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

Author: Seth Bouchelle
Published: Summer–Fall 2021

MD 12.2

Article Type: Book Review

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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