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English Teaching as Christian Mission: An Applied Theology

Author: Donald B. Snow
Reviewed by Ken Guenther

Table of Contents

  1. A Christian Vocation in Its Own Right - Teaching English is a Christian vocation in and of itself, and not only if it is a means to an end (evangelism and church planting).
  2. A Special Role for Christian English Teachers? Because English teachers are so identified with the West and with Western churches, they have a special opportunity to be ambassadors and agents of reconciliation between God and humankind, between nations, and between churches. They can break down the walls of grievance which separate people from other people, from Christians, and from God because of the identification of Christianity with the Western colonial and economic power, and attitudes of cultural superiority from the West.
  3. Learning as Witness - Argues for the importance of learning the language and culture of the host country. It is not easy and many temptations to not put forth the effort. But the teacher's cultural stress is reduced and his effectiveness as a teacher and translator of the Gospel is heightened if he knows something of the host culture and language.
  4. English Teaching as Witness - How does a Christian English teacher teach in a way that reflects Christ? By professionalism, diligence, concern, cooperation with other teachers. Is it ethical to have a hidden agenda of evangelism? Their first agenda should be to be good teachers of English. They need be careful about identifying Christianity only as a Western religion. They need to recognize that their power as teachers, which may pressure students to respond positively to the Gospel. Encourages teachers to be open about their identification as Christians, and signal this by attending worship services, by living transparently, and by being open about their faith in class.
  5. English Teaching as Ministry. Meet students' needs to show the love of God. Show respect and compassion. Minister to them by helping them develop a sense of purpose in learning English, thus showing the Christian belief that life has purpose. This is weak
  6. English Teaching as Christian Service – Teach English not only to the privileged but also to the poor and disadvantaged to help them better their lives. English is door to opportunity, but if only taught to privileged, then it can help them maintain their status rather than benefiting the masses.
  7. English Teaching toward Peacemaking and Intercultural Understanding. Good-will ambassadors, helping develop skills for better intercultural understanding. Helping students overcome stereotypical understandings, ethnocentrism and being concerned only for their own culture. Help them give other cultures the benefit of the doubt.
  8. English Teachers as Bridges Between Churches - helping facilitate the transfer of information and building of relationships between churches in the West and other countries, and thereby enriching the churches back home.


  1. Tom Scovel's foreword - “A major contribution of this book then is redefine the importance of compassion and reconciliation in the business of teaching English as Christian mission.” p. 11
  2. Focused on English teachers where there is official resistance to the Gospel and cultural misgivings about the West. The author's experience is been primarily in China and to Chinese peoples.
  3. Does not provide help for those who would like to know how to use English teaching as a vehicle for evangelism, discipleship or church planting. Not the focus of the book. “I will assume that for most CETs the classroom is less a forum for talking with students about Christianity than a place to show them what Christianity is like in action.” p.64
  4. Focuses almost exclusively on Western English teachers. But now many teachers of English are from non-Western nations, like the Philippines.
  5. Cautions about introducing Christianity in the classroom as an aspect of Western culture (e.g. holidays). This has some drawbacks as well because Christianity is already identified as a Western thing. It is important to draw the distinction between Western and Christianity.
  6. The Baptist Union of Russia/ Ukraine does not fit any of Snow's categories for host churches.
  7. A helpful reminder that returning missionaries need to prepare well to present the work of God in another country to their home churches. “The challenge, in this case, is how to provide cues that will help people generate questions.”
  8. A good reminder that when we do not give due diligence to our teaching because English teaching is only an excuse to make contacts, we undermine our message and integrity in the long-run.
  9. In nations where there is not a prevailing attitude of hostility toward the West, does Snow's main theme of reconciliation as a primary function of the Christian English teacher still apply? Reconciliation is needed, particularly between people and God and between unbelievers and the church. It seems that it is important in the Russian context that the English teacher is closely identified with the local church so that the respect naturally granted to foreigners and teachers will pass on to believers, which are generally perceived as uneducated, strange and imbalanced.
review_of_snows_book.txt · Last modified: 2019/04/13 15:18 by admin

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