Book Review on God’s Missionary People by Charles Van Engen
This book is jam packed with challenging study on the Church and church from the very beginning. It is easy to see why Van Engen is considered a scholar in the area of Church in mission.
The book begins by giving a new and radical definition of the local church. He chronicles the modern history of the Church and how it participates in missions, noting that there has been a real paradigm shift since the 1900’s. We see that the church has swung the gamut of views on missions, being overly for it, so they loose sight of their calling to build up each other, as well as being so against it, they loose their focus and purpose of their ultimate goal.
In chapter two, Van Engen discusses the idea that a new missiological paradigm in the church is needed so that we can see the church as a new reality in that while is being built up within the world, it will become in fact what it is in faith. He cites and example of this when Jesus is telling his disciples that by being witnesses, they are in fact becoming what they were set up to be, which is witnesses.
Chapter three discusses the how the local church worked and works in light of the book of Ephesians. We see how intimately the church is tied with the health and livelyhood of it’s members. Van Engen notes that “Paul’s concept is that the whole defines the identity of the parts and s more than the sum of the parts” (Engen 1991: 50). We see that the Church’s mission is a mission in holiness, and it is a mission to all.
Chapters four and five work together to discuss the history of the local church and how we can reinstate the missionary intentions of the church. Van Engen states, “Across a wide spectrum of theological and social thought, there is a growing sense that we must infuse the ancient four words [holiness, catholicity, apostolicity, and unity] with a new missiological emphasis” (Engen 1991: 67).
We then move into part two of this book, which focuses on the Local Church and bringing a new vision to God’s missionary people. In order to do this, Van Engen focuses on the redefined purpose of the local church, and how it should be derived from the will of Christ alone. The Church is reminded that “local churches have a certain institutional responsibility for their context” (Engen 1991: 115), and that the role of the Church in the world should be guided by the mission of Jesus.
The book closes with part three, which focuses on organizationally and structurally building a church that has been discussed in the first two chapters of the book. This portion of the book is where Van Engen combines everything into praxis, and for the sake of this class, is the most important section of this book.
Engen, C. E. v. (1991). God’s missionary people : rethinking the purpose of the local church. Grand Rapids, Mich., Baker Book House.