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Roots and Remedies of the Dependency Syndrome in World Missions Paperback – June 27, 2010
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Reese examines historical issues that contributed to dependency among missions and weakened the church in developing areas. He looks at the Western ideas and approaches of Manifest Destiny, Postmilleninialism, Christian Social Darwinism and Imperialism. He asserts that "Rejecting the New Testament principle of servant leadership, these ideologies preferred domination." This book explores how missions have historically gone astray from the simple spreading of the gospel due to the above influences. In the post-modern world, globalization and secularization are elements that contribute to dependency and alienation in the mission field.
The tone of the book is consistently pastoral, and Reese never resorts to finger-pointing or repudiating those who gave their lives for missions but may have erred in their stratagems. Reese conveys a deep love and gratefulness for all missionaries and missionary movements. This book in no way slights past Christian missionaries but is an honest examination of past methods.
The book highlights early voices of warning against developing dependency among mission churches. One of these was Henry Venn who developed the "Three-Self Formula" as a goal in missions. This was to establish "self-supporting," "self-governing" and "self-extending" systems among the developing Christian communities. Reese elaborates on the formula and its advocates and critics. Reese affirms the addition of "self-theologizing" making it a Four-Self Formula for avoiding interdependency among churches. The goal is for the newly formed communities to be dependent solely on God for sustenance.
What we see from Reese's research is that throughout the history of missions there have been voices that cry out for missionary work to focus on preaching the cross and on Jesus Christ as first and foremost. This leads to the first and last task of winning people to Christ and developing self-sustaining communities of pastors, disciples and evangelists that work interdependently with the missionary groups.
Reese identifies the tempting scenario of dependence on financial power rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. This dynamic is seen as undermining the building of Christ's church. The spiritual power that is correlational with the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ remains essential to the church's mission. Growth via missions does not depend primarily on money but on the Spirit and Word as well as faithful servants.
Readers will learn many insights into the church's mission and how to effectively spread the gospel, build churches and Christian communities that will thrive into the future. Suggestions for effective short-term missions are discussed and include better training, long-term strategy and avoiding creating dependency. The cultural contrasts that can shipwreck the long-term effectiveness of short-term missions and/or providing aid are addressed by Reese. The concepts in the book can inspire vision and purpose for missions that contribute to sustained growth.
Throughout the book, Reese sets his views in the context of the gospel; for example, he writes, "In the church of Jesus Christ, there are no underprivileged members and wealth is not measured in money alone." The theme of God's provision for all of those in His body is interwoven among the various topics. Reese gives readers the wisdom to be pragmatic without being naïve and to navigate the tension between compassionate desires to help and the need to avoid codependency on the part of missionaries. Reese shows how Westerners can avoid imposing cultural norms onto locals in areas such as Use of Time, Problem Solving, Decision Making and Sources of Power. His discussion of such topics provides practical remedies and strategic planning for missionaries.
Reese demonstrates a keen, seasoned perspective on missions. He grew up as a son of missionaries in Zimbabwe and then has served extensively in the mission field in that country. His writing proves a vast knowledge of missionary history, techniques, examples of success and failure, as well as his own experiences that are coherently shared with readers. The book concludes with ten best remedies for the errors of dependency among missions. These are all relevant and practical to all missions and can be adopted immediately.
I would set Roots & Remedies among the top books on misson that I have read. I hope Reese's voice will have a impactful influence on approaches to missions.