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How The Symphony of Mission can help you find your place in God’s world

There are some books that should just be pamphlets. You read the first couple of chapters, get the gist, and the rest is just padding. Lo and behold, you’ve shelled out 15 hard-earned pounds on something that, at most, should have set you back a fiver. It hurts.

Happily, that is most certainly not the case with The Symphony of Mission. From start to finish, every time I picked this up, I got something useful from it.

Relieved as you may be to hear that this book passed my highly objective ‘should this just have been a pamphlet?’ test, what is it actually about? Helpfully, Michael Goheen and Jim Mullins answer that very question in the preface.

‘This book is designed … to move God’s people from theological reflection to faithful practice, from wrestling with the idea of mission to participating – faithfully and obediently – in what God is doing in mission.’ The authors tackle this massive topic by answering three key questions:

  • What is my role within God’s mission?
  • What does mission look like in daily life?
  • What is the church’s mission as it participates in God’s mission

Throughout, they employ the metaphor of a symphony to help us see what God’s mission is about, and how we (both individually and as worshipping communities) can join in and play our part in that symphony.

The first section lays a solid, biblical foundation for what the ‘symphony’ actually is, upon which the rest of the book builds. Goheen and Mullins tell the big story of Scripture, which doesn’t start in Genesis 3 (with sin) and end with Revelation 21 (heaven), but rather starts in Genesis 1-2 (creation), and ends in Revelation 22 (the renewal of all things). They help us to see the ‘bigness’ and beauty of the gospel, helpfully highlighting the main themes that run through it.

Then, in the heart of the book, they set out the three ‘movements’ of the symphony of mission: stewardship, service, and the spoken word. By explaining how each of these are key elements of life in the kingdom, and by exemplifying what they look like in action, they help churches and individual Christians see why both our actions and our words matter, as well as how they mutually reinforce one another. This section also expands our imaginations for how the micro of our everyday lives can fit into the macro of God’s mission in the world.

The final chapters then focus on how you can discern your calling and live it out over the long term. By asking pertinent questions and offering reflective exercises, the authors help us discover what ‘instrument’ we are, and how we can ‘perform’ in the nitty-gritty of day-to-day life.

The Symphony of Mission’s real strength lies in the way it consistently earths its teaching in real-life examples (something that doesn’t always happen in books about mission, which often struggle to move beyond ‘theology in theory’). The range of frontlines Goheen and Mullins refer to is extraordinary, demonstrating what it looks like to partner in God’s mission as a bin-lorry driver, a sports team, a business coach, a builder, someone hanging out in a café, a waitress, and more. The tone is just right: sitting in that Goldilocks zone between hopeful encouragement on the one hand, and the reality of life in a thorny-thistly world on the other.

So, if you’re involved in discipling others, want to help someone grow a richer understanding of God’s mission in the world, or simply want to live more fully as a whole-life disciple in your context, this book is definitely worth the investment.


Joe Warton
Church Team – Research & Development, LICC