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April 1975 · Vol. 4 No. 2 · pp. 322–23 

Book Review

“The Concept of Man in the Missiology of Donald McGavran: A Model of Anglosaxon Missiology in Latin America”

Sidney H. Rooy. Theological Fraternity Bulletin, No. 1. Cochabomba, Bolivia: Latin American Theological Fraternity, 1974. 33 pages (mimeo).

Reviewed by Wilbert R. Shenk

The appearance of this paper gives an occasion to call attention to the publication program begun several years ago by the Latin American Theological Fraternity. The Fraternity organized several sections to deal with a wide range of issues confronting the Christian church in Latin America with definite assignments to produce papers. Some of those papers are being made available in English translation.

As is clear from the title, Sidney Rooy examines the view of man found in the missiological system of Donald McGavran. He concludes that McGavran employs a concept which is biblically inadequate and is rather a mirror image of western individualistic culture. This leads to a distorted statement of what the Gospel is by driving a wedge between verbal proclamation and loving demonstration.

Rooy’s background in Reformed systematic theology makes him especially critical of McGavran’s neglect of the cosmological (whole world) vision of the kingdom of God. “My basic question is: is McGavran’s emphasis on numbers the most urgent issue in Latin America? Isn’t there a necessity for a profound concern about the cosmic dimensions of the gospel? A unilateral emphasis on verbal communication and on a required assent to a superficial gospel constitute an individualistic proliferation like the mass ‘evangelism’ of the conquistadors and Spanish missionaries.”

There are three aspects to a biblical anthropology: man before God, man over the world, and man with man. How does this relate to a theology of mission? “The heart of the problem of church growth is the content of the gospel. I am convinced that not only methodology and mission strategy are important but also the purpose itself of our witness to the world. McGavran leaves no room for doubt as to the center of his message: it is conversion. But what is conversion?” In two appendices Rooy examines McGavran’s terminology, the shifts and modifications, since 1955. “Church growth” remains the constant throughout but it is less easy to pin down what the key terms mean.

Rooy concludes by presenting five important contributions McGavran has made to missiological thinking and two objections (the lack of clear, consistent, definitions and the presence of internal contradictions; an inadequate theology of mission). {323}

This critique is presented in terms of the Latin American scene. It is an instructive exercise that will be useful to persons from other parts of the world.

Note: Anyone wishing to subscribe to the Theological Fraternity Bulletin may do so by writing to the Latin American Theological Fraternity, Casilla 2475, Cochabomba, Bolivia.

Wilbert R. Shenk
Board of Missions and Charities
Elkhart, Indiana

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