Missions Dictionary

Dictionary of Missiological Terms

Definitions are important because they set parameters of meaning. You are invited to help build this missiological dictionary by suggesting definitions and sources where these definitions are found. Credit will be given for all definitions accepted. E-Mail Gailyn Van Rheenen with suggestions.

Note the bibliography of entries at the end of this dictionary.

A - B - CDEFGH - I - J - KLMNOP - Q - RSTU - V - W - X - Y - Z

10/40 Window: the slice of the world extending "from ten to forty degrees north of the equator and stretching from North Africa through the Middle East to China and Japan" where the largest number of unreached people live"(Van Rheenen 1996b, 209). Read also the related definition for Unreached People.



AnchorAcculturation: "the process by which adults acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and behaviors that enable them to become functioning participants of a new host culture" (adapted from Grunlan and Mayers 1979, 85).   Acculturation is for adults what enculturation is for children.

Amulets and Charms: "visual symbols that are thought to carry spiritual power for protective purposes" among many animistic people (Van Rheenen 1996a, 229).

AnchorAncestors and Ghosts: "spiritual beings who once lived in human form" (as contrasted to gods and spirits). Ancestors are "feared, respected, and venerated because they are specifically remembered and are part of the extended family. Ghosts, on the other hand, are those spirits of the dead who are disappearing into the past and are no longer individually remembered by their families." John Mbiti calls ancestors "the living dead" and ghosts "the dead dead" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 259).

Animism: "the belief that personal spiritual beings and impersonal spiritual forces have power over human affairs and, consequently, that human beings must discover what beings and forces are influencing them in order to determine future action and, frequently, to manipulate their power" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 19-20).



AnchorCell Churches: "small church bodies of believers, generally 10-30 per unit, meeting in homes or storefronts, . . . linked to one another in some type of structured network"  (Garrison 1999, 59).   Contrast to house churches in this same dictionary.

Channeling: in New Age thought, "the growing awareness of any part of the one Being that it can access any of the rest of itself" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 161).

Christendom:  "the system of church-state partnership and cultural hegemony in which the Christian religion was the protected and privileged religion of society and the church its legally established institutional form" (Guder 1998, 6).

Chronological Bible Storying: "a method of evangelizing a people by relating to them, in a culturally suitable manner, the great stories of the Bible from creation to redemption to the return of Christ" (Garrison 1999, 60).

Church: (1) “…the church was called to be, an outpost of heaven living as aliens in a strange land, calling the powers and principalities to account I the name of the risen Lord who ruled over all creation, and gathering together in the power of the Spirit the first members of a new humanity, who through repentance and faith were being recreated according to the image of God’s servant-messiah” (Harvey 1999, 82).  (2) "the distinctive people of God called by him through his mission and set aside for mission" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 31); (3) a unique community in the world created by God through the Spirit as both holy and human; (4) a distinctive community formed by the calling and sending of God and reflecting the redemptive reign of God in Christ; (5) "God's instrument for God's mission" (Guder 1998, 8); (6) "a community of God on a pilgrimage through life helping each other to continue as Christ's disciples and encouraging others to join them on the journey to heaven" (Van Rheenen 2004). Note also Congregation.

Church, Secularized: "a church which concerns itself only with this-worldly activities and interests" (Bosch 1991, 11).

Church, Separatist: "a church which involves itself only in soul-saving and preparation of converts for the hereafter" (Bosch 1991, 11).

Church Growth: "a discipline which investigates the nature, expansion, planting, multiplication, function and health of Christian churches as they relate to the effective implementation of Christ's commission to 'make disciples of all peoples.'  Church Growth advocates strive to integrate the eternal theological principles of God's Word concerning the expansion of the Church with the best insights of contemporary social and behavioral sciences, employing as the initial frame of reference, the foundational work done by Donald McGavran"(Brochure "New Wineskins for Effective Ministry in the 21st Century" advertising the North American Society for Church Growth annual gathering, November 9-11, 2000, in Pasadena, California); "that careful discipline which investigates the nature, the function, and the health of Christian churches, as they relate to the effective implementation of the Lord's Great Commission to make disciples of all peoples (Matthew 28:19-20). It is a spiritual conviction, yet it is practical, combining the eternal principles of God's Word with the practical insights of social and behavioral sciences" <>.

Church Maturation: "building up the body of Christ so that each part of the body supplies its gift or gifts to the whole.  It is the process of bringing individual Christians and the Christian community as a whole to maturity.  It implies that new believers must be taught how a Christian worldview shapes and influences all facets of life.  The gifts of the body are to be joined together so that each part does its function.  When this occurs, the body "becomes mature" in Christ, no longer like "infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching" (Eph. 4:14; see vv. 7-16) (Van Rheenen 1996b, 154).

Church Nurturing: "building up the body of Christ so that each part . . . supplies its gift or gifts to the whole"; "the process of bringing individual Christians and the Christian community as a whole to maturity"; "the preparation to withstand the fire of Satan’s persecution. . . relationally mentoring new believers to live out Christian principles in their lives" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 154).

Church Planting: "initiating reproductive fellowships that reflect the kingdom of God in the world" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 148).

Church Planting Movement: "a rapid and exponential increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment" (Garrison 1999, 7).

Complementarity (In the study of methodology): "a way of looking a competing, seemingly irreconcilable methodologies (like in the study of religion and missiology) in a way that does justice to both and more importantly to truth."  "Any time a single methodology is championed as the only methodology whether scientific, social scientific, aesthetic or moral, truth is being needlessly constricted.  Conversely, multiple methodologies produce better pictures of phenomenon than single methodologies; it is inconceivable in this day and age to claim absolute knowledge for a single methodology when so much is available" (Musk 2004).

Congregation: "a group that possesses a special name and recognized members who assemble regularly to celebrate a more universally practiced worship but who communicate with each other sufficiently to develop intrinsic patterns of conduct, outlook, and story" (Hopewell 1987, 12-13);  "the persistent and immediate form by which the church is manifested in almost every community" (Hopewell 1987, 14).

Contagious Magic: "the [animistic] belief that objects which have been in contact exert an influence on each other even after they have been disconnected"; according to Sir James Frazer, "things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 221).

Contextualization: (1) "the efforts of formulating, presenting and practicing the Christian faith in such a way that is relevant to the cultural context of the target group in terms of conceptualization, expression and application; yet maintaining theological coherence, biblical integrity and theoretical consistency"  (Wan 1999, 13);  (2) "the attempt to communicate the message of the person, works, Word, and will of God in a way that is faithful to God's revelation, especially as put forth in the teaching of Holy Scripture, and that is meaningful to respondents in their respective cultural and existential contexts"(Hesselgrave and Rommen 2000, 200); (3) "a process in which God is recognized as THE Contextualizer--who wants to be understood, and who reveals his purposes through both people and events.  This process reaches its ultimate expression in Jesus Christ who uniquely communicates the Father's character and purpose--so that the Incarnation because the defining expression of al effective communication" (adapted from Kraft in The Word Among Us, Chapter 6; cf. Taylor 2004).

Conversion: (1) "turning from self which is in rebellion against God, turning to God through faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross, and coming into union with him through the saving blood of Jesus Christ" (Van Rheenen 2001). (2) "the change of one's social identity, the acquisition of a new conceptual language, and the shifting of one's paradigm" (Kallenberg 2002, 32).

Creative-Access Nation: "a country which limits or forbids the entry of Christian missionaries and for which alternative legal means of entry are required to enable Christians to live for Christ"  (Johnstone and Mandryk, 2001, 755).

Critical Contextualization: the process, developed by Paul Hiebert in many of his writings, of the community of faith making decisions in light of existing cultural beliefs and clear biblical understanding (Hiebert, Shaw, and Tienou 1999, 21-29;  Hiebert 1994, 88-9).

AnchorCross-Culturalism: "the learned skill of relating to people of other cultures within the contexts of their cultures" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 105). Contrast with Monoculturalism in this same dictionary.

Culture: "the integrated system of learned patterns of ideas, values, behavior, products, and institutions characteristic of a society" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 81); "the sum total of ways of living built up by a human community and transmitted from one generation to another" (Newbigin 1984, 5); "the more or less integrated systems of learned ideas, feelings, and values encoded in patterns of behavior, signs and products created and shared by a community of people (Hiebert and Cox 2004).

Cultural Validity: "the anthropological perspective that cultures are essentially equal to one another but are ultimately judged by God" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 81).

Cultural Relativity: the anthropological perspective that "cultures must be evaluated according to [their] own standards and those alone’" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 82).

Curses: "verbalizations calling upon spiritual forces to harm a person" based upon an animistic understanding concerning "the power of words" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 225).



AnchorDeath: (In Animistic Melanesian Contexts):   "Death in animistic Melanesian thought is never understood as the cessation of existence or annihilation of man. It is better to view death as survival or "over-living":  Humankind enters into the next form of existence, guaranteed through his spiritual double ("soul") by surviving or "living over" his own physical death. At the time of death, man transitions from the visible realm of Life to the invisible realm of the after-life."(Adapted from Bachor 2001).  Read also the definition for spiritual double.

Demons: according to a theistic worldview, "servants of Satan" who stand against the kingdom of God. Frequently in the Old Testament demons "dressed themselves up in the garb of gods" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 266-67). Eight common characteristics can be deduced from the Gospels: Demons are (1) considered spiritual beings, not merely forces or structures of culture; (2) described as unclean or evil spirits; (3) pictured as disembodied spirits who desired to possess bodies and were pictured as wondering about seeking a body; (4) have power and knowledge beyond that of human beings; (5) operate as part of the kingdom of Satan; (6) seek to tempt human in a struggle between Jesus and the demonic realm; (7) are overcome by the power of God, and (8) can be overcome by the authority given to Christians by the resurrected and exalted Lord (Van Rheenen 1996a, 115-19).

Development, Transformational: "seeking positive change in the whole of human life materially, socially, and spiritually.  The goals of such transformation are 1) to recover our true identity as human beings created in the image of God and 2) to discover our true vocation as productive stewards, faithfully caring for the world and all the people in it" (Adapted from Myers 1999, 3).

Dialogue, Inter-Religious: a movement within both missiology and the science of religions . . . characterized neither by committed sectarianism nor by rigorous scholarship."   The movement "eschews blatant proselytizing on the one hand and idealistic objectivity on the other in favor of inter-religious dialogue as the modus operandi of choice when adherents of one religious tradition meet those of another religious tradition.  It argues that neither salvation nor publicly demonstrable truth is the most satisfactory goal of inter-religious interchanges--the proper goal (only achievable goal some would say) is peaceful, productive coexistence with the religions of the world exchanging competition with one another for harmony and, on some levels at least, unity"(Musk 2004).

Discipline, spiritual:  "the effort to create some space in which God can act"   (Nouwen 1995, 81).

Divination: "the decision-making process by which animists determine the impact of personal and impersonal powers upon themselves, . . . the method (according to Turner) for `bringing into the open what is hidden or unknown’"(Van Rheenen 1996a, 170). Methods of divination include (1) interpretation of omens, (2) astrology, (3) ritual techniques, (4) employment of ordeals, (5) reliance on the dead, (6) interpretation of dreams and visions, and (7) possession (Van Rheenen 1996a, 176-192).



E-1 Evangelism: evangelism "among people who speak the same general language as the missionary and have a similar cultural heritage" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 82); a term defining cultural distance in evangelism originally developed by Ralph Winter in Perspectives of the World Christian Movement (1992, B-157-75).

E-2 Evangelism: "an intermediate category between E-1 and E-3 evangelism describing Christian outreach to cultures that have some type of general similarity as that of the evangelist" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 83); a term defining cultural distance in evangelism originally developed by Ralph Winter inPerspectives of the World Christian Movement (1992, B-157-75).

E-3 Evangelism: evangelism which "takes place when missionaries teach those of a significantly different language and culture" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 83); a term defining cultural distance in evangelism originally developed by Ralph Winter in Perspectives of the World Christian Movement (1992, B-157-75).

Ethnography: (1) "the task of describing a culture from the perspective of the people for whom it is a way of life" (McConnell 2000, 325); (2) "a methodology that looks for significant patterns of behavior in social contexts and seeks to interpret them according to the insider's perspective" (Davis 2000, 326); (3) a manuscript describing the results of ethnographic research

AnchorEmic: the term developed by Kenneth Pike for an insider’s understanding of his own culture. Missionaries must learn how insiders understand their own culture (Van Rheenen 1996a, 148-49). Contrast with Etic in this same dictionary.

AnchorEnculturation: "the process by which children become functioning members of their own society" (adapted from Gunlan and Mayers 1979, 76).   Compare to the related definition of Acculturation.

Ethnocentrism: an attitude of cultural superiority which implies that one’s own culture is better than some other culture. It is the basis of racism, nationalism, and tribalism. (Van Rheenen 1996b, 98).

Ethnodoxology: "the study of how and why people of diverse cultures glorify the true and living God" (Hall 2000, 51).

AnchorEtic: the term developed by Kenneth Pike for an outsider’s understanding of another culture. In religious anthropology, these etic perspectives provide "broad classifications . . . to categorize spiritual phenomena" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 147). Contrast with Emic in this same dictionary.

Evangelism: "initiation [of people] into the kingdom of God" (Abraham 1989, 13). "to practice friendship, to make disciples" (McLaren 2002, 134);"the proclamation of salvation in Christ to those who do not believe in him, calling them to repentance and conversion, announcing forgiveness of sin, and inviting them to become living members of Christ's earthly community and to begin a life of service to others in the power of the Holy Spirit" (Bosch 1991, 10-11).

Evil Eye: among animistic people "the projection of malevolent power upon a person or object by gazing upon it" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 230).



Faith: "a confidence in the person of Jesus Christ and His power, so that even when His power does not serve my end, my confidence in Him remains because of who He is.  Faith for the Christian is the response of trust based on who Jesus Christ claimed to be, and it results in a life that brings both mind and heart in a commitment of love to Him" (Zacharias 2000, 58).



AnchorGerminal Churches: churches which "grow geometrically (2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, etc.) . . . . like rabbits in Australia, bananas in Bermuda, and papayas in fertile areas of tropical Africa."  These are contrasted withterminal churches which "may have spiritual vitality but can reproduce only arithmetically (2, 4, 6,8, 10, 12, etc.). " (Van Rheenen 1996b, 149). Contrast with Terminal Churches in this same dictionary.

Global Culture: "a tradition that travels the world where it takes on local color.  As such global cultures have both a global, or meta-cultural, and a local, or situated distinct, cultural dimension" (Hexham and Poewe-Hexham 2004).

AnchorGods and Spirits: according to an animist, "trans-empirical beings who have always existed in spirit form and have never been human beings" (as contrasted to ancestors and ghosts(Van Rheenen 1996a, 252).



AnchorHouse Churches: "small bodies of approximately 10-30 believers meeting in homes or storefronts, which (unlike cell groups) are generally not organized under a single authority or hierarchy of authorities" (Garrison 1999, 59).  Contrast to cell churches in this same dictionary.

Hyperculture: A culture that is easily bored and readily distracted, one in which entertainment is transformed from an occasional personal and group diversion to a way of life, occupying all the interstices between periods of work...Quickly exhausting its energy reserves, a hyperculture continually demands refueling.  Rejecting the acquisition of perspective as necessarily too time intensive an activity, it craves instead to be injected with doses of short term stimulation.  For the hyperculture is a society of "busy bodies"....(Stephen Bertman in Peter Chao 2001)



Identification: "an empathy between communicants involving a compassionate, interpersonal, reciprocal sharing of feelings and concepts"(Van Rheenen 1996b, 69-71).

Imitative Magic: the animistic belief that "imitating a desired outcome causes it to happen" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 222-23).

Incarnational Identification: a model of ministry imitating that of Christ who "became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14; cf. Van Rheenen 1996b, 72-73)Incarnation means that God enables divinity to embody humanity.  Christians, like Jesus, are God’s incarnations, God’s temples, tabernacling in human flesh (John 1:14; Phil. 2:3-8).  Christians, spiritually transformed into the image of God, carry out God’s ministry in God’s way.  Frequently incarnationalists relate to seekers from other world religions personally and empathetically (as Jesus taught Nicodemus).  Sometimes, however, they declare God’s social concerns by shaking up the status quo and “cleaning out the temple.”  The end result of incarnation in a non-Christian world is always some form of crucifixion.  (Van Rheenen 2005, From World Religions to Multiple Spiritualities, The Changing Face of World MissionsZondervan).

Inclusivism: a somewhat recent shift away from particularism affirming that the following principles: (1) "There is a sense in which Jesus Christ is unique, normative or superior to other religious figures, and in some sense is is through Christ that salvation is made available.  (2) God's grace and salvation, which are somehow based upon Jesus Christ, are also available and efficacious through other religions.  (3) Thus other religions are generally to be regarded positively as part of God's purposes for humankind. . . .  The core of inclusivism is the desire to maintain in some sense the uniqueness of Jesus Christ while also admitting that God's grace and salvation (however these are understood) are present and effective in and through other religions as well"(Netland 2001, 51-52).

Indigenous Church: "a native church. . . which shares the life of the country in which it is planted and finds itself ready to govern itself, support itself, and reproduce itself" (Hodges 1953, 7); the perspective of Hodges and Smalley that a mature church must not only fulfill the traditional Three-Self Formula but must also be culturally and theologically rooted in the culture in which it finds itself (Van Rheenen 1996b, 186).



Kingdom Theology: the biblical perception that God rules or reigns over the world he created; in regard to Christology, the perspective that "God in Christ has broken into the world to establish his own sovereignty and defeat the powers of Satan"; in regard to evangelism, "an interpretive model based on the Word of God for explaining the world" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 131, 139).



Leadership Training: "the equipping of God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:12)" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 164).

Lebanization: A term by Benjamin Barber describing a "retribalization of large swaths of humankind by war and which culture is pitted against culture, people against people, tribe against tribe -- a Jihad in the name of a hundred narrowly conceived faiths against every kind of interdependence, every kind of artificial social cooperation and civic mutuality" (Benjamin Barber 2001).



Magic: "the manipulation of spiritual power"; "the use of rituals and paraphernalia to manipulate spiritual powers" in contrast to religion, in which people seek to supplicate the God or gods (Van Rheenen 1996a, 218).

Managerial Missiology: "the belief that missions can be approached like a business problem.  With the right inputs, the thinking goes, the right outcomes can be assured.  Any number of approaches have been  haled as the 'key' to world evangelization or to reaching particular groups -- everything from contextualization to saturation evangelization.  Most while successful up to a point, also have been shown to have limits" (Guthrie 2000,162, cf. Escobar 2000, 109-112).

Manifest Destiny: the conviction prevalent during 1880-1920, “the heyday of colonialism” that “God, in his providence, had chosen the Western nations, because of their unique qualities, to be the standard-bearers of his cause even to the uttermost ends of the world” (Bosch 1991, 298).

Mantras: "the attachment of spiritual power to certain types of sounds"; a term "literally meaning 'voice’ or 'sound’ in the Hindustani language of India(Van Rheenen 1996a, 228).

Medium: "a human oracle through whom an ancestor or spirit communicator communicates directly with the living" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 158).

Mentoring: "a form of teaching that includes walking alongside the person you are teaching and inviting him or her to learn from your example" (Garrison 1999, 60).

Method: "a normative pattern of recurrent and related operations yielding cumulative and progress results" (Lonergan 1972, 4; cf Musk 2004).  "Lonergan's beginning two premises [are] . . . that methods differ according to the nature of their subject matter and that methods must be both conscious and intentional. . . .  Methods are not true in and of themselves but only to the extent that they open a defined body of subject matter to systematic examinations that yield well defined information.  Methods must be custom-made to fit their subject matter" (Musk 2004). Note complementarity in this dictionary.

Missio Dei:  "mission is not the invention, responsibility, or program of human beings, but flows from the character and purposes of God. . . .  Mission is defined, directed, energized, and accompanied by God"(Murray 2001, 39).

Missiology: "the conscious, intentional, ongoing reflection on the doing of mission.  It includes theory(ies) of mission, the study and teaching of mission, as well as the research, writing, and publication of works regarding mission"(Neely 2000, 633).  "1. the study of the salvation activities of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit throughout the world geared toward bringing the kingdom of God into existence, 2. the study of the worldwide church's divine mandate to be ready to serve this God who is aiming his saving acts toward this world"(Verkuyl 1978, 5).

Mission: "the work of God in reconciling sinful humankind to himself" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 20).

Missional:  "formed by the calling and sending of God (missio Dei); "reflecting God's redemptive reign in Christ" (kingdom of God); "Trinitarian:  God-inspired, Christ-formed, Spirit-led;" practitioners "begin theologically and then move to cultural analysis and strategy formation;" not primarily driven by "what works" but by "the will of God."  (Van Rheenen, 2005b).

Missional Churches:  "reproducing communities of authentic disciples, being equipped as missionaries sent by God, to live and proclaim His Kingdom in this world" (Minatrea 2004, 8).

Missions: "the plans of committed believers to accomplish the mission of God" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 20).

Modern:  "a broad, coherent culture in Western civilization, arising (more or less) in the sixteenth century and developing through the twentieth, a culture dominated by science, consumerism, conquest, rationalism, mechanism, analysis, and objectivity" (McLaren 2002, 53).

AnchorMonoculturalism: "the assumption that all other people are like us, resulting in the tendency to judge other peoples’ actions and attitudes on the basis of our own" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 97). Contrast with cross-culturalism in this same dictionary.

Motives of Missions: "heart impulses and allegiances that lead missionaries and ministers into action and sometimes result in inaction" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 37).



Nationalism: a relatively recent perspective that “my country is superior to yours” coined in 1798 (Kamenka 1976, 8) resulting from understandings of the Renaissance and Enlightenment which demoted God or king in the cultural consciousness and elevated humanity “as an organic entity”  (Bosch 1991, 298).  This nationalistic sentiment is succinctly stated in the French Revolution’s Declaration of Human Rights: “The principle of sovereignty resides essentially in the Nation: no body of men, no individual, can exercise authority that does not emanate expressly from it” (Kohn 1945, 331-334). Thus virtually every nation has regarded itself as being chosen, like OT Israel, for a particular destiny and as having a unique charisma (Bosch 1991, 299; Adapted and Reformulated by Gailyn Van Rheenen).

New Age: "a secularized esotericism with historic roots in the Renaissance, the radical reformers (Schwarmgeister), romanticism and occultism" (Madsen 2002, 129); "the cultic milieu having become conscious of itself, in the later 1970s, as constituting a more or less unified 'movement.'  All manifestations of this movement are characterized by a popular western culture criticism expressed in terms of secularized esotericism" (Hanegraaff 1996, 522).

New Religious Movements: "primary religious groups/movements that operate apart from the dominant religious culture in which they are located and, in addition, seek adherents from their new host culture....  Each operates out of a basically different religious myth than that of the dominant culture"(Melton 2000, 8).



Oaths: "a conditional curse directed toward oneself" frequently "taken voluntarily to prove innocence or loyalty to a cause" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 226).



Paganism: According to Prudence Jones, "a religion that is a nature-venerating theophany personified in the great goddess and the god.  In her understanding, the resurgence of Paganism, while reviving the positive aspects of ancient forms, is a contemporary expression of pre-Christian belief systems now found in modern day Wicca, Druidry, and Asatru" (Cooper 2008, 25).

Particularism: the traditional perspective of Christianity's distinctive nature in relationship to other world religions affirming three principles:  (1) "The Bible is God's distinctive written revelation. . . .  (2) Jesus Christ is the unique incarnation of God, fully God and fully man, and only through the person and work of Jesus is there the possibility of salvation.  (3) God's saving grace is not mediated through the teachings, practices or institutions of other religions"(Netland, 2001, 48).

Paternalism: the dominance of the sending culture over the mission process(Van Rheenen 1996b, 181-82).

Partnership: "an association of two or more Christian autonomous bodies who have formed a trusting relationship, and fulfill agreed-upon expectations by sharing complementary strengths and resources, to reach their mutual goal"(Luis Bush in Van Rheenen 1996b, 190).

People Group: the "way of perceiving humanity as being composed of identifiable cultural and/or sociological groups" (Samuel Wilson in Moreau 2000, 744); a set of individuals who share a common language and culture.

People Movements:  "phenomenon of a significant number of the people of one tribe, class, or caste converting to Christ together"(Hesselgrave in Moreau 2000, 743).

Pluralism, Religious: (1) "the undeniable fact of religious diversity--people do indeed embrace different religious perspectives;" to relativists, "an equalitarian and democratized perspective holding that there is a rough parity among religions concerning truth and soteriological (salvational) effectiveness. In this sense religious pluralism is a distinctive way of thinking about religious diversity as something inherently good, to be embraced enthusiastically"(Netland 2001, 12);  (2) "the coexistence within the one political community of groups who hold divergent and incompatible views with regard to religious questions. . . .  Pluralism therefore implies disagreement and dissension within a community"  (Definition of the Roman Catholic thinker John Courtney Murray in the 1950s)  (Eck 2000, 16). Note also pluralistic ethos.

Pluralistic Ethos: "a set of assumptions and values that celebrates diversity of religious experience and expression as something good and healthy, is deeply suspicious of attempts to privilege one tradition or teaching as normative for all, and while skeptical of claims that any particular religious tradition had special access to truth about God, nevertheless freely acknowledges that different people can find religious truth for them" (Netland 2001, 14).

Power Encounter: "a spiritual encounter that exposes and call to account the powers of darkness in their varied forms by the power of God for the purpose of revealing the identity of the one True God resulting in an acknowledgment of and/or allegiance to His lordship by those present" (Timothy Kamps in Van Rheenen 1996a, 84).

Priest: in the Anthropology of Religion, "a religious practitioner who receives his authority from a religious organization" (in contrast to a prophet) (Van Rheenen 1996a, 150).

Prophet: in the Anthropology of Religion, "a religious practitioner who receives his authority by some prophetic call and proclaims revitalization and change of society without being accountable to any religious bureaucracy"(Van Rheenen 1996a, 150).

Protestant Ethic: the perspective, first proposed by Max Weber in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in 1905, that the Protestant values of personal discipline, hard work, frugality, and respect for learning foster economic development.  "The new Evangelicalism in Latin America exhibits these values in virtually crystalline purity." (Adapted from Berger 1999, 16-17).



Receptivity: "the readiness of people to hear God’s Word and accept his sovereignty" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 215).

Reentry Shock: "cultural disorientation experienced when people return to their own country.  It is based upon the fact that both they and their home culture have significantly changed during their time on the missions field (Van Rheenen 1996b, 54-56).

Religion: "in a broad sense . . . linking, re-linking, or binding persons to the Divine, supernatural or transcendent, however conceived" and "particular religions, whether old or new, can be thought of as the various systems of faith and worship that attempt to make this linkage possible" (Hesselgrave 2004).

Revival: "the working of the Holy Spirit in the Church for its cleansing and rededication" (Shearer 1966, 56-57).

Renewal: "entering into the purposes of God and allowing God to form and guide us. It is rooted in humility, ascribing God to be God and allowing Him to work in our lives. In the renewal process disciples become transformed into the image of God (2 Cor. 3:18)"  (Van Rheenen, 2004).

Revitalization Movements: "deliberate, conscious, organized efforts by members of a society to create a more satisfying culture" (Wallace as quoted in Van Rheenen 1996a, 69).



Sacrament: "The Latin word sacramentum was used to translate the Greek word mystery (mysterium).  One could speak of 'the mystery of baptism,' 'they mystery of the Eucharist,' or 'the mystery of marriage.'  The word sacrament comes from two latin words:  sacra, which means 'holy,' and the suffix mentum, which means 'to make holy' . . . .  'Sacrament' expresses the mystery of the union between God and man--effected by God, kept by man"(Webber 2002, 180-181).

Self-Denial: "a summons to submit to the authority of God as Father and of Jesus as Lord and to declare lifelong war on one's instinctive egoism"  (Packer 2000, 289).

Shaman: "a diviner who seeks to discern what spiritual being or impersonal force is causing sickness, discord, or catastrophe in order to prescribe some remedy" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 154).

AnchorSocially Defined Sins: "violations of culturally defined mores and laws that destroy social harmony" prevalent in most animistic cultures (Van Rheenen 1996a, 278-80). Read also the definition for theologically defined sins.

AnchorSorcery: "the use of magical paraphernalia and rituals to harness spiritual powers to maliciously and premeditatively harm other people" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 215). Contrasted at least in Africa to the term witchcraft.

Spiritual Disciplines:  "those practices that put us in the presence of God where we can have an intimate relationship with him" (Ogden, 1998)

AnchorSpiritual Double (in Animistic Melanesian Contexts): "self-existing and self-conscious personality in the invisible realm, independent from man as its counterpart in the visible realm.  It is the exact immaterial copy (mirror picture) of man in his dichotomical nature.  The main function of the spiritual double is to provide benevolent protection of his body from evil spirits.  The spiritual double is the guarantee for man to survive his own death and to continue existence in the after-life as part of the living-dead.  Humankind thus has two complementary aspects, the psyche and body, make up one being.  One being exists in the material realm, the other as the exact copy of the material one exists in the immaterial realm" (Adapted from Bachor, 2001).

Spiritual Formation:  "walking with God in such a way that we are being 'transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory' (2 Cor. 3:18)"  (Van Rheenen 2014). 

Spirituality, Christian: "the inward essence which flows out of our relationship with God and propels us into Christian ministry"; "living in relationship with God in such an intimate way that it influences who we are and how we relate to others"  (Van Rheenen, 2003)

Spiritual Warfare (based on Eph. 6:10-20): "standing with God in prayer and against the principalities and power to defeat Satan through truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and the word of God." "Spiritual warfare is not about fighting Satan; the sacrificial death and triumphal resurrection of Jesus Christ have defeated him. Spiritual warfare is standing firm in Christ’s mighty power. It is accepting by faith God's victory through Christ and allowing God’s redemptive power to work through Christ."  (Van Rheenen, in Spiritual Warfare Equipping Group, July 2000).

Standard-Solution Strategies: strategies which assume that methods that effectively work in one particular context will effectively work in other world contexts.  It is the "one-size-fits-all mentality" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 142-43).

Strategy: "the practical working out of the will of God within a cultural context" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 140); "the practice of model formation for ministry shaped by theological reflection, cultural analysis, and historical perspective and by the continued practice of ministry(Van Rheenen 2003, Monthly Missiological Reflection #26).

Strategy Coordinator (as defined by the Southern Baptist Convention): "a missionary who takes responsibility for developing a comprehensive plan aimed at initiating and nurturing a Church Planting Movement among an unreached people group or population segment" (Garrison 1999, 60).

Syncretism: (1) "the reshaping of Christian beliefs and practices through cultural accommodation so that they consciously or unconsciously blend with those of the dominant culture"; (2) "the blending of Christian beliefs and practices with those of the dominant culture so that Christianity speaks with a voice reflective of its culture."  "Syncretism develops because the Christian community attempts to make its message and life attractive, alluring, and appealing to those outside the fellowship. Over a period of years the accommodations become routinized, integrated into the narrative story of the Christian community and inseparable from its life" (Van Rheenen 1997, 173); (3) "the attempt to synthesize elements of different religious systems into a single body of belief and practice.  Baha'i, for instance is a synthesis of Islamic, Christian and other religious tenets" (Johnstone and Mandryk, 2001, 755).



Tentmaking: "the marketplace ministry of effective Christians in cross-cultural contexts," preferably called kingdom professionals because "tentmaking" has the connotations of "financial strategy" rather than "the people of God using the gifts of God . . . for the works of God" (Ginter in Guthrie, 2000, 119).

AnchorTerminal Churches: churches which "may have spiritual vitality but can reproduce only arithmetically (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, etc.).  Missionaries are teaching others but not training their converts to become reproductive; they are initiating churches but not preparing leaders of these churches to plant other churches" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 148). Contrast with Germinal Churches in this same dictionary.

AnchorTheologically Defined Sins:"offenses that disrupt human relationships with God, gods, and spirits" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 281-83). Read also the definition of socially defined sins.

AnchorTheology of Mission: 1. "a multidisciplinary field that reads the Bible with missiological eyes and, based on that reading, continually reexamines, reevaluates and redirects the church's participation in God's mission in God's world" (Van Engen, Thomas, & Gallagher 1999, xviii). 2. "Engaging God's redemptive purposes through biblical studies, prayer, and reflection to inform, motivate, and ethically guide Christians in reconciling to God those lost in sin.  A theology of missions serves to help the missionary understand the purposes of God so that He can be guided by them, furnishes the motivation to carry out God's mission, provides the content of the message preached, sustains the missionary during times of difficulty, and guides missionaries to ethically evaluate the practices and methodologies of missions" (Van Rheenen, Class Lecture in Foundations of Missiology, Fall 2000).

Three-Self Formula: the theory of church maturation promoted by Rufus Anderson and Henry Venn during the last half of the nineteenth century advocating that "young churches on the mission field would gain their independence on the basis of the principles of self-propagation, self-support, and self-government" (Van Rheenen, 1996b, 182).

Totemic Spirits: among tribal animistic peoples the belief that "animals, plants, or physical features...are affinally linked with particular kinship groupings and individuals" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 249-50).



Unique-Solution Strategies: strategies "based on the assumption that cultures and situations are different and each one requires its own special strategy" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 145).

AnchorUnreached People: "a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group without requiring outside assistance" (EFTA in Van Rheenen 1996b, 208); "the two billion people who have never heard of Jesus as Savior, and are not within reach of Christians of their own people:(Bush in Van Rheenen 1996b, 209)



Vulnerable Mission:  "ministry carried out using the resources and language(s) of the people being reached, as against foreign resources and languages"  (Email from Jim Harries;



AnchorWitchcraft: "an inherent psychic or mystical power used either consciously or unconsciously to harm other people" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 215).Contrasted at least in Africa to the term sorcery.

Witness: "an overarching term drawing together proclamation (kerygma),community (koinonia), and service (diakonia)" defining "evangelistic ministry, as the core of ministry" (Guder 2000, 53).

World Christian: "a day-to-day disciple for whom Christ's global cause has become the integrating, overriding priority for all that He is for him.  He actively investigates all that his Master's Great Commission means...[and] then he acts on what he learns.  A World Christian is a Christian whose life-direction has been solidly transformed by a world vision" (adapted from Bryant 1999, 703; this article is an excerpt from Bryant's 1979 book, In the Gap).

Worldview Dissonance: a major factor affecting peoples' receptivity to the Gospel occurring "when people no longer accept as plausible the traditional beliefs and assumptions of their culture" (Van Rheenen 1996b, 221).

Worldviews: "models of reality that shape cultural allegiances and provide interpretations of the world" (Van Rheenen 1996a, 33).

Worship: “Worship is standing on our tiptoes to see the kingdom”(Leonard Allen, 2005);  "the outpouring of a soul at rest in the presence of God.  It is the occupation of the heart, not with its needs or even blessings, but with God himself (2 Sam. 7:18-22). . . .  Worship is the quickening of the conscience by the holiness of God to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God and to devote the will to the purpose of God" (Thomas in Moreau 2002, 232-33); "all that we are responding to all that God is" (Thomas in Moreau 2002, 232-33); "an event and a lifestyle in which believers, by grace, center their mind's attention and their heart's affection on the Lord, humbly glorifying God in response to his greatness, his mighty acts, and his Word"(Leafblad in Hall 2000, 50).


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