by Chase Tozer
If you haven’t read Dr. Don Dent’s The Ongoing Role of Apostles in Missions, put it on your list as it is a “must read” for all current and future missionaries. From the beginning, Dent draws on his 25-year history as a key missiological leader in Asia and movement practitioner. This is not your typical book on apostles. In fact, Dent begins with the statement, “MANY CONSERVATIVE, EVANGELICAL, MISSIONS-MINDED Christians, who affirm the New Testament as true and authoritative, do not follow the model of pioneer church planting found within it.” He includes an abundance of scriptural references and bases his conclusions on well thought through theology. Written from a perspective that naturally draws the reader in, Dent discusses the biblical basis of who missionaries are, what they do, and how this understanding should affect missions today.
Dent begins by looking at the Greek word apostolos and its use in the New Testament. He recognizes this word was not common vocab even in the first century and spends considerable time surveying every mention of it by various New Testament writers. Dent also helps show some of the challenges of using the direct translation of apostle/Apostle in the missions world today followed by stating his preference for “missionary apostles” as the best translation for this vital role.
Next, Dent turns his attention to the work that a missionary apostle should do. He introduces four phases that are needed in apostolic work and shows how each of these phases are essential for kingdom advancement among every people group. Paul’s mission strategy is examined in-depth and simple straightforward conclusions are drawn directly from the Word of God.
Finally, Dent discusses how all of this basic and foundational understanding informs missions and missionary apostles today. He outlines four categories and describes current missiological trends for each: missionary identity, Church and mission, missionary methodology, and leading missions. Positive and constructive comments are given in each category and Dent gives solid feedback on how both missionaries and church leaders should respond in light of what has been presented. Dent lastly covers a few specific topics for his former mission organization, the IMB, and shares simple advice for how the IMB can be more effective in the future.
Typically, two differing views are examined on this topic. On one hand, many books discussing apostles today lean toward the understanding of Peter Wagner and the New Apostolic Reformation. These types of books generally lead to an over-emphasis on the role of “apostle” and the perceived authority of that type of role. On the other hand, other books emphasize the cessation of the first Apostles’ work and conclude similar things about various gifts outlined in places like Ephesians 4. This type of work dismisses the need for foundation laying missionaries today. In a masterful way, Dent outlines a healthy, biblical middle road between these two extremes and shows the reader how to be biblically faithful to this necessary role.
As a missionary myself, I found Dent’s discussion on both challenging and helpful. For well over a decade, I have been living overseas and struggling to articulate how our calling is different from that of a local American church. Dent’s book puts words to this struggle and outlines how all missionaries can and should function as “sent ones.” Additionally, Dr. Dent met with more than 50 missionaries including us online for 4 weeks, debriefing us as we read through his work and answering real life questions along the way. Personally, Dr. Dent isn’t just a great author but welcomes the chance to interact with practitioners in small groups. Both his book and Dent himself are great guides for all current and future missionaries.
I highly recommend this book and it’s available for $3.99 on Amazon. If you’re interested in dialoging directly with Dr. Dent, please contact us via Sentergy and we’ll put you in touch with him.