A book on Christian mission that took 10 years to translate is now available in Arabic. In March, the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC) hosted a book launching for the Arabic translation of “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.” A crowd of about 150 heard speeches by Atef Gendy, ETSC’s president; Steve Hawthorne, the book’s general editor; Dan McNerney, a representative of Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, which helped to fund the translation; and Swillem Hennein, the translation supervisor.
“Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” is a collection of 136 articles on the subject of mission. The English version, published by the William Carey Library, is set in two columns and comes to 768 narratives pages. The Arabic version (published by ETSC) is a two-volume set plus a study guide. The total number of pages comes to 1,531. Two thousand copies of the “Perspectives”text have been printed along with 1000 copies of the study guide.
Tharwat Wahib, who acted as the master of ceremonies and is a professor of mission at ETSC, commented: ” ‘Perspectives’is an important tool to raise the consciousness of Christians for the need for mission in the Church in Egypt. It will also help the church to see that it can be on the giving end, and not always on the receiving end” of projects that expand God’s kingdom in the world.
Another professor of mission at ETSC, Sherif Habib, noted that between 2010 and 2014 75 students took the “Perspectives”course in Egypt. With the translation now complete, the book will be used in seminary courses for M.Div. and MAT students at ETSC as well as in extension courses for the others who are interested. “I am very excited,” Sherif said, “about the potential impact that this course could have on the church in Egypt. ‘Perspectives’might help to create a vision for mission among the people of the church in Egypt that could cause it to reach out to other nations in the region and, someday, nations beyond our region.”
Gendy commented that “Perspectives”could help transform the outlook of the church in Egypt “from one of Exodus to one of diaspora.” The former, he explained, too often leads to defeatism and resignation. The latter, however, is both biblical and optimistic. “We have a message,” said Gendy, “that can change the world, a message of love and hope that can only be found in the gospel.”
“Perspectives,”Steve Hawthorne noted, has been translated into 25 languages: including Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese — and now Arabic. The course, he added, is being offered in countries as diverse as Korea, Cuba and Taiwan. About 12,000 people take the course every year, he estimated.
“Perspectives,” Hawthorne continued, teaches that God gives “people a crucial role in the great task of evangelism and mission.” He warned, however, that there is often opposition to the gospel in the world, yet he believes it is worth the price. He quoted a Nigerian student who said, “Because of what we have learned in this course, our lives may be shorter, but they will also be fuller.”
McNerney offered six ways that “Perspectives”can impact a church:
- It can shift a congregation’s vision from a local to a global perspective by inspiring it with the biblical vision of completing the task of world evangelization.
- Once a church’s vision has expanded to include the whole world, it often recognizes needs in the local community that it might otherwise have overlooked — perhaps a unreached people living just down the street.
- It empowers the community — for in the view of “Perspectives,”all Christians are to be sent persons and instruments of God’s grace.
- “Perspectives”often provides in practice an impetus for ecumenism as it helps churches to become mobilizers for evangelism in a way that overcomes denominational barriers.
- “Perspectives”gives a church a new vision of the goal of a church. It is not an end in itself. Rather, its goal should be God’s goal, the ushering in of the kingdom of God on earth. Hence local churches can shift from being ecclesiocentric to theocentric.
- “Perspectives”teaches its students to be respectful of those of other cultures, languages and ethnicities. In the view of this course, all Christians should have the Bible in their mother tongue, and all cultures will at last have their own unique contribution to make in God’s kingdom. Hence “Perspectives”can help to liberate Christians from a narrow Western understanding of Christianity.
“Perspectives on the World Christian Movement” was originally designed and compiled in 1973 by Ralph Winter to be used as the basis of a mission course for interested non-seminary students. Winter was then a professor at the School of World Mission (now the School of Intercultural Studies) at Fuller Theological Seminary. It evolved in the 1970s from a nine-week course to a summer-long program, and then to a semester-long format. The first course was held in 1973 in Wheaton, Illinois, at the Urbana mission conference.
Beginning in 1976 it was held on the campus of the U.S. Center for World Mission (now Frontier Ventures) in Pasadena, California, and extension classes began in 1980. It is now held all over the nation and the world. Today 250 classes are held annually in the U.S. and a large number outside the U.S. “Perspectives”organizers estimate that 130,000 people have taken the course.
In Egypt, the task of translating “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement”was first undertaken by Swillem Hennein, then a professor of mission at ETSC. He began by translating a small number of articles from the third edition to form an anthology suitable for Egyptian seminarians. In 2006, under Swillem’s supervision, the task of translating the entire third edition was begun, and by 2008 he had completed the biblical section, producing a book of 321 pages.
When the fourth edition appeared in 2009, the translators started over, wanting to have the most up-to-date version in Arabic. Over the years there were 17 translators, but most of the work was done by only three: Raafat Bajieg, Maheer Nathan and Nabilah Hannah. The editors were Douad Riad and Waël Hadah. When Swillem retired, ETSC’s mission professor Sharif Habib became a co-supervisor while ETSC’s other mission professor, Tharwat Waheeb, worked as a fundraiser. The project was funded by two Presbyterian mission organizations: Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship and the Outreach Foundation.
Michael Parker is Presbyterian World Mission’s interim coordinator for Europe and the Middle East. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.