At 782 pages, the Perspectives book quite the read. In fact, it is less of a “book” and more of a compilation as it is comprised of 124 articles from various theologians, missiologists, pastors, missionaries, and church leaders.
At first it may seem that there is no way a book with that many authors can have a central theme or theology. However, as you read the book it becomes apparent that the Perspectives book was edited specificity to help the reader “live strategically” towards “finishing God's work.”
In fact, this theme of “finishing God's work” or closure is the dominant missions theology for the book. The entire Perspectives course is geared around Matthew 24:14 [Revised English Version]:
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the earth as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.”
[@more@]In keeping with the closure theme, Winter and Hawthorne chose articles that emphasised people groups, church planting and frontier missions. The phrase “people groups” is defined within Perspectives as the largest possible ethnic or cultural group “within which the gospel can spread as a discipling, or church planting movement without encountering barriers of understanding or acceptance.”
Realizing that the evangelism of every individual on earth is both impractical and un-Biblical, Winter and Hawthorne emphasize planting churches within each people group. They chose Kenneth Mulholland's article “A Church for All People” to define and promote this viewpoint:
“Although intensely personal, the Christian faith is not individualistic . . . He came to establish communities of His followers among every people group on the face of the earth.”
The last motif in the Perspectives closure theology of missions is frontier missions. Frontier missions is “cross-cultural Christian work that seeks to establish churches within people groups where it does not yet exist . . .” Winter and Hawthorne spend the most time and energy on this motif as they seek to motivate the Christian church to devote money, people and resources to this area of world missions.
About three-quarters of the way through the Perspectives course, Winter and Hawthorne lay out what they see as the remaining tasks for the Global Church. These tasks are as follows:
- Establishing a “viable, indigenous church planting movement within every people,”
- Establishing a “breakthrough in every people group on earth,”
- Verifying the “progress towards closure.”
I must point out that while task one and two seem the same, they are actually different as task two is focused on completing the Great Commission [Matthew 28:18-20] while task one is focused on contextualization of the gospel.
In summary, the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement has a missions theology based upon completing the Great Commission with the motifs of people groups, church planting and frontier missions. Winter and Hawthorne stay very positive throughout the book, believing whole heartedly that closure can happen in their lifetime. This optimism is very prevalent throughout all the articles selected with only a few articles mentioning or referencing the one issue, according to Winter and Hawthorne, that is slowing down the Christian movement.
This issue is one of cultural barriers:
“If the messengers are not sensitive as they convey the message across cultural barriers, then the message becomes only so much intercultural noise.”
However, given the rise in cross cultural training among mission groups, this issue is referenced with optimism and high hopes.