Friday, February 28, 2020

Review of Ephesiology: A Study of the Ephesian Movement (Cooper 2020)

I’m excited to introduce you to a new book, Ephesiology: A Study of the Ephesian Movement. See also the corresponding website with a course, blog, and podcast.

Author Michael Cooper will be presenting at Motus Dei: Movements Research Symposium later this year. His talk is tentatively titled, “Missiological Theology of Movements focused on the Study of the Gospel of John.

Ephesiology is a study of the origins of the Christian church planting movement that began in Ephesus. It presents a way to read the Bible through the glasses of first-century movement leaders which will lead you to a “missiologically theocentric” pursuit of movements today for God’s glory.

Cooper offers a robust, holistic missiological theology of church planting movements (CPM) by looking primarily at Acts 19, Ephesians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Revelation 2-3. He exegetes these passages through what I would call a “movemental hermeneutic” of Scripture. Throughout, Cooper’s missiology engages with church history, religious studies, sociology, and current CPMs.

A unique aspect of Ephesiology is that it doesn't use strategy buzzwords such as people of peace, T4T, Insiders, DMM, generational mapping, or contextualization (although 4 Fields is used in the appendix). It is really just a biblical look at CPM, and Cooper does some creative and nuanced work to make the biblical text relevant for practitioners today.

Those who are more theologically inclined will like Ephesiology, while others might find the theology lengthy at times. Ephesiology is especially good for those who might be turned off by aspects of the DMM/T4T/CPM industry but who are still interested in movements (and New Testament theology).

Cooper might not like me using these words (perhaps for good reason), but his approach is both contextual and holistic. He engages deeply with religion and culture and also cares about social justice and transformation. Because it is filled with biblical principles, Ephesiology is meant to be applied in both the Global North and the Global South.

Here is Cooper’s missiological-theological framework of the Ephesian movement (pgs. 180-181):

  1. The early missionaries launched a movement that is missiologically theocentric, with the heart to connect God’s story with the story of culture… A proper missiological theologian will allow the identity of a movement to evolve from within a culture.
  2. Paul grounded the movement with the vision to fulfill God’s will of uniting all things in Christ.
  3. Paul and Timothy led the movement as a community of brothers and sisters determined to equip the saints for ministry.
  4. The disciples multiplied a movement by empowering leaders to use their gifts, inspiring them to join in suffering, entrusting them to teach others, and reminding them to preach the Word.
  5. The church in Ephesus sustained the movement by reengaging the works of her first love.

Overall, Ephesiology is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to learn:

  1. how all who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord while Paul was in Ephesus for two years (Acts 19:10),
  2. the incredible movements that transformed peoples from India to Iberia in the first 250 years of the church, and
  3. how we can glorify God by joining with him to unite all things in Christ today (Eph. 1:10).

As Cooper says, “This is the story of Paul’s missiological theology situated in the grand narrative of God’s mission. It rocked the world of his time, and it can rock our world as well” (pg. 34).

Buy the book, register for the online course, or have Cooper run a workshop for your group.