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Forrest McPhail, “Pioneer Missions: Meet the Challenges, Share the Blessings”, 2014, 148 pages.
I don’t read a whole lot of missions and church planting books, partly because I have read a lot in the past, and partly because many do a poor job of combining a high view of Scripture and church, with a practical understanding of the realities of church planting on the mission field. Forrest McPhail’s book, “Pioneer Missions: Meet the Challenges, Share the Blessings” is different.
In this short book (150 pages), McPhail is thinking biblically and theologically, but also very practically. Some church planting books are theologically sound, but don’t do anything to address non-Western contexts or pioneer mission fields. Other church planting books focus on majority world contexts, but seem to have forgotten that there is more to theology than telling people to mine the book of Acts for methodical insights. McPhail is able to straddle the great divide and apply Scriptural truths to a distinctively non-Western church planting context, in his case rural Cambodia.
In this book review, I want to briefly summarize the basic contents of the book, together with some of my own commentary, so that potential readers can decide whether they want to read it. And I hope that people do read it because this is a great little book about missionary church planting.
Dear Friends & Family,The most enjoyable aspect of ministry this past month has been our evangelistic kids club in Nong Doan. As we’ve begun to go through major Old Testament stories, starting with creation and the fall, it is exciting to know that some of the foundations of a Biblical worldview are being absorbed into these young minds. While it is an evangelistic ENGLISH kids club, our focus is on the Bible stories and the whole thing is rather English-lite. Each week, we introduce some English vocabulary that corresponds to the Bible story (i.e. “flood” “boat” and “die” for Noah’s ark), practicing that vocab, and using it in a game. But the Bible story is always told in Thai with review in simple English later on. Every other week, Thai student worker Tam joins us for kids club and does a superb job telling the Bible story and interacting with the kids. We need more like him. On the weeks that Tam is not available, I (Karl) tell the story in Thai but it doesn’t compare with an active engaging Thai storyteller like Tam. Tam is also an up and coming preacher. I’d love to have him on a church planting team at some point down the road. It has also been great to have short-termer Brent and missionary friend Chris coming to help with the kids club. We haven’t gotten much help from the PhraBaht church so it is great to have some guys that I can rely upon.
Church discipline is not popular and is rarely practiced in Thai churches, and the same can be said for churches in the West. When it is practiced, it is often for those “big” sins like adultery or embezzlement of church funds. Other repeat offenses like slander, gossip and divisiveness are unrightly overlooked. The term conjures up images of judgmental, critical, self-righteous nitpicks who stick their nose in other people's business where it doesn’t belong. Many Christians incorrectly see the goal of church discipline as punishment, despite the fact that the Bible says that the goal of church discipline is restoration and reconciliation.