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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Christianity Rediscovered (SCM Classics)
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on 16 April 2016
Excellent condition
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on 7 December 2014
Brilliant book. It gives you lots to think about in terms of mission and evangelism. Would recommend it to people as an easy read, but with some thought provoking passages.
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on 27 October 2014
An oldie but a real "goldie"
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This book looks on Christian Mission from the side of those it seeks to serve. What I find most refreshing is that it is written in a spirit of humility, openness and great love.
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on 7 October 2013
Easy to read and very thought provoking. Makes you consider how culture can obscure or make relevant the Christian message. Friends will be getting this for Christmas!
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on 28 August 2006
"Suppose you were a missionary and you realised how questionable the whole system was. And yet suppose you believed in Christianity, believed that Christianity has something to say to the world... What then? What would you do?"

I'd hardly got to the end of the first page of this book when I recognised that sinking feeling in my belly. No, not disappointment. It was that feeling of, "Why, why, why did nobody recommend this book to me 10 years ago?!" I've been absolutely gripped by Vincent Donovan's story of reaching out to the Masai of East Africa. Having visited Tanzania last year (and climbed Kilimanjaro with the help of a Masai guide) the descriptions in the book really came to life for me.

But this is far more than a heart-warming tale. Donovan's searing critique of modern missionary methods really struck a chord with me. But anyone can find faults can't they. So what impressed me was the way that Donovan, more lucidly, poignantly and sensitively than anyone else I've come across, distills and translates the Christian message for a new cultural context. Unlike many contemporary missionaries to 'emerging culture' he never plays fast and loose with the gospel. Rather he patiently and faithfully uses the verbal transmission of seed form Christian concepts to grow new redeeming hope in the minds and hearts of those he's called to reach. As the preface to the 3rd edition (2001 by Lamin Sanneh) so ably discusses, this book has huge implications for the church in every global context, especially in the West. So have you read it yet?
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on 23 July 2012
A book for every Christian looking to see how the rest of the world operates. Gives us a view we all too often disregard. A book for anyone interested in World Mission.
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on 31 October 2011
Vincent J. Donovan, a Catholic Missionary in Tanzania among the Masai people during the late 60's, realised that although the mission to East Africa had been there for nearly two hundred years and done some 'good work', there were virtually no conversions. (p13.) He realises that all the mission has done is import western Christianity, and he comes to believe that every culture created by God has within its own culture all it needs to believe in Jesus.
Donovan critiques the modern missionary approach and translates the Christian message into the cultural context. With permission of his bishop he started an outreach program into the communities of the Masai with a target of reaching all tribes within a five year period and telling them bout Jesus and salvation in their own culture. Meeting the groups on a weekly basis for a year Donovan gives them the option of either to either choose or reject the message.
Donovan is of the opinion that Christianity has the inner strength necessary to match the primeval force of racism and tribalism (p.43) but shows in a number of passages that he himself is not much above the same. His derogatory comments about the Masai make it difficult to take him serious. Saying that they (the Masai) can reach adulthood without thinking at all (p.42), stereotyping the population as handsome (p.91) and claiming that as pagans they would not be able to forgive those who have offended (p.110) shows that he is imposing western thoughts and ideals onto the culture. While segregation in the US and Apartheid in South Africa were present at the time the book was written and stances like those mentioned above might have been acceptable at that time, surely they are not longer in the 21st century.
With some of his arguments he doesn't seem to be aware that he is already contradicting himself. He is claiming that for Pagans it would be unthinkable to forgive (p.110), however, he shows clear rituals of asking and accepting forgiveness within the culture. The "spittle of forgiveness" (p.48), endaa sinyati or holy food (p.49) or the symbol of grass for peace show clear signs and rituals of reconciliation and forgiveness.
Donovan preached forgiveness to the people, but not before he had preached the Cross. When they heard the message of the crucifixion they first laughed in disbelief `as pagans do'. (p.65) `Then they were scandalised by it as religious people must'. If the people have no need for thinking in terms of the future, or at all, they had no hope of resurrection. The hope of resurrection, the message of Jesus rising again, had to be at the basis for teaching.
Donovan, quoting 1 Cor 1:17, "For Christ did not send me to baptise but to proclaim the gospel", acknowledges the importance of the good news in mission however makes a point of preparing the Masai for baptism as a sacrament necessary for salvation. While he tries to leave his western oriented theology behind he quite clearly is influenced by his catholic traditions. He considers himself to be in a position where he can, and does, refuse baptism if he thinks people are not ready for it. When Donovan thought some of the listeners were not yet ready personally for baptism he thought he should exclude them from it. The community however would not accept this. The community had decided they would after look after the weak ones within a communal faith. Communal faith was a concept Donovan had not met and struggled to accept. When a group did not want to be baptised (p.86) he sees it as them refusing Christ and the Christian message. Again Donovan shows an attitude towards the people where he considers himself of a higher authority. Over a period of years he accepted that Christianity can be either accepted or rejected but at the point of rejection by the group his missionary obligation to them was, for him, finished.
Christianity Rediscovered shows a different approach to mission independent of social provisions like hospitals and schools. Donovan tries to bring the Gospel to the people using images from their own cultural background. By his own admission his plan to evangelize the twenty-six sections of the district has not been accomplished. In addition to that he misses to state what has happened to the people who accepted the Gospel. With more than 25 years after the book was written it would have been opportune to reflect on the results of the mission. Have any of the people started spreading the news themselves, has a mission from within the tribe been developed?
While many reviews of the book are highly supportive, I would suggest it needs to be read within a historical context and not without criticism.
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on 17 October 2011
For a theology book this makes easy reading. If you want to know where modern mission is going wrong then this book will provide some of the answers.
This is a real insight into the problems one missionary faced when trying to mission a people from a culture who lived for the present but had no word for the future.
Four this speak to us who are trying to mission the present generation of un-churched?
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on 20 April 2018
Vincent J. Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered: An Epistle from the Masai, London: SCM Press, 2001. Paper. xx + 168pp.

Christianity Rediscovered is an accessible and inspiring book written by an American Roman Catholic Priest who spent 15 years in pioneer ministry work among the Masai people of Tanzania. The book takes us through the unfolding story of his experience with the Masai tribe, pausing intermittently to convey the theological and scriptural inspiration for his work, to reflect on failures and successes and how he found the process of evangelising the Masai to be one of trial and error, taking him ever up a steep learning curve and yet, by the profound grace of God, finding that God used even his mistakes to grow the faith of the Masai - a warrior, war-like people, whom many had felt it was impossible to reach.
In those insightful pauses, I felt challenged to uncover those things I take for granted about my own personal faith; the lens through which I view life and to consider the way in which we do church currently and whether the things we see as important are actually of any consequence in God’s Kingdom.
Donovan’s useful comparison of how mission had been undertaken historically versus the way he had felt God’s call to leave all that behind (mission centres with hospitals and schools) in order to reach the Masai, dares us to think deeply about how we as church in a western nation can take our mission outside our four walls, rather than expecting those who understand themselves to have no need or desire for God, to come to us.
Using both the apostle Paul and Donovan’s own experience at the mission compound as examples, he appeals to us to leave behind the assumption that providing for people’s physical needs will ultimately lead to the reality of a relationship with God. Yes, people were using the hospitals and the schools, but the number of those who had begun a relationship with God as a result was zero. He, like Paul, needed to go to them, offering nothing but the gospel and accepting no gifts from them either. The results were phenomenal, not just for the Masai themselves (which would be enough) but the insights Donovan gleaned in the process present a massive challenge to the Church. The Masai were allowed to create church that fit their culture, church that looks very different to anything we could imagine and yet it is still church.
How often do we judge the way others do church, even around the corner, as being wrong because it is not how we would do it?
How often do we take the time to look at how we do church and in particular, which bits are actually doing what they ought to be doing/what we think they do?
What even is church really?
What exactly are the necessary requirements for a relationship with God?
The reading of Donovan’s account prompted all these questions and more, as I sought to relate his experiences with my own culture and context, and encouraged me, like him, to engage deeply with the theological and scriptural questions surrounding mission and evangelism methods, daring me to strip back my western ideals and find the naked Gospel, where only the very essential elements remain.
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