenistic cultures, the Scriptures also speak to us today in our diverse cultures. The first of these principles, “the indigenizing principle ensures that each community recognizes in Scripture that God is speaking to its own situation. But it also means that we all approach Scripture wearing cultural blinders, with assumptions determined by our time and place.” Walls continues: “perhaps it is not only that different ages and nations see different things in Scripture—it is that they need to see different things.”67 Moreover, where the church in one culture may be hindered by a blindspot, the church in another culture will see quite clearly. Thus while there may be something to be said about autocephalous churches (i.e., a regional ecclesial body that is not subject to the authority of church leaders from a different country), isolation can severely weaken any church. To state it positively, “since none of us can read the Scriptures without cultural blinkers of some sort, the great advantage, the crowning excitement which our own era of Church history has over all others, is the possibility that we may be able to read them together. Never before has the Church looked so much like the great multitude whom no man can number out of every nation and tribe and people and tongue. Never before, therefore, has there been so much potentiality for mutual enrichment and self-criticism, as God causes yet more light and truth to break forth from his word.”68 This is but one way in which the African church—as well as the church in the Global South generally—can offer untold riches to world Christianity.

These two principles are always at play in Christian mission. The pilgrim principle is often felt rather keenly. Indeed, “the fundamental missionary experience is to live on terms set by others. . . . The need to speak someone else’s language, the consciousness of doing it badly or even laughably, being unsure of etiquette, constant fear of giving unintended offence, realization of the vast depth and complexity of another community’s traditions and history, and thus identity.”69 There can be tension between the indigenizing and pilgrim principles. In a healthy (and therefore missional) church, “perhaps the real test of theological authenticity is the capacity to incorporate the history of Israel and God’s people and to treat it as one’s own.”70

3. Conversion versus Proselytization71

Walls’s distinction between proselytization and conversion has been particularly helpful in my own missionary career. Many consider proselytization and conversion to be synonymous, but nothing could be further from the truth. A proselyte must effectively reject his or her home culture and replace it with someone else’s culture: “to become a proselyte involves the sacrifice of national and social affiliations. It involves a form of naturalization, incorporation into another milieu.”72 Thus in the NT period, a Roman or Greek or Persion could proselytize to become a Jew—adopting not only the Jewish faith in Yahweh and Jewish cultural customs, but adopting Jewish ethnicity as well, abandoning their home culture and ethnicity. But Christian conversion is “a turning to God in Christ”73 and the process of “taking what is already there and turning it to Christ.”74 This conversion “is not about substitution, the replacement of something old by something new, but about transformation, the turning of the alreading existing to new account.”75 Importantly, and contrary to some 19th- and 20th-century missionary practice, an ethnic African convert (that is, one who turns to Christ) does not have to adopt European or American culture in order to follow Jesus. Rather, it is precisely as an African that he or she will follow Jesus.

Readers of the Gospels will recall that Jesus, who calls us to make disciples of all nations, also had extremely harsh words for proselytizers, stating that they made their proselytes not just “sons of hell” but even more severely “sons of hell” than the proselytizers themselves (Matt 23:15). And of course the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 definitively rejected the way of proselytization once and for all in favor of the way of conversion, deciding that “the followers of Jesus are not proselytes. They are converts.”76 For some, the idea of becoming a Christian means abandoning one’s own culture and becoming, essentially, a foreigner. But such a process is, by definition, proselytization. Christian conversion is not the abandonment of one’s ethnic and cultural identity, nor of one’s language. Insofar as such demands have been made by Christian missionaries, those missionaries have been proselytizing rather than making disciples. Christian conversion is the process of “taking what is already there and turning it to Christ.” This takes place holistically within the social life, family life, and intellectual life of the Christian.77 Just as the Hellenistic peoples of the first centuries of Christianity “could not be converted without the conversion of the whole universe of Greek thought” and the very “conversion of Hellenistic culture itself,” so Christian conversion in our own day—whether in Africa or Asia or the West—must be a robust conversion that does not abandon local cultures but transforms them through turning their “processes and priorities” to Christ.78

In continuity with the path laid out by the Jerusalem Council, Pope Gregory the Great (bishop of Rome from 590 to 604) ruled against proselytization as a missionary method. But proselytization has been the practice at other times. During the Spanish Inquisition, it was not enough for Moors to stop being Muslim or for Jews to confess Christ: the Moorish Christian converts had to reject Moorish cultural and ethnic identity and Jewish converts to Christianity were required to stop being ethnically and culturally Jewish. During the Great Century of the modern missionary movement, many Christian missionaries consciously thought of Christian “conversion” in terms which unmistakably describe proselytization. In Africa during this era, new believers were all too often expected to stop being African and to become European culturally and linguistically before their conversions to Christ would be accepted by missionaries as authentic. The missionaries, in those cases, failed to see that Christian conversion takes place within the context of culture. Thus, while it is best to speak of Christianity in the singular rather than of “Christianities,”79 it is fitting to speak of African Christianity, European Christianity, North American Christianity, Asian Christianity, and so on. Proselytization is the mere exchange of one human culture for another. It is the absolutizing and sacralizing of one human culture at the expense of others. Christian “conversion is the turning, the re-orientation, of every aspect of humanity—culture-specific humanity—to God.”80 Thus, the gospel enriches all cultures, insofar as members of that culture turn to Christ. Walls wrote and spoke extensively on the nature of Christian conversion, correcting errors of past praxis and calling the missionary community to restore New Testament practice.81

4. Ephesians Moments

For [Christ] himself is our peace; who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. (Eph 2:14; NIV-1984)

Another contribution of Walls that has especially impacted my thinking comes from “The Ephesian Moment: At a Crossroads in Christian History.”82 In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul was addressing a church composed primarily of two different parties: Jewish converts to Christ and Hellenistic believers who had converted to Christ from one or another of the traditional Greco-Roman religions. Each group came to Christ from within their own worldview. Was it not all too easy for divisions to form along ethnic and cultural lines? This diversity was of course the natural result of the decision of the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15, “which builds cultural diversity into the Christian church forever.”83 But while “the church must” necessarily “be diverse because humanity is diverse,” Paul insisted that “it must be one because Christ is one.”84 The “dividing wall of hostility” between different groups has been torn down. The “Ephesian moment” was the opportunity for the church to choose either division along ethnic and cultural lines or to choose unity in the midst of diversity, “the social coming together of people of two cultures to experience Christ.”85 When Paul was writing, neither the Hellenistic portion nor the Jewish portion of Christianity were the whole church. Rather each form of Christian faith was necessary to complete and correct the other. Today, Walls teaches, the Ephesian moment has returned, though in greater richness, as the polycentric and polycultural nature of world Christianity is increasingly clear.

5. The Serial Expansion of Christianity

Walls has also made valuable contributions to the understanding of Christian expansion throughout history by highlighting its serial nature.86 In its beginning, the Christian faith had a clearly defined center: Jerusalem was truly the mother church. By any historical or demographic measurement, however, it has been centuries since Jerusalem was an important Christian center, save in memory and sentiment. But even within the New Testament era, Christianity began to be polycentric. Culturally and demographically, the Christian faith was no longer centered in Jerusalem and Judah but rather in various Hellenistic urban centers in the Eastern Mediterranean such as Antioch and Alexandria. Frequently, Christian vitality at the center(s) has either become stagnant or collapsed all together while new Christian growth explodes on the margins of the Christian world, or beyond them. Christian history features both periods of recession and of advance—and “the recessions typically take place in the Christian heartlands, in the areas of greatest Christian strength and influence . . . while the advances typically take place at or beyond its periphery.”87 This means that the Christian faith continually and repeatedly interacts with new cultures and languages and the process of conversion yields new cultural forms of Christianity. Insofar as this pattern includes periods of recession, it expresses a vulnerability. But this vulnerability is intimately linked to the vernacular nature of the Christian faith, which is in turn a strength.88 Walls notes that for each historical demographic and cultural shift of Christianity’s center of gravity, “a threatened eclipse of Christianity was averted by its cross-cultural diffusion. Crossing cultural boundaries has been the life blood of historic Christianity. It is also noteworthy that most of the energy for the frontier crossing has come from the periphery, rather than from the centre.”89 This was true when Greek-speaking Jewish Christians shared the gospel with their Gentile neighbors in Antioch in the first century, it was true of the modern missionary movement in which parachurch missionary agencies were formed to bypass the existing ecclesial structures for the sake of the Kingdom,90 and it is certainly true of the recent explosion of Christian growth in Africa, the South Pacific, Latin America, and parts of Asia.


“He taught us by example, as Origen did in his time,

that at the heart of the scholarly life there lay prayer and worship.”

— Kwame Bediako on Andrew Walls91

As I am a missionary and an educator who strives to speak in local vernaculars, it is fitting that I share a few observations about Walls as a teacher. When speaking with African believers in their own languages92 he desired, “to connect with his interlocutor and to put the other person at ease. He is always striving for that possibility of communing in the things that make them both human.”93 As a result of this attitude, it was while listening to Andrew Walls speak on “Africa’s place in Christian history” that Bediako realized that “in becoming Christian, I was becoming African again.”94 For Andrew Walls, teaching was “not the quest for knowledge for its own sake or the desire to acquire degrees and prestige. The scholarly vocation is about knowledge that leads to faith and affects the understanding of one’s calling. . . . Because it involves discipleship, it is serious business. In short, scholarship is a matter of life and death.”95 He therefore notes, “Scholarship as a vocation requires passionate commitment. It is not a hobby or a job but a life-long occupation.”96 In all respects, Walls insists that an important objective of Christian scholarship is “to maintain a community life marked by Christian mission and service.”97 But as strongly as his words spoke, his own actions modeled these principles even more strongly.

In September 2020, I heard prominent Nigerian theologian Afe Adogame remark that “Andrew Walls is the ‘living ancestor’ for World Christianity.” Though he was quite aged, he had been hospitalized and recovered so many times that his death caught many of us by surprise. While we were lamenting the news a few hours after his death, my colleague Wakakuholesanga Chisola observed to me that his strength had seemed greater than the frailty of his age, but then pithily remarked that “even Baobabs fall.” Baobab trees, an iconic image of the rural African skyline, are a great African symbol of strength and life;98 they also serve as gathering or meeting places for many traditional societies in Africa. So allow me to conclude with a poem to honor this excellent teacher and mentor who has now joined that great cloud of witnesses.99

The Baobab Falls

the Baobab is mighty

the Baobab is strong

the Baobab, well-rooted,

reaches to the sky,

giving shade and fruit and wisdom

to all us passers-by

the Baobab was mighty

the Baobab was strong

the Baobab, well-rooted,

branches far and wide,

shared his wealth of Christly wisdom

to all, yes, even I

but Baobab has fallen

and we are now bereft

our thoughts are now uprooted

Teacher, Mentor, Friend!

tears like Mosi-oa-Tunya

cry our lamentation

Prof Andrew well did teach us

of agency and hope

from Africa to Scotland

falcon-swift he flew—

tears like Mosi-oa-Tunya

flow from hearts now rended

Prof Andrew well did lead us

challenging for truth

through polycentric story

into faith’s true girth

thus from Accra to Nairobi

with academic mirth

Prof Andrew Walls has left us

and we are now bereft

yet he will rise eternal

and we can rejoice

he won his race and fought his fight

his sorrow will now end

Prof Andrew Walls has left us

strong branches wide and fair

in life he pointed upward

now he upward flies

asking who will foster forests

new Baobabs to tend?

Prof Andrew Walls was mighty

Prof Andrew Walls was strong

Prof Andrew Walls, well-rooted,

pointed past the sky

giving wealth of Christly wisdom

to all us passers-by.

A graduate of Milligan University (1995) and Emmanuel Christian Seminary (2000), Joshua has missions experience in Papua New Guinea (1993), India (1995 and 1998), South Africa (2000–2001), and Kenya, where he and his family have served since 2007. He is a PhD student at the Centre for World Christianity, Africa International University, Nairobi, Kenya. A staff member of ACTEA (Association for Christian Theological Education in Africa), he is also a PhD student at the Centre for World Christianity, Africa International University, Nairobi, Kenya.

1 Tim Stafford, “Historian Ahead of His Time: Andrew Walls may be the most important person you don’t know.” Christianity Today 51, no. 2 (2007):

2 Jeremy Weber, the editor of Christianity Today, joins many other scholars in referring to Walls as “Founder of the Study of World Christianity” (Jeremy Weber, ed., “Remembering ‘Prof’ Andrew Walls, Founder of the Study of World Christianity,” Christianity Today, August 17, 2021, himself was more modest. Upon being identified as a founder of the field, he replied “I think you’re much too generous to my contribution in this, there are many, many people involved in it” (Walls, “The Advent of World Christianity,” interview with Jonathan J. Armstrong, Unitas Fidei (2017), Some key figures among those “many, many” include Harold W. Turner, Adrian Hastings, Lamin Sanneh, Kwame Bediako (whom Walls gathered at Aberdeen); Klaus Koschorke (in Germany); Gerald H. Anderson, Dana L. Robert, Joel A. Carpenter, Dale Irvin, Robert Frykenberg, Daniel Bays (in North America); David B. Barrett and Brian Stanley (in the UK); Peter Phan (Vietnam and North America); and John S. Pobee (Ghana). See Dana L. Robert, “Naming ‘World Christianity’: Historical and Personal Perspectives on the Yale-Edinburgh Conference on World Christianity and Mission History,” International Bulletin of Mission Research 44, no. 2 (2020): 111–28.

3 See Allison Howell and Maureen Iheanacho, “Andrew F. Walls as Teacher in Africa,” in Understanding World Christianity: The Vision and Work of Andrew F. Walls, ed. William R. Burrows, Mark R. Gornik, and Janice A. McLean (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011), 11–12.

4 Andrew F. Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission and Appropriation of Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), 45.

5 Idem, “The Rise of Global Theologies,” in Global Theology in Evangelical Perspective: Exploring the Contextual Nature of Theology and Mission, ed. Jeffrey P. Greenman and Gene L. Green (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), Kindle locs. 194–97.

6 Andrew F. Walls, “In Quest of the Father of Mission Studies,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 23, no. 3 (1999): 98–105. See also idem, “Scholarship under the Cross: Thinking Greek and Thinking Christian,” Journal of African Christian Thought 9, no. 2 (2006): 16–22; idem, Crossing Cultural Frontiers, 19–34.

7 Idem, “Christian Scholarship in Africa in the Twenty-First Century,” Transformation 19, no. 4 (2002), 218.

8 See esp. idem, The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996), 3–15.

9 See Stafford, “Historian Ahead of His Time.”

10 See, e.g., Walls, “Christian Scholarship in Africa,” 222–23; and idem, “The Significance of Global Christianity for Theological Education and Christian Scholarship,” Ogbomoso Journal of Theology 15, no. 1 (2010): 1–10. In each of these essays, he decries the commercialization of scholarship where students with no calling or passion for scholarship gain PhDs and are interested in publishing only for the sake of their own personal advancement. Scholarship, Walls repeatedly insists, should be a vocation and not merely a career. See also idem, “Kwame Bediako and Christian Scholarship in Africa,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 32, no. 4 (2008): 188–93.

11 Kwame Bediako, “Andrew F. Walls as Mentor,” in Understanding World Christianity, 3.

13 Walls, The Missionary Movement, xiii.

14 In the same year, he married Doreen Mary Harden. They were married for over 56 years, until her death in 2009. They were blessed with two children along the way, Christine and Andrew. See ibid.

15 I. Howard Marshall, “Andrew F. Walls, Methodist Local Preacher and Hymn Writer,” in Understanding World Christianity, 6.

16 Walls, The Missionary Movement, xiii.

17 For an example of his solid biblical scholarship during this time, see idem, “ ‘In the Presence of Angels’ (Luke XV 10),” Novum Testamentum 3, no. 4 (1959): 314–16.

18 Walls, The Missionary Movement, xiii.

19 Howell and Iheanacho, 15.

20 He has noted this in many places. E.g., he writes that with the explosion of Christian growth in Africa over the past century coupled with the concurrent “rapid dechristianization of Europe. . . Africa has been steadily moving into the place once occupied by Europe in the Christian world” (Andrew F. Walls, “The Cost of Discipleship: The Witness of the African Church,” Word & World 25, no. 4 [2005]: 434).

21 Brian Stanley, “Founding the Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World,” in Understanding World Christianity: The Vision and Work of Andrew F. Walls, ed. William R. Burrows, Mark R. Gornik, and Janice A. McLean (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2011), 42.

22 Ibid. See The University of Edinburgh School of Divinity, Centre for the Study of World Christianity,

23 Andrew F. Walls, “Christianity in the Non-Western World: A Study in the Serial Nature of Christian Expansion,” Studies in World Christianity 1, no. 1 (1995): 25.

24 Howell and Iheanacho, 14.

25 Walls, “Christian Scholarship in Africa,” 217.

26 Idem, “Christian Scholarship,” 217.

27 Ibid.

28 Ibid., 217–18. Walls also notes that “the New Testament epistles show this lifestyle under construction. First Corinthians is full of issues that demanded decisions depending on thinking in a Christian way” (idem, “The Rise of Global Theologies,” Kindle loc. 170).

29 Idem, “The Rise of Global Theologies,” Kindle locs. 151–53.

30 Ibid., Kindle locs. 155–56.

31 Ibid., Kindle locs. 168–70.

32 Ibid., Kindle locs. 176–82.

33 Eckhard J. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission, vol. 2, Paul and the Early Church (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 1566.

34 Walls, “The Rise of Global Theologies,” Kindle locs. 184–92.

35 Idem, “The Cost of Discipleship,” 438.

36 Idem, “The Rise of Global Theologies,” Kindle locs. 201–203.

37 Ibid., Kindle locs. 156–57.

38 Idem, “Christian Scholarship,” 220.

39 Idem, “The Transmission of Christian Faith: A Reflection,” in The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Christianity, ed. Lamin Sanneh and Michael J. McClymond, Wiley Blackwell Companions to Religion (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016), 686.

40 Idem, “Christian Scholarship,” 220.

41 Ibid., 222.

42 E.g., see David B. Barrett, “AD 2000: 350 Million Christians in Africa,” International Review of Mission 59, no. 233 (1970): 39–54; Dana L. Robert, “Shifting Southward: Global Christianity since 1945,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 24, no. 2 (April 2000): 50–58; Frederick W. Norris, Christianity: A Short Global History (London: OneWorld, 2002), 237; Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford University Press, 2002), 2; Sang-Bok David Kim, “Changes and Trends in World Christianity,” Transformation 30, no. 4 (2013): 257–66; Gina A. Zurlo, Todd M. Johnson, and Peter F. Crossing, “World Christianity and Mission 2020: Ongoing Shift to the Global South,” International Bulletin of Mission Research 44, no. 1 (2020): 8–19. Though rather behind the curve, even mainstream popular media has noticed this. E.g., Wes Granberg-Michaelson, “Think Christianity Is Dying? No, Christianity Is Shifting Dramatically,” Acts of Faith, Washington Post, May 20, 2015.

43 Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process, 85.

44 Idem, “Eusebius Tries Again: Reconceiving the Study of Christian History,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 24, no. 3 (2000), 106.

45 Ibid.

46 Idem, The Cross-Cultural Process, 86.

47 Ibid.

48 It has been well established that “Candace” (or better, Kandakē from Κανδάκη in Greek) in Acts 8:27 was not the name of a queen in Axum/Aksum but the regnal title of queens of the kingdom of Meroë in Nubia. (Moreover, the word for “queen” in the Greek text is anarthrous; the Kandakē was a queen among those with dark skin in Africa south of Egypt; the possibility of other “Ethiopian” monarchies is not excluded.) Likewise the term Ethiopia in the Hellenistic periods did not refer to the area encompassed by the modern country, or even its ancient predecessor Axum, but rather to “black Africa,” that is, all of the continent south of Sahara and Egypt.

49 Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process, 86–87.

50 Ibid., 89–90.

51 Ibid., 90.

52 Ibid.

53 Ibid., 91. On this theme, Walls observes, “that sense of an umbilical cord connecting Ethiopia with the outside world through the years of its isolation is a remarkable witness to Christian universality. That theme, that Christians in some way belong to one another across geographical, political, and ethnic frontiers, is bound to recur in the course of the present study” (ibid., 89). Other lesser-known historical facts further strengthen Walls’s case. In addition to archaeological evidence of medieval Nubian Christian presence as far inland as the western shores of Lake Chad, there is historical evidence of a Nubian Christian presence as far west as Benin City (Nigeria) prior to the arrival of Europeans in the colonial era. See Joseph Kenny, The Catholic Church in Tropical Africa 1445–1850 (Ibadan, Nigeria: Ibadan University Press, 1983), 68–69.

54 Walls, “Africa in Christian History,” 87.

55 Idem, “The Rise of Global Theologies,” Kindle locs. 210–11.

56 Idem, The Cross-Cultural Process, 120.

57 Ibid., 121. Christianity in Africa predates Islam by some 600 years. Walls notes that “by the time the Arabs arrived in Africa bearing Islam, Christianity was already well established and deeply rooted there” (idem, The Cross-Cultural Process, 89).

58 See idem, “The Rise of Global Theologies,” Kindle locs. 194–97.

59 Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process, 122. See also Andrew F. Walls, “The Eighteenth-Century Protestant Missionary Awakening in Its European Context,” in Christian Missions and the Enlightenment, ed. Brian Stanley, Studies in the History of Christian Missions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001), ch. 2; cf. Brian Stanley, “Christian Missions and the Enlightenment: A Reevalutation,” Christian Missions and the Enlightenment, ch. 1; and Charles R. Taber, The World Is Too Much With Us: “Culture” in Modern Protestant Missions. The Modern Mission Era, 1792–1992: An Appraisal, ed. Wilbert R. Shenk (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1991).

60 Walls, “The Rise of Global Theologies,” Kindle locs. 114–16.

61 Idem, The Missionary Movement, 7–9.

62 Ibid., 7.

63 Ibid., 8. Pilgrim sojourns—the Latin term used by monastics in the Middle Ages is peregrinatio—are an important theme in the narrative history of salvation, both biblically and in church history.

64 Ibid., 8–9.

65 Ibid., 9.

66 Walls, “The Gospel as Prisoner and Liberator of Culture,” in The Missionary Movement, 8.

67 Ibid.

68 Ibid., 15.

69 Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process, 41. Walls repeats: “The idea of living on terms set by other people, which lies at its heart, remained the expression of the essential missionary experience” (ibid., 199). And again: “It is the basic missionary experience to live on terms set by someone else” (ibid., 96–97).

70 Idem, “The Gospel as Prisoner and Liberator of Culture,” 15.

71 Portions of this section have been adapted from my “Conversion or Proselytization? Being Maasai, Becoming Christian,” Global Missiology 18, no. 2 (2021):; see also Walls’s forthcoming Culture and Conversion in World Christianity (Orbis Books). This has been forthcoming for years (I briefly had access to the manuscript in 2018). I still hope for a posthumous publication.

72 Andrew F. Walls, “Old Athens and New Jerusalem: Some Signposts for Christian Scholarship in the Early History of Mission Studies,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 21, no. 4. (1997): 148.

73 David W. Kling, “Conversion to Christianity,” in The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion, ed. Rambo R. Lewis and Charles E. Farhadian (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 607.

74 Andrew F. Walls, “New Testament Background of Conversion,” (lecture, Centre for World Christianity, Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology, Africa International University, Nairobi, March 12, 2018).

75 Idem, The Missionary Movement, 28.

76 Idem, “Converts or Proselytes? The Crisis over Conversion in the Early Church,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 28, no. 1 (2004): 5.

77 Idem, “New Testament Background of Conversion,” unpublished lecture, March 12, 2018.

78 Idem, “The Translation Principle in Christian History,” in Bible Translation and the Spread of the Church, ed. Philip C. Stine (Leiden: Brill, 1990), 33.

79 Walls once remarked that he is “increasingly unhappy with the use of the term ‘Christianities.’ ” (idem, “Overseas Ministries and the Subversion of Theological Education,” OMSC@PTS Inaugural Lecture, Overseas Ministries Study Center at Princeton Theological Seminary, 16 September 2020),

80 Idem, “The Translation Principle,” 26.

81 See esp. his discussion on the watershed moment of the Jerusalem Council’s rejection of proselytization in idem, “Converts or Proselytes?,” 2–6. Also see idem, “Conversion and Christian Continuity,” Mission Focus 18, no. 2 (1990): 17–21; idem, “Worldviews and Christian Conversion,” Mission in Context: Conversations with J. Andrew Kirk, ed. John Corrie and Cathy Ross (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2012), ch. 11; and idem, “Culture and Coherence in Christian History,” Scottish Bulletin of Evangelical Theology 3, no. 1 (1985): 1–9.

82 Idem, The Cross-Cultural Process, 72–81.

83 Idem, “The Ephesians Moment in Worldwide Worship: A Meditation on Revelation 21 and Ephesians 2,” in Christian Worship Worldwide: Expanding Horizons, Deepening Practices, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship Liturgical Studies Series, ed. Charles E. Farhadian (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 30.

84 Walls, The Cross-Cultural Process, 77.

85 Ibid., 78.

86 E.g., see idem, “Christian Advance Is Serial,” Mission Thrust 21, no. 3 (2003): 1–2. See also idem, “The Transmission of Christian Faith,” 686–91.

87 Idem, “Christianity in the Non-Western World,” 5.

88 See ibid., 4.

89 Ibid., 7.

90 See idem, “Missionary Societies and the Fortunate Subversion of the Church,” Evangelical Quarterly 88, no. 2 (1988): 141–55.

91 Bediako, “Andrew F. Walls as Mentor,” 3.

92 E.g., Krio in Sierra Leone, Igbo in Nigeria, and Twi in Ghana.

93 Howell and Iheanacho, 20.

94 Bediako, “Andrew F. Walls as Mentor,” 2.

95 Ibid., 23–24.

96 Andrew F. Walls, “Scholarship, Mission and Globalization: Some Reflections on the Christian Scholarly Vocation in Africa,” Journal of African Christian Thought 9, no. 2 (2006): 37.

97 Bediako, “Andrew F. Walls as Mentor,” 3.

98 Thus South Africa has a national civilian honor, the “Order of the Baobab.”

99 In the poem, note that Mosi-oa-Tunya is the local vernacular name of Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River. This poem was included in Weber; stanza divisions restored.