Previous | Next

Spring 1994 · Vol. 23 No. 1 · pp. 64–81 

Current State of Missiology: Reflections on Twenty-five Years 1968-1993

Hans Kasdorf


Missiology is a servant-discipline. It is as much diaconal as it is apostolic in nature. It walks the missional road as handmaid and servant, accompanying both the church and mission by a process of critical but constructive and creative reflections. The missiological process is that of an applied science, always observing, researching, probing, describing, analyzing, and interpreting actual field situations.

The current resurgence of missiological resources could be highly strategic for Millennium 21.

Missiology stands at the cutting edge of the expansion and extension of the Christian faith. It assists the church in building the kingdom of God to the glory of our Triune Lord. The missiological task entails reviewing the church’s missional involvement, altering her course of action whenever and wherever necessary, and gaining objective perspectives on all her activities—be they assets or liabilities, successes or failures, challenges or opportunities.

Missiology is theoretically recognized throughout the worldwide church as an academic discipline in its own right. Yet its strength lies in it willingness to work in partnership with other disciplines as an interdependent and integrative, interdisciplinary and crossdisciplinary field of study. That is why the missiological terrain embraces disciplines in theology in social {65} sciences: anthropology (ethnology, cultural dynamics, linguistics, crosscultural and intercultural communiction), sociology, psychology, human geography, political science, urbanology, and economics.

My quest to ascertain the present state of missiological research covers only the last 25 years, is highly selective and concentrates primarily on English works. At the outset I acknowledge my indebtedness to eminent mission scholars of our time: Olaf Guttorm Myklebust, father of global missiological research in Oslo; writings of Gerald H. Anderson, Director of the Overseas Ministries Study Center in New Haven, Connecticut, and Editor of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research, (also a paper presented at the conference on missiological education held at Fuller Theological Seminary, October 30 to November 2, 1992, yet unpublished); and Stephen L. Peterson, Librarian of Trinity College of Hartford, Connecticut, a man of encyclopedic knowledge.


The decade of the sixties was a watershed for worldwide mission. In no other single year during the sixties were so many meetings held, programs launched, changes made, and decisions reached that have impacted the state of missiology for the next 25 years as profoundly as those of 1968.

First, the Fourth Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) gathered in Uppsala under the theme, “Renewal in Mission” (Bosch 1978:29-38). This formed the basis for the concept of humanization as the goal of mission, a clear shift from a kerygmatic to a diaconal emphasis in which tractors and not tracts became the desired commodities. The theological concern was no longer to point women and men to God’s redemptive work through Christ, but to bring them to the point of recognizing their true humanity in Christ.

If at one time the focus had been too heavy on the vertical dimension of proclamation and too lean on the horizontal dimension of service, it now tilted in the opposite direction and lost its balance in the process (Beyerhaus 1971:25-39; Bosch 1976:61-63). That is why the late Donald McGavran made headlines with his compelling question: “Will Uppsala Betray the Two Billion?” (McGavran 1968:292-297; 1977:233-248).

Second, the Second General Episcopal Conference (Latin American Conference of Bishops) in Medellín, Colombia, provided the platform for Gustavo Gutiérrez (l988:xvii) to introduce the innovative concept of liberation theology to the theological arena in Latin America and paved the way for other forms of nonwestern theologies in Africa, Asia, and Oceania. This critical moment of history not only ushered in a new era of doing {66} theology and interpreting the Scriptures in the contextual crucible of the nonwestern world; it also initiated a shift of gravity from north to south and east to west in missiological thinking.

Third, the dynamic of the shift became most evident when Evangelicals met in Buenos Aires for their third Latin American Protestant Conference attended by 200 delegates from 43 churches and agencies. The theme was “Debtors to the World.” This must be seen as the missiological moment for Latin Protestants. Not only was the Conference itself significant; it was also a precursor to the First Latin American Congress of Evangelization held in Bogota, Colombia, the following year, which brought together 920 delegates from 25 Latin countries and the Caribbean to discuss the theme, “Acción en Cristo para un continente en crisis”: Action in Christ for a Continent in Crisis (cf. Costas 1977:105; Bassham 1979:262-263). The Declaration of Bogota in 1968 was for Latin American Evangelical missiology what the Wheaton Declaration had become for its Anglo American counterpart in 1966.

Fourth, mainline churches in all parts of the world became strong advocates to exchange transcultural evangelism for religious dialog with people of other faiths. The rationale was to demonstrate cultural sensitivity, theological inclusiveness, and religious tolerance. According to the late David Bosch, this new ecumenical theology was to achieve “nothing short of the liquidation of the Church” on the one hand, and the domestication of God’s Kingdom on earth on the other. In terms of ecumenical theology this means that “the inhabited world is synonymous with the Kingdom of God.” (Bosch 1980:216; cf. 1976:61-64; 1991:382-85; Beyerhaus 1992:41-64).

Fifth, in 1968 two leading missiologists alerted their denominations about the general mood toward mission. The late R. Pierce Beaver, dean of Anglo American missiology, wrote: “Students are now cold, even hostile, to overseas missions.” He noted, as Anderson (1991:165) points out, “that the place of missiology as a discipline in the seminary curriculum ‘is most precarious, and I expect its rapid decline and even its elimination from most denominational seminaries.” Norman A. Homer (1968:10), another doyen within the ranks of international missiologists, wrote in his Introduction to Protestant Crosscurrents in Mission that “the Protestant missionary enterprise has undergone more radical change in the last fifteen years than in the previous century.” By 1968, said Homer (1968:75), an increasing number of seminarians chose courses in “teaching, counseling, and other forms of service” over missional and pastoral ministries. Much of mainline mission theology had gone through a process of secularization and missiology was either pushed to the curricular fringes or was completely aborted. {67}


The dynamics of history are often as mysterious as God’s actions themselves. The developments in missiology after the 1960s are a marvel.

A Demise of Institutions and Resource Centers

Between 1963 and 1973 a number of the most prestigeous mission training centers either changed their curricula or closed their doors: the Kennedy School of Missions at Hartfort Seminary, the Scarritt College for Christian Workers in Nashville, the Lutheran School of Missions near Chicago, and the Missionary Orientation Center at Stony Point, New York. The same was true of mission resource centers. Anderson (1971:129f) listed libraries and centers filled with archival treasures, journals, and books that at the time contained all the records and information any serious mission scholar could wish for. Twenty years later (1991:165f.) he reports that some of those same ventures “have either ceased functioning, have greatly reduced their activities, or have changed their focus.”

Even the once famous Missionary Research Library (MRL) at Union Theological Seminary in New York no longer exists. Shortly before its demise Beaver (1968:8) lamented: “It seems so logical to expect that a worldwide enterprise of the magnitude and complexity of the North American world mission would find a recording, research, and survey agency absolutely indispensable and would give it high priority. That has not been the case.” In order not to lose them all together these extraordinary collections of the MRL had to be absorbed by the ordinary seminary library.

The Catholic Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) with special departments for Africa and Oceania has completely shifted its emphasis from worldwide mission to church ministry in the United States (Anderson 1971:132). In 1988 the NCC closed its Office of Research, Evaluation and Planning and ceased to generate any data on world mission and evangelism that heretofore had informed and assisted member denominations to be missionally engaged. The International Documentation and Communication Center on the Contemporary Church in Rome has reduced its activities to a minimum; Pro Mundi Vita, its counterpart in Brussels, was closed in 1990. Numerous other resource centers have met a similar fate during the 1970s and 1980s—at times simply “because church authorities did not like the information and issues being reported” (Anderson 1991: 165). {68}

Remarkable Missiological Recovery

As a number of mainline missiological schools closed their doors, and as more and more theological seminaries and colleges deleted mission courses from their curricula, and as fewer books on Christian world mission were published, and as one resource center after another limited access to information, there emerged a generation of church members that was missionarily uninformed, illiterate, and void of a missional vision both locally and globally (Anderson 1971; 1991).

And yet as we have moved into the final decades of the twentieth century, missiology has made an astounding recovery—and that despite some setbacks. At least three factors, in my judgment, have contributed to the missiological comeback.

First, the evangelical missionary endeavors underwent a reorientation process on a global scale and replaced mainline missions. While evangelicals have never been entirely unified in their theological positions, they rallied around world mission and gained full support from such movements as the World Evangelical Fellowship and the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.

Second, the emergence of evangelical missionary training centers has given missiology a global platform of operation. While the most prominent institutions of international repute are at this time still in Anglo America and Europe—as I will show later—an increasing misssiological awareness is also evident in the Two Thirds World where much of missionary training is now taking place (Taylor 1991).

Third, the globalization of the missionizing church is another significant factor. The era of Western missions has been replaced by a relatively new but dynamic movement of world mission. This has given rise not only to a new missionary force, but also to a new missiological face.

The Legacy of Giants

During the past 25 years we have seen a whole generation of missiological giants pass on from years of active service to their reward of timeless rest. A few years ago Gerald Anderson (1991) listed more than 40 persons who served during those critical decades after World War II when world mission experienced the most radical transitions in world history. By now that list has climbed to nearly 50 names many of whom are also known to readers of Direction: R. Pierce Beaver, Johannes Beckmann, David J. Bosch, Orlando Costas, Norman Goodall, Kenneth G. Grubb, Peter M. Hamm, Melvin Hodges, J. Herbert Kane, Biang Kato, Arno Lehmann, Donald A. McGavran, Marie-Louise Martin, Stephen {69} Neill, Ronald K. Orchard, George W. Peters, Gerhard Rosenkranz, Alan R. Tippett, W. A. Visser’t Hooft, and Max Warren.

These men and women have modelled pastoral, cultural, theological, and academic creativity. They have themselves been practitioners in evangelism and mission, “participant observers,” as Anthony Gittins (1993:26) puts it. They have walked in missionary sandals along the paths of dense rain forests, meandered their way by boat and canoe along a thousand rivers to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the remotest peoples of the world, served among the poorest in slums and ghettos of our globe’s megacities, traveled along empty rural roads and crowded city streets, and learned to become bicultural and multicultural, bilingual and multilingual to translate the message in order to save some. And then they have ventured to become theoreticians, teachers, and writers in academic setttings to provide more adequate missional training for others than they themselves were able to acquire prior to their first missionary experience.

They have modelled in other areas as well. They helped to forge the course of mission through unprecedented post-war changes during the 1950s and 1960s. They also experienced the pain of seeing the demise of older research centers during the 1970s and 1980s—some of which they themselves had helped to create and by which they themselves had been nurtured. In retrospect, it is not hard to see that the remarkable resurgence which we have seen in missiological research is the fruit of their hard labor, perseverence, and courage—even through discouraging and trying times (Cf. Anderson 1991:166). We are the beneficiaries of that missiological legacy. It behooves us to thank God for those leaders and to “consider the outcome of their way of life and “imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7).


The most important components for current missiological studies are research centers and libraries both old and new, professional organizations to inspire and create vision, and academic institutions that provide the most conducive setting for modelling, teaching, research, and writing.

Old and New Research Centers

Some centers are set up primarily—if not exclusively—as special collections for mission studies, while others include additional disciplines and interests with mission as only one focus. Still others are combined with libraries or attached to educational institutions and publication ventures. What follows is merely a reduced listing. {70}

First, there are major centers in Europe. (a) The Servizio di Documentazione e Studi (SEDOS) was founded after the Second Vatican Council to publish the SEDOS Bulletin, hold annual meetings to study mission concerns, and to keep an updated computerized bibliography for missiological research (Anderson 1991:165). (b) The Dutch Interuniversity Institute for Missiological and Ecumenical Research (IIMO) was established in 1969 as a cooperative venture between the universities of Leiden and Utrecht. While “the Leiden section concentrates on the history of missions in Africa and Indonesia,” that of Utrecht focuses more on the relationship between Christianity and other religions, particularly Muslim (IIMO 1990:92-93). (c) The main contribution to missiological research of the Centre de Recherche Theologique Missionaire in Paris since 1979 is through its computerized data base. (d) The Institute of Missiology (“Missio”) was formed in Aachen in 1984. Its semi-annual publication, Theology in Context, includes an annotated bibliography and reports on theological conferences to promote communication between theologians, missiologists and other leaders of the Two Thirds World (cf. Anderson 1991:165). (e)The Interact Research Centre (formerly The Centre for New Religious Movements) is associated with Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham, England. Anderson (1991:166) points out that it “has an unrivaled collection of materials on new religious movements in primal religions but is interested also in new movements in the post-Christian West.” (f) Finally, The Centre for the Study of Christianity in the Non-Western World was established at the University of Aberdeen in 1982 and moved to the University of Edinburgh in 1987, exactly 120 years after Alexander Duff (1806-1878) had been appointed professor of evangelistic theology, thereby having the distinction of being the first professor of missiology in modern history (cf. Myklebust 1955). Under the direction of its founder, Andrew Walls, the Centre not only houses an impressive collection of non-Western religious periodicals, old and new mission libraries as well as archival materials, but also “prepares the quarterly bibliography of mission studies for the International Review of Mission (IRM),” and much more (Anderson 1991:166-167).

Second, I will summatively state names and places of several research centers from around the world without notations about their nature and function: (a) The Archives of the Finnish Evangelical Luthern Mission in Helsinki; (b) The Department of Archives and Archival Study Center of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea in Lae; (c) Documentation, Archives and Bibliography (DAB) in Paris; (d) The Vatican Secret Archives and Their Missionary Holdings in Rome; (e) Missiological Institute of the Americas in Puerto Rico; (h) Asian Center for Theological Studies and Mission in South Korea; (g) Overseas Ministries {71} Study Center in New Haven; (h) Missions Advanced Research and Communicaton Center (MARC), Monrovia, CA; (i) The US Center for World Mission with various branches of specialized research in Pasadena; (j) The Billy Graham Center/Mission Archives and Library in Wheaton; and (k) in addition to the above centers Peterson (1991:161-162), lists 31 “Missionary Agency Archives in Microfilm” from New York to New Guinea and from Zimbabwe to Geneva. (Cf.Myklebust 1989; Eirola 1990; Metzler 1990; Pech 1990; Thomas 1990; Anderson 1991).

Missiological Associations

An impressive network of professional associations, both nationally and internationally, has emerged during the last 25 years for the sole purpose of studying every aspect of the worldwide mission of the Church, the worldwide Christian movement, and the relationship of Christianity to other religions. The contributions of these associations can hardly be overestimated. They “provide scholars with encouragement, recognition, assistance, fellowship, organization, and a forum for sharing, promoting, and disseminating their work” (Anderson 1991:166) The following are among the widely known organizations:

• The International Association for Mission Studies (IAMS) was formed at its inaugural meeting in 1972. In 1984 it began publishing its prestigeous semi-annual journal Mission Studies. This international, interconfessional, intercultural, and interdisciplinary professional society is made up of over 500 individual and some 80 institutional members with more than one third from the Two Thirds World.

• In 1973 was founded the American Society of Missiology (ASM) for the purpose of studying mission and world Christianity. It, too, is an interconfessional society. Missiology: An International Review is its official journal which incorporated Practical Anthropology and has been published ever since the Association was established. By 1991 the ASM had more than 500 members and its journal a circulation of over 2,000.

• Related to the ASM is the much older Association of Professors of Mission with a number of regional chapters all across Anglo America. The professional pulsebeat of this academic organization was at an all-time low toward the end of the critical sixties when only 16 members attended the annual meeting in 1970.

• Fraternally akin is the Association of Evangelical Professors of Missions which in 1990 was reorganized as the Evangelical Missiological Society. There is considerable interaction—if not overlap—between the latter two organizations. {72}

• The Southern African Missiological Society (SAMS), founded in 1968, began publishing Missionalia in 1973. David J. Bosch, author of the book Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (1991), was editor of the journal until his death in 1992. The unique feature of this journal is the section of “extensive missiological abstracts of articles appearing in other journals [and as book contributions] in many parts of the world.” Between 1973 and 1991 it published 13,590 abstracts (Anderson 1991:166).

• The South Pacific Association of Mission Studies goes back to 1980 and its South Pacific Journal of Mission Studies to 1989. It covers Australia, New Zealand, and other Anglophone islands of the region.

• Exactly 80 years after the historical World Missionary Conference had been held in the Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, the British and Irish Association for Mission Studies was inaugurated in that same Hall in 1990. Seventy members attended this organizational meeting and listened to Andrew Walls’s address: “Edinburgh 1910 and the Prospect for Mission.” The concern of this new Association is to promote mission studies at home and overseas among scholars, teachers, missionaries, and mission executives (cf. Myklebust 1989).

• The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Missionswissenschaft, established in 1918, is the oldest organization still active 75 years later. Its international membership publishes the Zeitschrift für Mission, provides scholarships, and gives financial support to publications in missiology.

• Missiological developments in Latin America have generally been less formal than practical. Speaking for Evangelicals and Protestants in general, the late Orlando Costas (1977:105) describes the trends in terms of a threefold quest: “(1) the search for a concrete or historical understanding of mission; (2) a more authentic expression of Christian unity in the missionary engagement of Latin American Protestants, and (3) a more serious and profound missiological reflection.”

• Arbeitsgemeinschaft für evangelikale Missiologie (AfeM). It is an outgrowth of the Freie Hochschule für Mission in Korntal near Stuttgart where G. W. Peters and other Mennonite Brethren have been teaching. This association of evangelical scholars of German-speaking Europe publishes Evangelikale Missiologie, holds annual meetings, and awards the “G. W. Peters Prize” to the author of the best book published each year in German evangelical missiology.

Academic Institutions

It is of historical interest that the Gregorian University and the Urban University, both in Rome, were the pioneers of academic institutions {73} which in the 1930s created a Faculty of Missiology (not only a chair or department) and initiated a Doctor of Missiology degree. In 1989, the Urban University had 22 professors in the Faculty of Missiology (Myklebust 1989:93). Today there are literally thousands of schools offering courses in mission and missiology, though certainly not all at the graduate level. Myklebust estimated that there are at least 3,000 Bible schools teaching mission subjects. Here I included only degree and/or diploma-granting institutions.

Africa. Of the 76 theological schools in Africa, 13 have created a chair or department of missiology, 11 of them in South Africa alone. The reason may be twofold: (a) “The concept of Missiology tends to be regarded as having imperialistic and western overtones”; (b) Many government-sponsored institutions have substituted the departments of theology/missiology for departments of religious studies. These, however, may include missiology.

Asia. Two thirds of all departments or chairs of missiology in non-Western academic institutions are in Asia, with India and South Korea in the lead. Yet when one considers that 58% of the globe’s peoples reside on this continent, and that only 3% of them belong to the Christian community, the missiological task for the evangelistic challenge is nothing short of immense. That is why leaders in theological education maintain that missiology should become a compulsory subject for all students (Myklebust 1989:91).

Latin America. Given the fact (a) that the churches in Latin America have only recently become sending churches; (b) that the growth of evangelical Christianity has become explosive; (c) that the increase of sending agencies currently matches that explosive growth; and (d) that only one out of every six Bible-oriented educational institutions offers missional training at the theological level, the need for missiological education is critical. That is why the Missiological Institute of the Americas has been established. “Its purpose is to train, at university and postgraduate levels, specialists in the several areas of missiology for teaching the subject in theological institutions” (Myklebust 1989:91).

Anglo America. This continent is far ahead of any other in the development of missiological education. At least 30% of all educational institutions that recognize missiology as a legitimate discipline are to be found in the United States and Canada. In the mid eighties both the ASM and the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) “approved the D. Miss., clearly outlining goals, content, and standards of the curriculum leading toward such a degree. Among the prerequisites listed are the possession of a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree, at least two years of crosscultural or transcultural field experience, and a minimum of one field language {74} other than English.” The model for this professional degree was the Doctorate of Education (D.Ed), conferred by secular universities on qualified students in pursuit of a pedagogical career (Kasdorf 1988:235-236).

There are some 150 schools offering graduate degrees in missiology or mission studies. While the large majority are equipped to grant only a Master’s Degree, a few also award Doctorates in missiology at the D.Miss., D.Min., or Ph.D. levels. Included in recent surveys are: The School of World Mission of Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA; The E. Stanley Jones School of World Mission and Evangelism, Wilmore. KY; Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL; Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, IL; Columbia Biblical Seminary and Graduate School of Missions, Columbia, SC; Nazarene Theological Seminary, Kansas City, KS; William Carey International University, Pasadena, CA; and the Institute of Mission Studies at Saint Paul University, Ottawa, ON (Myklebust 1989:92; Anderson 1991:167).

Oceania. The emphasis on academic studies in missiology is limited to St. Columban College and Alliance College in Australia.

Europe. Missiological studies have traditionally been tied to secular universities. In more recent times, however, there are also church related universities and seminaries (colleges) where missiology is being taught. There is a total of 53 professors and lecturers in missiology distributed as follows: Germany 26; The Netherlands 11; Norway 3; France, Italy (excluding Rome), Poland, and Switzerland 8 (each 2); Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Eire, Greece, and Sweden 6 (each 1). While the United Kingdom has a number of significant centers for missiological studies there is only one professorship of mission held jointly between the University of Birmingham and Selly Oak Colleges, also in Birmingham.

It should also be noted that scores of master’s theses and doctoral dissertations in mission-related subjects are produced in secular universities in many parts of the world. A survey shows that in the US and Canada alone during the decade of the seventies 462 dissertations in mission-related areas were written and accepted (cf. Anderson 1971; 1991; Myklebust 1989; Walls 1991; Peterson 1991).


There was a time when books on mission were rare, especially those dealing with the subject in a positive manner. But that has changed significantly with the recovery of missiology. Today we have a veritable plethora of missiological projects and publications. The realization of such projects involves vision, initiative, and commitment. My list must again be selective. {75}

General Reference Works

Missiologists readily acknowledge their indebtedness to other disciplines for providing basic information on mission-related coursework, both historical and current, around the world. Such reference works as The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (rev. 1982), the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity (1990), the New Dictionary of Theology (1988), the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (1989), the Handbook of Today’s Religions (1989), the Dictionary of Christianity in America (1990), and the Dictionary of the Ecumenical Movement (1991) are among the most helpful ones. But missiologists are far from being mere consumers; they are creative producers and benefactors, supplying a wealth of resource materials not found in any other discipline.

In 1971, an international team of missiologists under the leadership of Bishop Stephen Neill edited the Concise Dictionary of the Christian World Mission. Four years later this work was translated into German supplemented by original articles and maps, and adapted as Lexikon zur Weltmission.

An equally indispensable reference work is David K. Barrett’s World Christian Encyclopedia (Oxford University Press, 1982). Because of its large size (1 p.=4 pp.), this 1,010-page fact-filled tome contains as much missional information on every country in the world as one would normally find in a 4,000-page encyclopedia. Of similar importance, though less comprehensive and more technical in nature, is the German Lexikon missiontheologischer Grundbegriffe, edited by Karl Muller and Theo Sundermeier (1987). Its 111 articles written by 90 scholars from different lands and theological orientations cover a host of missiological issues and concerns that are more current than historical. H. Rzepkowski edited the Lexikon der Mission: Geschichte, Theologie, Ethnologie (1992), the same year in which Klaus Fiedler published his prize winning work on the history of faith missions, entitled Ganz auf Vertrauen.

Major Publication Series

No other period in missiological history has seen so many mission series being published as the last 25 years. All of them are encompassing the globe, indicating thereby that we have, indeed, entered the era of global world mission in a global village.

• The series of the Lausanne Occasional Papers is published by the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (LCWE) made up of mission leaders from Peru to Canada and from Finland to India. Each of the 24 booklets and handbooks deals with a specific missiological issue discussed at one of the consultations sponsored by the LCWE. The first {76} volume is a report of The Pasadena Consultation (1978) which was convened to look critically at the Homogeneous Unit Principle. The last one is a handbook on church/para-church relationships entitled, Cooperating in World Evangelization (1983). Other reports range from Christian Witness to Refugees (Vol. 5) to An Evangelical Commitment to Simple Life-style (Vol. 20).

• The series on Unreached Peoples was begun in the late seventies, with the first 350-page book entitled Unreached Peoples ’79, published by David C. Cook Publishing Co., Elgin, IL. At least four additional volumes have appeared since, some by MARC, others by Cook. Persons like C. Peter Wagner and Edward R. Dayton are among the chief editors. Each volume records the results of extensive field research undertaken by international and interdisciplinary teams of prominent scientists. These studies list every known unreached people group in the world and provide a wealth of demographic data.

• The AD 2000 Series is another production by David Barrett, the renowned author/editor of the World Christian Encyclopedia mentioned earlier. While Barrett has been associated with the Church Missionary Society for many years, he is currently Research Consultant to the Southern Baptist Mission Board in Richmond, VA. His series is published by New Hope in Birmingham, AL, and includes such titles as World-Class Cities and World Evangelization, 1986; Cosmos, Chaos, and the Gospel: A Chronology of World Evangelization from Creation to New Creation, 1987; Evangelize! A Historical Survey of the Concept, 1987; Unreached Peoples: Clarifying the Task, 1987 (H. C. Schreck, coauthor); Seven Hundred Plans to Evangelize the World, 1988 (James W. Reapsome, coauthor); and Our Globe and How to Reach it, 1990 (T. M. Johnson, coauthor). When used together with the appropriate volume of the second series (above), the last three volumes are of special value to local churches or single mission agencies who want to adopt an unreached people group for the purpose of reaching it with the claims of Christ.

• Christians from all walks of life, but especially missiologists, will welcome the historical Bicentennial Series, designed to commemorate 200 years of Christian mission since William Carey. Wilbert R. Shenk, former Executive Director for Overseas Ministries of the Mennonite Board of Missions, and the new Director of the Mission Training Center of Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in Elkhart, IN, is the editor of this monumental undertaking. The projected eight volumes are published by Mercer University Press (1991-1993) under the general title, “The Modern Mission Era, 1792-1992: An Appraisal.” Several volumes have already appeared. Their significance merits a complete listing of authors and titles: (a) William A. Smalley, Translation as Mission: Bible Translation {77} in the Modern Missionary Movement; (b) Charles R. Taber, The World Is Too Much With Us: “Culture” in Modern Protestant Missions; (c) Norman E. Thomas, Missions and Unity: Lessons from History, 1792-1992; (d) A. Christopher Smith, The Missionary Enterprise of Carey and His Colleagues; (e) Wilbert R. Shenk, The Earth Will Be Full of the Knowledge of the Lard: Mission Theories, 1792-1992; (f) Dana Robert, American Women in Mission: A History of Mission Theory; (g) Jonathan J. Bonk, Rendering Unto Caesar: Mission/State Encounters, 1972-1992; (h) David A. Schattschneider, Souls for the Lamb: Origins of the Modern Missionary Movement.

In reflecting on Carey’s 1792 book, An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen, Shenk observes: “The bicentenniel of the publication of Carey’s book is a fitting moment in which to appraise these two hundred years of Protestant Missions. Many observers feel that we are at the end of this era and another is opening before us. In looking back at this period of history, we may help the next generation understand better the task ahead” (Anderson 1991:168).

• Finally, I mention a few additional series, both German and English. One is the Mission Trends Series, edited by Gerald Anderson and Thomas F. Stransky and published jointly by Paulist Press and Wm. B. Eerdmans (1974-1981). The contributors come from every continent and the subjects treated are as wide as the globe.

Following the same model, Orbis is publishing a new series under the general title, New Directions in Mission and Evangelism, edited by James Scherer and Stephen Bevans. The first volume consists of Basic Documents 1974-1991 (1992). Faith Meets Faith is another Orbis series of which Paul F. Knitter is the General Editor. Its purpose is “to promote inerreligious dialogue by providing an open forum for the exchanges between and among followers of different religious paths” (D’Costa 1990:ii).

The American Society of Missiology Series was launched in 1980. Everett N. Hunt wrote Protestant Pioneers in Korea as the first volume in 1980; volume 17, entitled Bread for the Journey: The Mission of Transformation and the Transformation of Mission by Anthony J. Gittins, was released early of 1993. Most of the other 15 tomes are essentially historical in nature.

Christian Kaiser Verlag in Munich is projecting a monumental eight-volume historical series, titled Kirchengeschichte als Missionsgeschichte, of which only two volumes (1974 and 1978) have appeared so far. Such well-known publishers as E. J. Brill in Leiden; Gütersloher Verlagshaus Gerd Mohn in Guterloh; Brunnen Verlag in Gießen and Basel; Verlag der Evangelisch-Lutherischen Mission in Erlangen, Berlin etc.; and the Verlag {78} der Liebenzeller Mission in Bad Liebenzell—to mention only a few—are all active in publishing missiological series.

Handbooks and Other Studies

MARC of World Vision International has been a leading producer of mission handbooks in the English language, providing a wealth of foundational information for teachers, mission executives, and pastors. The 14th Edition of the Mission Handbook USA/Canada Protestant Ministries Overseas (1989) was co-published by Zondervan. This issue lists over 850 Protestant mission agencies in the USA and Canada, giving detailed descriptions and analyses for each category.

The 1993/95 Edition has just been released by MARC. In addition to some 500 fact-filled pages on mission, this volume contains a brilliant essay by Bryant L. Myers on “The Changing Shape of World Mission” and three probing letters addressed “to the North American mission community” by Tokunboh Adeyemo of Africa, Vinay Samuel of Asia, and Valdir Steuernagel of Latin America (Siewert and Kenyon 1993:1-53). MARC (USA and International) has also published yearbooks and handbooks on the state of Christianity and the Church in Canada (1986), Finland (1988), Denmark and China (1989) Japan, Norway, Southern Africa, and Francophone Switzerland (1990).

Somewhat different, yet equally informative and useful, is Larry Pate’s From Every People: Two-Thirds World Missions Handbook and the Directory: North American Protestant Schools and Professors of Mission (1982). This issue lists 217 institutions with 453 professors teaching mission courses (Directory 1982:iv-v).

Classics of Christian Missions (1979) and Mission in Quellentexten von der Reformation bis zur Weltkonferenz 1910 (1990), edited respectively by Francis M. DuBose (USA) and Werner Raupp (Germany) contain a veritable goldmine of original texts from William Carey to D. T. Niles and from Martin Luther to Gustaf Dalman, including voices from the younger churches.

The list would simply explode the limits if I tried to call attention to the majority of such seminal books as David J. Hesselgrave’s Today’s Choices for Tomorrow’s Mission: An Evangelical Perspective on Trends and issues in Missions, or Lesslie Newbigin’s The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Anderson (1991:169) is certainly right when he claims that “the publishing of scholarly studies in mission and world Christianity” is today in a much healthier state than it was 20 or 25 years ago. Can we also make a similar judgment on the state of mission? The answer would demand a separate paper. {79}


From a missiological perspective, 1968 was the bleakest year of a bleak decade. No one then could have predicted the remarkable resurgence and revitalization of global research and scholarship in missiology. The results are overwhelming and astounding. We can only ascribe them to the grace of God and the work of the Holy Spirit.

But the fundamental question is whether or not the revitalization of missiology has been matched by the revitalization of the church’s missionizing action. At the dawn of millennium three, several compelling questions emerge on the horizon with regard to the relationship between missiological revitalization and missional renaissance.

First, will the worldwide church benefit from and be able to utilize the rich resources made available to her by missiological research over the past 25 years, or will she simply go about her business as usual and allow the treasures in the data banks to become obsolete?

Second, will missiology be faithful to its humble calling in being a true servant, a genuine handmaiden of the church by assisting her in the interpretation and implementation of the data to carry out her mission most effectively and expeditiously in our fallen world, or will it simply glory in its academic achievements?

Third, will the professors of missiology and the executives of mission agencies, together with the church around the globe, pool their energies and resources to bring the whole gospel to the whole world, or will the first two bypass the third and all three simply miss their God-given mission in the world?

Fourth, will missiology be able to sustain its present status of recognition as an academic discipline by the worldwide church when it is being ignored by the secular academics and marginalized by theologians and other academicians at the seminary level as Myklebust’s research (1989:87ff) points out?

Finally, how can missiology most effectively help churches, missions, and Christian leadership training centers deal redemptively with the global issues of pluralism which have resulted from an unprecedented renaissance of the classical religions, revival of cultural consciousness, and the emergence of theological creativity in every part of the Christian church around the world?

This involves such fundamental questions as “the destiny of the unevangelized” (Sanders 1992) or “the fate of those who have never heard [even if] through no fault of their own” (Crockett and Sigountos 1991). These and a thousand other questions remain on the missiological agenda until Christ returns. {80}


  • Anderson, Gerald H. (1971). “Mission Research, Writing and Publishing.” The Future of the Christian World Mission. Ed. William J. Danker and Wi Jo Kang. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 129-140.
  • Anderson, Gerald H. (1988). “American Protestants in Pursuit of Mission: 1886-1986.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 12(3), 98-118.
  • Anderson, Gerald H. (1991). “Mission Research, Writing, and Publishing: 1971-1991.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 15(4), 165-172.
  • Bassham, Roger C. (1979). Mission Theology 1948-1975: Years of Worldwide Creative Tension, Ecumenical, Evangelical, and Roman Catholic. Pasadena: William Carey Library.
  • Beaver, R. Pierce. (1968). “The Missionary Research Library, A Sketch of Its History.” Occasional Bulletin from the Missionary Research Library, 19(2), 8- .
  • Beyerhaus, Peter. (1971). Missions: Which Way? Humanization or Redemption. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
  • Beyerhaus, Peter. (1992). God’s Kingdom and the Utopian Error. Wheaton: Crossway Books.
  • Bosch, David J. (1976). “Crosscurrents in Modern Mission.” Missionalia, 4(2), 54-84.
  • Bosch, David J. (ed.) (1978). Dokumente Oor Die Sending. Pretoria: Universiteit van Suid-Afrika.
  • Bosch, David J. (1980). Witness to the World. Atlanta: John Knox.
  • Bosch, David J. (1991). Transformation of Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll: Orbis.
  • Costas, Orlando E. (1977). “Missiology in Contemporary Latin America: A Survey.” Missiology: An International Review. 5(1), 89-114.
  • Crockett, William V., and James G. Sigountos. (1991). Through No Fault of Their Own? The Fate of Those Who Have Never Heard. Grand Rapids: Baker.
  • Danker, William J., and Wi Jo Kank (eds.) (1971). The Future of the Christian World Mission: Studies in Honor of R. Pierce Beaver. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • D’Costa, Gavin (ed.) (1990). Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered: The Myth of a Pluralistic Theology of Religions. Maryknoll: Orbis.
  • Directory: North American Schools and Professors of Mission, 1982. Monrovia: MARC.
  • Eirola, Martti (1990). “Namibiana in Finland.” Mission Studies, 7(1), 104-105.
  • Gittins, Anthony J. (1993). “Reflections from the Edge: Mission in Reverse and Missiological Research.” Missiology: An International Review, 21(1), 21-29.
  • Gutiérrez, Gustavo (1988). A Theology of Liberation (15th Anniversary Edition with a new introduction by the author). Maryknoll: Orbis.
  • Homer, Norman A. (ed.) (1968). Protestant Crosscurrents in Mission: The Ecumenical-Conservative Encounter. Nashville: Abingdon.
  • IIMO (1990). “Interuniversity Institute for Missiological and Ecumenical Research.” Mission Studies, 7(1), 92-93.
  • Kasdorf, Hans (1988). “Missiology as a Discipline in Historical Perspective.” Reflection and Projection: Missiology at the Threshold of 2001. Ed. Hans Kasdorf and Klaus W. Muller. Bad Liebenzell: VLM, pp. 218-238. {81}
  • McGavran, Donald A. (1968). “Will Uppsala Betray the Two Billion?” Church Growth Bulletin, 4(5), 292-297.
  • McGavran, Donald A. (ed.) (1977). The Conciliar Evangelical Debate: The Crucial Documents. Pasadena: William Carey.
  • Metzler, Joseph (1990). “The Vatican Secret Archives and Their Missionary Holdings.” Mission Studies, 7(1), 108-117.
  • Myklebust, O. G. (1955). The Study of Missions in Theological Education (vol 1). Oslo: Egede Instituttet.
  • Myklebust, Olaf Guttarm (1989). “Missiology in Contemporary Theological Education.” Mission Studies, 7(2), No. 12, 87-107.
  • Pech, Rufus (1990). “The Department of Archives and Archival Study Center.” Mission Studies, 7(1), 106-108.
  • Peterson, Stephen L. (1991). “North American Library Resources for Mission Research.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 15(4), 155-164.
  • Sanders, John (1992). No Other Name: An Investigation into the Destiny of the Unevangelized. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
  • Siewert, John A., and John A. Kenyon (eds.) (1993). Mission Handbook 1993-1995. Monrovia: MARC.
  • Taylor, William David (ed.) (1991). International Missionary Training: A Global Perspective. Grand Rapids: Baker
  • Thomas, Norman E. (1990). “Documentation, Archives and Bibliography (DAB): Progress Report.” Mission Studies, 7(2), 237-243.
  • Walls, Andrew F. (1991). “Structural Problems in Mission Studies.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 15(4), 146-155.
Dr. Hans Kasdorf is Professor Emeritus of World Mission at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, CA.

Previous | Next