Global Missiology English, Vol 2, No 14 (2017)

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The Importance and Significance of Missiological Research

Christian Stewardship in Leadership


Enoch Wan

Director, Doctor of Intercultural Studies Program, Western Seminary, USA.

Former President, Evangelical Missiological Society of US & Canada


Published in January 2017

Editors Note:
This paper was originally published in Chinese. Engaging in Global Mission(往普天下去). A quarterly publication of Hong Kong Association of Christian Mission. January to March, 2014.


This paper will begin with defining key terms, followed by explanation of the importance and significance of missiological research in order to help Christian leaders be good stewards of resources and opportunity. Due to the brevity of this paper, only five branches of missiological studies (i.e. theory, theology, history, anthropology and strategy of Christian mission) are being included. For more extended coverage on missiological research and research methodology, readers are advised to consult other papers published in English and Chinese by the author.[1]


         Missiological research systematic and academic study (e.g. theory, theology, history, anthropology(intercultural studies), strategy of Christian mission) to continue on and carry out the missio Dei of the Triune Go, including investigation and interdisciplinary research. [2]

         Inter-disciplinary research academic and systematic study conducted by using elements (e.g. theory, methodology, etc.) from one or more disciplines in the attempt to achieve a high degree of coherence or unity.

         Mission is the endeavor of both individual Christians and organized congregations to continue on and carry out the missio Dei of the Triune God at both micro and macro levels, spiritually (saving souls) and socially (ushering in shalom)[3], for redemption, reconciliation and transformation.



For the sake of being brief, we shall explain the importance and significance of missiological research by selectively choosing only five branches of missiological study as shown in the diagram below.



Figure 1. The Importance and Significance of Missiological Research



missiological study

Significance of

missiological research

Importance of missiological research




Formulation of theory and model, such as church growth study, 10/40 window, unreached people-group, diaspora missiology,[4] relational paradigm.[5]

Academically and practically seeking to advance in: theoretical formulation, model building, etc. for qualitative and quantitative improvement, e.g. church growth study,[6] Engles Scale, contextual -ization: C1 to C7, etc.




In search of biblical and theological foundation for branches of missiological study in order to avoid abstract speculation and superficial knowledge

Being evangelical, action and strategy should be grounded in biblical principle and sound theology to avoid problems, e.g. secularization, syncretism[7], etc.




Learning: how God worked previously in historical past, including temporal, spatial and contextual factors, and ways to follow good examples of past saints and to not repeat past mistakes.

Positively: to appreciate Gods work in the past and learn from godly practice of past saints.

Negatively: discern past pitfalls, avoid repeat of past tragedy.




Anthropology & intercultural studies

Through studies in anthropology, intercultural studies, etc. in order to understand people we evangelize/ serve in matters of cultural background, cognitive pattern, etc. in order to continue on and carry out the missio Dei of the Triune God spiritually (saving souls) and socially (ushering in shalom) , for redemption, reconciliation and transformation

Training in anthropology, linguistics, intercultural studies(e.g. cc-communication, intercultural education/leadership) will reduce culture-shock, increase learning curve, advance contextualization without accommodation, minimize cc-conflict, maximize productivity, expedite indigenization process,



To be good stewards of resources and opportunity, collect & interpret data of demographic reality, advance planningin order to best use resources and opportunity

To be good stewards of resources & opportunity, one has to be wise & responsible in planning & implementation in a godly way.


Inter-disciplinary research in missiology combines and integrates biblical study, theology, anthropology, demographic, statistic, etc. in order to achieve a high degree of coherence or unity in research and for the practice of Christian mission. As evangelical, we are not to be sold out to the newest theory, pragmatic efficiency[8]. Nor should we engaged in unreserved contextualization,[9] such as multiple forms of liberation theology (e.g. feminist theology of the west, minjung theology of Korea, C.S. Songs third eye theology)

The diagrams below emerged from personal research, professional publication and two-decade-long coaching doctoral dissertation. If inter-disciplinary research in missiological studies is conducted by following the five-step according to priority, then it will be characteristically evangelical, doctrinally sound and theologically grounded.


Figure 2. Wans Way of Integrative Research (STARS) [10]




1. Scripturally sound


Not proof-text; but the whole counsel of God

(Acts 20:26-27)

2. Theologically supported


Not just pragmatism/expedience; but sound theology

3. Analytically coherent


Not to be self-contradictory; but to be coherent

4. Relevantly contextual


Not to be out of place; but fitting for the context

5. Sensibly practically


Not only good in theory; but can be put into practice

Listed below are simple explanations:

1.      Scripturally sound

As evangelical, Scripture is to be the basis and guide of Christian faith and practice. It is axiomatic for evangelical Protestant based on the conviction of sola scriptura.

2.      Theologically supported

Just based on pragmatism/expedience is insufficient; but sound theology is essential and required.

3.      Analytically coherent

Not to be self-contradictory; but to be both consistent and coherent

4.      Relevantly contextual

Not to be out of place; but it is to be required to be fitting for the context.

5.      Sensibly practically

It is good to have scriptural/theological support with coherent theory and cultural relevance; but can be put into practice in reality.

Figure 3. Comparisons Between Biblical & Scriptural[4]






Recorded/reported in the Bible


Prescribed by the Incarnate & enscriptured Word


Precedent in the Bible

Principle of the whole counsel of God


particular: time and place specific

Universal: transcending time & space


culturally & contextually specific

Neither culturally nor contextually specific



Figure 4. Directional Understanding of Being Biblical and Scriptural

Note: Not all men are husband; but within the context of traditional Christian marriage,

all husbands are men.


Figure 5. Insights for Chinese Churches






Wise with entrustment

Know history: be truthful to founders original vision or founding principle. Best preserve heritage & withstand tidal waves of secularization, post-modernism and can face fierce challenges of pluralism, new age movement, etc.

Faithful stewardship

Make informed decision to best use of opportunity and exercise wise stewardship of resources, and opportunity.




Learn from history not repeat tragedy; theological soundnesssteadfast in faith and not drifting; spiritual discernment not to be presumptuous/misled

Reduce wastefulness

Benefit from anthropology, linguistic & communicative sciences, etc. to reduce or minimize culture-shock, risk factor, casualty of personnel, cc-conflict thus spare of blunders and wastefulness.


Chinese churches have the tendency of being obsessed with efficiency and dismissing research to be unnecessary and a waste of time/energy. At the leadership, sometimes may even make uninformed decision, i.e. without knowing the hard facts to be gathered by research. Missiological research is an essential part of healthy stewardship and godly leadership. For example, the LCWE movement (Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization) has formed committees to conduct research on holistic mission, BAM (business as mission), diaspora missiology, etc. In addition, there are other missiological research groups, e.g. the Center of the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Joshua Project[11] of Frontier Ventures, and Global Research of IMB[12] (International Mission Board) of Southern Baptist Convention.


Due to the brevity of this paper, we began with definition of key terms, then use diagrams to explain the importance and significance of missiological research, and concluded by introducing Wans five-step approach in inter-disciplinary research in missiology.

[1] Papers published in Chinese

         溫以諾、「傳統式神學與處境化神學論宣教」,教牧期刊 1620045月) 149-157.

         溫以諾、「宣教文化人類學=文化人类学+神学」,教牧期刊 1620045月) 115-129.

         溫以諾、「基督徒從事「研究」 遵神旨或從人意?」,《教牧分享》200511月號,第2-6 頁。

Papers published in English

         Enoch Wan, The Paradigm & Pressing Issues Of Inter-Disciplinary Research Methodology, Published in Global Missiology, Research Methodology, January 2005,

         _________, Missiology and the Social Sciences: Contributions, Cautions, and Conclusions In Missiology and the Social Sciences, Edited by Edward Rommen and Gary Cowen,

         _________, Rethinking Missiological Research Methodology: Exploring a New Direction Published in Global Missiology, Research Methodology, Oct. 2003,

         ________, Core Values of Mission Organization in the Cultural Context of the 21st Century, Published in Featured Article January 2009

         ________ & Paul Hiebert, Missional Narrative and Missional Hermeneutic for the 21st Century, Published in Featured Article of January 2009

         ________, "Ethical Issues of Conducting Cross-Cultural Field Research". Transcending Borders. Logos Evangelical Seminary. Academic Volume 2.

[2] See earlier publication Christian engaging in research following the will of God or man? Pastoral Sharing. 2005. November: 2-6. (in Chinese)

[3] Shalom - The opposite of shalom is described in John 12:31; 1 John 3:8; 5:19 and Jesus had overcome the world and the evil one who is its ruler (1 John 2:13-14; 5:4). Shalom is a Hebrew word with connotations of peace, wholeness, and wellness in the context of right relationships with God, people, and nature (Jer 33:8-9; Job 5:24; Ps 30:11; Isa 11:6, 9; 53:5). (Wan

[4] Enoch Wan, Diaspora Missiology: Theory, Methodology, and Practice. IDS-USA, 2012

Yaw Attah Edu-BekoeEnoch Wan, Scattered Africans Keep Coming: A Case Study of Diaspora Missiology on Ghanaian Diaspora and Congregations in the USA. . IDS-USA, 2013

[5] Wan, Enoch, The Paradigm of relational realism. EMS Occasional Bulletin 19:2 (Spring 2006):1-4.

______. Relational Theology and Relational Missiology. Occasional Bulletin 21:1 (Winter 2007): 1-7.

_______. A Missio-Relational Reading of Romans: A Complementary Study to Current Approaches. EMS Occasional Bulletin, Vol. 23 No. 1 (Winter 2010e):1-8. Also in Global Missiology (April 1, 2010e). Available at & Narry Santos, Missio-relational Reading of Mark, Evangelical Missiological Society Occasional Bulletin, Volume 24, #2 - Spring, 2011

___________ Relational Tree, Published in Relational Study Jan. 2011

[6] Church growth theory of Donald McGavran, including HUP - Homogeneous Unit Principle)

[7] Religious syncretism is a taboo for evangelical practitioner due to unreserved accommodation

[8] 即圖二第五項,便是本末倒置。有關功能論的評估,參下列兩篇專文:

Enoch Wan, Critique of Functional Missionary Anthropology His Dominion, Canadian Theological Seminary, Canada. 1982.


[10] Enoch Wan, Core Values of Mission Organization in the Cultural Context of the 21st Century, Published in  Featured Article January 2009

[11] See info @

[12] See info @