Must we choose either biblical theology or missions?

Must we choose either biblical theology or missions? August 21, 2019

A few years ago, I sat in the lobby of a Thai hotel talking with a group of friends (all theology nerds like me). None of those guys are “ivory tower” types. Each has lived and worked in cross-cultural contexts for many years. They also struggled to find suitable resources to help their students integrate biblical theology with a focus on missions.

Everyone wondered aloud, “Why are almost all missions books so Bible-light?” At the same time, others observed, “And it seems biblical theologians hardly talk about missions.” That’s when two people in the group, Scott Callaham and Will Brooks, decided to lead the effort to publish a book that would intentionally weave biblical theology with mission practice.

What would happen if theologian practitioners addressed key topics that matter both to the academy and the missionary on the field? How might a theologian address practical strategy concerns? How might missiological issues direct our attention to important biblical questions?

Theology, Strategy, & Current Issues

The fruit of that discussion is the recently released World Mission: Theology, Strategy, and Current Issues (edited by Scott Callaham and Will Brooks). Callaham is an OT theologian, specifically a Hebrew grammarian (a title he wears with a badge of honor). I previously featured his article on writing Chinese worship songs. Brooks is a missiologist with a PhD from SBTS. In a previous post, I reviewed Brooks’s Love Lost for the Cause of Christ.

According to the editors,

World mission needs a fully biblical ethos.

This is the contention of the editors of and contributors to World Mission, a series of essays aimed at reforming popular approaches to missions.

In the first set of essays, contributors develop a biblical theology of world mission from both the Old and New Testaments, arguing that the theology of each must stand in the foreground of missions, not recede into the background. In the second, they unfold the Great Commission in sequence, detailing how it determines the biblical strategy of all mission enterprises. Finally, they treat current issues in world mission from the perspective of the sufficiency of Scripture.

Altogether, this book aims to reform missions to be thoroughly―not just foundationally―biblical, a needed correction even among the sincerest missionaries.

A Little Bit of Everything

Here is a look at the Table of Contents.

Theology and World Mission

1. Old Testament Theology and World Mission – Scott N. Callaham
2. New Testament Theology and World Mission – Wendel Sun
3. Biblical Theology and World Mission – Wendel Sun

World Mission Strategy

4. Discipleship as Integral Component of World Mission Strategy – Stephen I. Wright
5. Focus on “All Nations” as Integral Component of World Mission Strategy – Jarvis J. Williams and Trey Moss
6. Baptism as Integral Component of World Mission Strategy – John Massey and Scott N. Callaham
7. Theological Education as Integral Component of World Mission Strategy – Sunny Tan and Will Brooks

Current Issues in World Mission

8. Language and World Mission – Scott N. Callaham
9. Grammatical-Historical Exegesis and World Mission – Will Brooks
10. Biblical Theology for Oral Cultures in World Mission – Jackson Wu
11. Paul as Model for the Practice of World Mission – Will Brooks

As you can see, the editors gathered together several writers to address a diverse group of subjects. Whether interested in biblical theology, missions, or both, readers will find something to interest them.

You might also notice that I was invited to contribute a chapter “Biblical Theology for Oral Cultures in World Mission.” I’ll share some ideas from that chapter in the next post.


Here are a few comments from endorsers:

Too often books on missions are bereft of biblical theology and serious exegesis. This work edited by Callaham and Brooks stands out as an exception, and I expect both students and professors will consult it often.”

Thomas R. Schreiner
Professor of New Testament Interpretation & Professor of Biblical Theology
Associate Dean of the School of Theology
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


“Battle lines are often drawn between biblical scholars and theologians on one side, and missiologists and missionaries on the other—ne’er the twain shall meet? In this refreshing volume, the contributors bridge the gap by offering robust biblical theology in conversation with hot topics in mission studies such as insider movements, Bible translation, and orality, to name a few. This inviting book shows how the Bible and theology ought to shape the entire missionary enterprise from the ground up, in both its foundations as well as its methods.”

Jerry Hwang
Academic Dean, School of Theology (English)
Associate Professor of Old Testament
Singapore Bible College


“Over and against the retreating significance of the Bible in the Church and the concomitant temptation to adopt biblically and theologically uninformed methods in world missions, this volume appeals for a re-engagement with the biblical perspective on mission. Happily, the authors and editors were not content with a theoretical discussion of the biblical and theological foundation for missions, but they engage with the practicalities of how the Bible and theology can and should shape mission strategies and how current issues in world missions might be addressed responsibly and advantageously by the Bible and biblical theology.”

John A. Cook
Professor of Old Testament
Asbury Theological Seminary

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