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Review of Susan S. Baker, ed., Globalization and its Effects on Urban Ministry in the 21st Century

Author: Rochelle Cathcart
Published: August 2012

MD 3.2

Article Type: Review Article

Susan S. Baker, ed.
Globalization and Its Effects on Urban Ministry in the 21st Century
Pasadena: William Carey Library, 2009. 358 pp. $15.99.

Globalization and its Effects on Urban Ministry in the 21st Century is a festschrift honoring the life and contributions of academician and urban ministry practitioner Dr. Manuel (Manny) Ortiz. In tribute to his areas of passion, and in hopes of addressing “issues that are at the forefront of mission dialogue in the 21st century” (1), the book examines four overarching themes: globalization, reconciliation, church planting, and leadership development. Many scholars and practitioners from around the world (including Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe, and North America) are included in this work, making it a truly global contribution.

In the first section, the challenges and benefits of globalization are examined, with specific attention being given to economics, technology, politics, and culture. Susan Baker (ch. 1) argues that the continuing shift of Christianity to the south, in combination with globalization, requires new kinds of partnerships to be formed. Because globalization results in increased “interconnectedness,” “compression,” and “deterritorialization” (21), the global church must join together in order to reach the world for Christ (58). This is particularly evidenced by the chapters from I. W. (Naas) Ferreira (ch. 3) and Michael Eastman (ch. 4). Where Ferreira excellently assesses the difficulties globalization has introduced to the African continent, Eastman shows the renewing benefits globalization has brought to the church in London.

Because globalization brings peoples into closer contact and produces a number of economic, social, and political inequalities, a significant topic to address in relation to globalization is reconciliation. Mark Gornick (ch. 7) argues that “justice, mercy, and reconciliation” are “at the heart of ministry in a global world” and thus, “If you want peace, work for justice” (146). Though the section opens with a reprint of Ortiz’s 1995 lecture, “Commitment to Reconciliation,” an article that seems a bit dated, it concludes with more contemporary (and helpful) evaluations of reconciliation efforts among Chinese Americans and Protestant Christianity, ethnic factions in Northern Ireland, and those in the Balkans (particularly Serbia).

The final two sections provide the most practical and helpful information in this book. Kyuboem Lee says church planting is “the strategy of choice” (193) to reach the increased numbers in the city, as well as the increased number of cultural groups that are found in cities. The church should be a place of personal and cultural renewal for immigrants coming to urban centers (191) and church planting provides a means by which new people can be brought into contextual churches, bringing renewal to the universal church, while also seeing organic growth among specific people groups. Among the areas of church planting examined are the power dynamics of cross-cultural church planting teams, the importance of house church movements in the city (as demonstrated through examples from South America), and new forms of church planting that include “hybrid” strategies which draw multiple churches from a variety of theological backgrounds together in collaborative partnerships for the sake of the ethnic communities they wish to reach.

Rounding out the book is a concluding section on leadership development. This section opens with an evaluation of current “emergent” leadership patterns. Timothy Witmer (ch. 14) praises emergent leadership styles for bringing renewed emphasis on servant and team leadership, but he cautions us as well. Emergents often seek to “flatten and remove structure” (i.e., hierarchy), and the result of this might “compromise the biblical principles of authoritative leadership and office” (265). In chapter 15, Jonathan Iorkighir reframes the way contemporary African theological education should be formed so that it remains biblically-based, while also being “theologically valid and contextualized to the realities of Africa” (277). The final chapter of the book highlights the key components of mentoring. To win our cities, Pedro Aviles argues, leaders “must fully adopt . . . the missional mandate to raise young indigenous leaders for local churches and for the city” (304). His chapter offers a mini-manual for developing these indigenous leaders, beginning with a summary of the biblical and theological basis for mentoring as a means of leadership development and ending with practical steps for raising and releasing indigenous leaders.

Among the strengths of this book are its global authorship and its assessment of each specific theme (each of which could be its own book). Many of the chapters provide rich case studies of the topics at hand, and the global scope of these chapters enrich the reader’s understanding in both profound and practical ways.

My biggest critique of this book is its lack of cohesion. While the chapters provide keen insights and helpful data, very few of the chapters address urban ministry specifically. Most are bifurcated, focusing solely on globalization or solely on urbanization; few combine the two. The inclusion of a reprinted article from Harvey Conn (1990) on contextual theologies seems out of place, and nowhere did I find the thesis of the book adequately addressed. After reading the book, I am still wondering what effects globalization specifically has on urban ministry. In light of this, I am not convinced that this book can be used as “a stand-alone textbook” (1) on the effects globalization has on urban ministry. (Perhaps a change in title might help resolve some of the confusion I feel.) That said, this book does provide helpful information and contemporary case studies on issues relevant to ministry in today’s world; thus, as a festschrift for Ortiz, I believe this books succeeds in honoring Ortiz’s legacy and expanding our understanding on topics close to his heart.

Rochelle Cathcart

Assistant Professor of Intercultural Studies

Lincoln Christian University

Lincoln, Illinois, USA

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