Anabaptism and Mission Starter Reading List

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Driver, John.  “A Community of Transformation.” In Images of the Church in Mission. Scottdale:  Herald Press, 1997, 210-228. Copyright ©1997 by Herald Press, Harrisonburg VA. Used by permission.

In this book, Driver looks at the varying images of the church in mission found in the Bible.  There are four basic types—pilgrimage images, new-order images, peoplehood images and images of transformation.  Within these four are several other sub-types.  In each section and in the concluding chapter, Driver imagines how it would affect the church in mission today if these biblical images were recovered.  All of the images point to God’s contrast society that ideally will be a messianic community marked by restoration, salvation and healing for all people. 

Dyck, Peter J.  “A Theology of Service.” Mennonite Quarterly Review 44 no 3 (Jl 1970) Used by permission.

Dyck identifies the phrasing “theology for service” as quite rare, and “philosophy of service” as more common.  It is theological in the sense of being rooted in Scripture and a profound commitment to radical obedience in discipleship.  He asserts that words and deeds must be one, although there is a temptation to do the one and neglect the other.  Dyck outlines reasons for a commitment to oral witnessing and challenges service workers to be able to speak of Christ and their faith in everyday situations.  He follows this with reasons for meeting human needs, or diakonia, with no hidden agenda.  He concludes with several characteristics of service.  This essay is persuasive for keeping service and mission together. 

Entz, Donna Kampen.  From Kansas to Kenedougou ... And Back AgainMissio Dei 3.  Elkhart, IN:  Mennonite Mission Network, 2004. (accessed Dec. 18, 2012). Used by permission.

Entz illustrates a model of cultural sensitivity in sharing the Good News of Jesus in West Africa.  Through their preparation prior to actively sharing Jesus with their mostly Muslim community—learning the language, asking the elders for counsel, eating the food of the people and living in local housing—a solid foundation was laid.  They established relationships of reciprocity and found a great openness to share with each other about their faith.  With this type of respectful relationship established, their work in translating the Bible and sharing it orally was able to fall on open ears.  This is a case study of incarnational ministry. 

Erb, Delbert and Linda Shelly.  The Patagonia Story:  Congregations in Argentina and Illinois Link ‘Arm-in-Arm’ for Mission. Missio Dei 9. Elkhart, IN:  Mennonite Mission Network, 2005. (accessed Dec. 18, 2012) Used by permission.

This is a story of the Patagonia Mission Project in Argentina and their partnership with a group of Illinois Mennonite churches, called Arm in Arm.  Since the mid-1990’s these two groups have embarked on a journey of walking with one another, sharing in mission vision and strategy.  Their relationship strives to be one of mutuality and multi-directional encouragement.  Through annual visits of one group to the other, relationships are strengthened and gifts are shared.  This is a model of church-to-church relationships. 

Escobar, Samuel.  “Present and Future Realities for Anabaptist Mission.” In A Relevant Anabaptist Missiology for the 1990s, edited by Calvin E. Shenk. Elkhart, IN: Council of International Ministries, 1990, 35-42.

Escobar writes from a perspective of Latin America, which he claims to be Christian and poor, however, the Gospel has not shaped life in the continent significantly.  There continues to be a need for presence and proclamation.  He claims the real strengths of the church are when it is on the margins, as a minority, offering an alternative to nominal Christianity.  He outlines areas where Anabaptist-minded mission workers can offer models of mission engagement that stem from their theology and practice.  These can be found in the Anabaptist vision of the past and be recovered in creative ways to serve the global church.  This essay is useful for comparing what progress has been made since the 1990’s. 

Hiebert, Paul G. “Sociocultural Theories and Mission to the West.” In Evangelical, Ecumenical, and Anabaptist Missiologies in Conversation, edited by James R. Krabill, Walter Sawatsky and Charles E. Van Engen. Maryknoll N.Y.:  Orbis Books, 2006, 169-176. Used by permission. 

Hiebert argues that it is as important to study the human receptors of our mission as it is to study the message.  He outlines historical developments in the field of anthropology that have influenced Western mission to the non-West.  Next he exlains how anthropological insights help people in the West as receivers of mission.  The final section is on mission to the world, and how “glocalization” presents new implications regarding the nature of Christianity, the role of mission workers, how theology is done and how networks of relationships work.  This is a helpful summary of anthropology and mission with a suggestion for how it can be applied today. 

Kasdorf, Hans. “The Anabaptist Approach to Mission.” In Anabaptism and Mission, edited by Wilbert R. Shenk. Scottdale:  Herald Press, 1984, 51-69. Copyright ©1984 by Herald Press, Harrisonburg VA. Used by permission.

Kasdorf draws on the early Anabaptists’ approach to mission, especially emphasizing the mission mandate of Mt. 28 to make disciples and be radically obedient in life.  They used what modern missiologists call the homogenous unit principle—sharing the Gospel with people like themselves.  Before the missionary conference in Augsburg in 1527, their methods were marked by being preaching pilgrims, utilizing house meetings, Bible reading, lay evangelism and persecution.  After 1527 they became more systematic in the sending of missionaries.  Kasdorf lays out the selection criterion and how they measured the results both quantitatively and qualitatively.   This essay explains historically how the early Anabaptists implemented their understanding of mission. 

Krabill, James R.  “Jesus:  Liar, Lunatic or Lord—What’s Your Final Answer?” In Is it Insensitive to Share Your Faith:  Hard Questions about Christian Mission in a Plural World.  Intercourse, PA:  Good Books, 2005,  29-43. This essay is found in the book, Is It Insensitive to Share Your Faith? Hard Questions about Christian Mission in a Plural World, by James R. Krabill. © by Good Books ( All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Krabill asks the reader if all religions are equal or if Jesus Christ is unique.  The major religions in fact do not have the same goals or understanding and tragic results of  some religious sects challenge the premise of equally valuing every religious expression.  Krabill then shows that Jesus’ truth claims must be understood, experienced and put into practice to be truly comprehended.  He concludes by briefly naming common attitudes toward Jesus and ends by saying that if Jesus really is who he says he is, then that is what truly matters in life.  Krabill writes to persuade believers to embrace Jesus fully for who Jesus says He is. 

Langmead, Ross.  “Anabaptist Perspectives for Mission.” In Prophecy and Passion: Essays in honour of Athol Gill, edited by David Neville. Adelaide: Australian Theological Forum, 2002, 328–345. Used by permission.

Langmead reviews major missiological emphases found in Anabaptist mission thinking dating back to the 16th century as well as in recent thought, such as  kingdom theology, mission as discipleship, a cruciform mission, peacemaking, mission from the margins, and mission in community.  Within these themes, he contrasts Anabaptist theological commitments with other streams of thought, for example, because Anabaptism embraces a cruciform mission, it excludes mission that emphasizes victory, strength, conquest and strategies that center on power, and focuses instead on the path of suffering, forgiveness and love of enemy for Jesus’ followers.  

Ramseyer, Robert L.  “The Anabaptist Vision and Our World Mission Part I.” In Anabaptism and Mission, edited by Wilbert R. Shenk.  Scottdale, PA:  Herald Press, 1984, 178-187. Copyright ©1984 by Herald Press, Harrisonburg VA. Used by permission.

Ramseyer observes an important difference between the first Anabaptists and current Mennonites that is often overlooked.  Early Anabaptists were necessarily first generation who left behind their tradition and therefore were unencumbered by what they considered to be worldy—and thereby irrelevant—institutions, practices and relationships.  He suggests that this radicalness must be recovered sociologically, ideologically and attitudinally, which cannot take place apart from mission.  He persuasively explains how mission models and teaches these commitments. 

Sawatsky, Walter.  “The Many Faces of Anabaptism and Mission Since 1860.” Mission Focus 14 (2006):  134-148. Also found on the AMBS website

Shenk, David W. “Three Journeys—Jesus, Constantine, Muhammad.” In Anabaptists Meeting Muslims:  A Calling for Presence in the Way of Christ, edited by James R. Krabill, David W. Shenk and Linford Stutzman.  Scottdale:  Herald Press, 2005, 25-45. Copyright ©2005 by Herald Press, Harrisonburg VA. Used by permission.

Shenk compares the nature of these three historical figures who shaped history in profound ways.  Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem was marked by suffering love and a refusal to participate in violence.  The journey of Constantine to Rome led to a collusion of church and imperial power that was actually incompatible with the way of the cross.  Muhammad journed to Medina from Mecca to escape suffering but later returned to Mecca as political and military victor.  Shenk then compares Christendom and the Dar al Islam and introduces the early Anabaptist critique of these religio-political structures and invites modern day Mennonites to be in relationship with Muslims. 

Shenk, Wilbert R. “A Traditioned Theology of Mission.” In By Faith They Went Out:  Mennonite Missions, 1850-1999.  Elkhart:  Institute of Mennonite Studies, 2000, 110-133. Used by permission of the publisher, from By Faith They Went Out: Mennonite Missions 1850–1999, by Wilbert R. Shenk (Elkhart, IN: IMS, 2000); All rights reserved.

Shenk makes the argument that a theology of mission should be intentionally related to particular faith traditions.  He summarizes what has contributed to a theology of missions for Mennonites and significant North American and European authors who have written on this theme.  Finally, he examines ten themes running through these writings.  This article is helpful to give a historical overview of Mennonite theology of mission and its content. 

Stone, Bryan P. “Introduction:  Reclaiming the E-word” and “Conclusion:  Evangelism Before a Watching World,” In  Evangelism After Christendom: The Theology and Practice of Christian Witness.  Grand Rapids, Mich: Brazos Press, 2007. 9-22, 313-318. Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Copyright ©2007. Used by permission. All rights to this material are reserved. Material is not to be reproduced, scanned, copied, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission from Baker Publishing Group.

Stone explains the difference between triumphalistic evangelism and evangelism that is vulnerable, peaceable and refuseable.  Apostolic evangelism is an invitation to be formed by the Holy Spirit into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus through incorporation into his body, the church.  Stone has a very high view of the church and its role in evangelism over a single evangelist because of the importance of the witness of the faith community in their relationships and living out of the story of Jesus before a watching world.  Salvation is cosmic in scope and involves people, the created order and economic and social systems.  This is an excellent resource on evangelism. 

Yamada, Takashi. “The Anabaptist Vision and Our World Mission Part II.” In Anabaptism and Mission, edited by Wilbert R. Shenk. Scottdale:  Herald Press, 1984, 188-201. From Anabaptism and Mission edited by Wilbert R. Shenk. Copyright ©1984 by Herald Press, Harrisonburg VA. Used by permission.

Yamada explains in this essay how he understands Bender’s Anabaptist Vision and the history of Mennonite mission, and what that means in his Japanese context.  Viewing these through a lens of confrontation helps him make sense of it.  This attitude inspires him to critique colonial style missions and yet still see value in the sending of mission workers today.  The Anabaptist vision is useful today in its secularizing function to relativize human-made systems and the creative function to reconcile people and build up new societies.  Finally, he focuses on the distinctives of Anabaptist-style evangelism.  This is an example of a contextual appropriation of Anabaptist distinctives. 

Yoder, John Howard.  As You Go: The Old Mission in a New Day. Scottdale, Pa: Herald Press, 1961. Copyright ©1961 by Herald Press, Harrisonburg VA. Used by permission.

At this time Yoder was predicting a trend in mission that would see fewer missionaries being placed due to higher costs of living and a lesser need for missionaries where churches were already present and growing into maturity.  He suggests two different approaches—one is sending specialists to train other people in many different kinds of work, and secondly “migration evangelism.”  Yoder believes that groups migrating due to economic opportunities is a far better witness to the reign of God than the solitary missionary.  In an age of re-emerging Christian communities and much migration, Yoder’s point continues to be timely.


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