The subject that keeps burning in the heart of George Verwer is World Missions. He is the founder and International Coordinator of Operation Mobilization, a ministry which focuses on evangelism, discipleship and church planting. With a record of more than four decades of active involvement, he has much wisdom to impart about "being" and "doing" missions across cultures. The book is not presented in a formal writing style but the informality gives the target audience a sense of being participants in a meeting with the author, listening and digesting his thought-provoking presentation.
In the presentation, he invites Christian leaders, missionaries, ex-OMers, missions interns and missions supporters to examine and ponder on a number of "controversies in the arena of world missions" (p.91) which left unattended, may affect the accomplishment of "God's great kingdom-building programme" across the world (p.13). One programme that warrants attention is the new millennium goal of the "AD 2000 and Beyond" movement to send out 200,000 new missionaries!
The opening chapter is a serious and honest calling for a grace-awakened approach to missions. He is perturbed by the disagreement among churches and between churches and para-church leaders on certain doctrines and practices of missions. Issues of interpreting "spiritual gifts," defining "apostles," tentmakers versus full-time professional missionaries are among the differences but his wish is that, "Christians would take a harder line on issues such as the Ten Commandments, the doctrine of salvation by grace alone and the need to respond to the Great Commission. . . . Where co-operation is not possible . . . we should have the grace to disagree lovingly and then get on with our work" p.25).
Details of the issues of contention are spelt out in chapters 3 to 7. In each discussion, he states his observation, conclusion and provides solutions from the perspective of his personal experience but consul the Scripture for affirmation. For example, the controversy of urging churches in Western countries not to send their missionaries but to fund indigenous workers because it is more cost effective. Citing from his experience working in the First and Third World countries, he firmly believes the need for missionaries from Western countries is still valid to respond to the challenge of Acts 1:8 (pp. 92,108). In the shoes of missionaries needing financial support, he questions the definition of "living by faith" and "faith mission." To him, the former is a "kind of shorthand to describe workers who are not paid a salary . . . but who rely on God to provide," and the latter basically means, "raising your own support." His plea is for churches and individuals to give willingly in obedience to I Corinthians 9:7-14. He also suggests ways missionaries can be proactive in raising funds without filling guilty, "I you are in God's work. . . . you do not have to feel guilty if people make sacrifices for you to get this pay" but his advice, "You do not need to be obsessed about having a simple lifestyle" (p. 112) may invite some criticism.
The author's insights into the nuts and bolts of world missions have provided an agenda for churches and mission agencies to formulate and implement their missions policy. Missions Committee needing pointers on what should be included in the missions education programme may find the book useful. But, to heed the author's call to accomplish the Great Commission with the "highest standard of professionalism" (p.148) may require the church to seriously consider the use of social science research methods to understand and improve the missions programme in the church, for examples, mission trips, the welfare of the missionaries sent out by the church and other related concerns
The church represents God's people who are called out of the world by His Grace to serve and glorify Him. In his book, George Verwer is calling God's people to Act upon the Grace by coming "out of the comfort zone" to accomplish His Vision for World Missions.
(Review by Dr. Ng Peh Cheng)