An Epistle from the Masai
Vincent DonovanMission across Cultures
You may wonder what relevance a book with the sub-title An Epistle from the Masai, first published by a US Catholic missionary priest in1978 in Indiana, has to do with current Reader ministry. Don’t wonder: get it and read it. SCM originally published it in the UK in 1982. This must have been what inspired Chris Lane who contributes a foreword to the new edition, saying it ‘informed and challenged my own missional practice in planting a church in the Langworthy estate in Salford - a place renowned at the time for high levels of crime and deprivation.’ (Lane planted an Elim church which is now well established.) Donovan himself refers to young people he found when back in America as being ‘almost a separate tribe’ in the way the Masai were. Donovan keeps going back to the example of St Paul; preaching Christ, not the church. One of the most startling phrases in the book is when (more than one) Masai said to Donovan: ‘If this is why you came, why did you wait so long before coming?’ The key to this book is right at the end when Donovan states, then unpacks, ‘What is missionary work?’ Missionary work is that undertaken by a gospel-oriented community, of transcultural vision, with a special mandate, charism and responsibility of spreading and carrying that gospel to the nations of the world, with a view of establishing the body of Christ. But you will need to read the preceding book to understand how he came to that view, and realise the depth of that analysis. My Diocese of Blackburn Suffragan bishops, Philip and Jill, both strongly recommend it. Much younger Readers than I, involved with schemes like the new Preston one, should read it. More mature ones like me, working within their established (possibly too cosy or club-like) church communities, should find in it a challenge to proclaim Christ, not church-going.
Reviewed by Ian Wells
The Christian Life
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