Thinking Out Loud

September 23, 2018

Christianity on the Move: When He Said Timbuktu, He Really Meant Timbuktu

Brian Stiller, Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance on the expansion of the Christian church worldwide.

Part One: 4 Minutes

Part Two: 5½ Minutes


Link to the World Evangelical Alliance

Brian is also the author of An Insider’s Guide to Praying for the World (Baker) which we reviewed here recently.

My review of Brian’s Evangelicals Around the World (Thomas Nelson) (an encyclopedia of all things Evangelical).

My review of From Jerusalem to Timbuktu (InterVarsity).

Advertisements

April 24, 2018

Evangelicals: A Guided World Tour

As Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), Brian Stiller has a big-picture perspective unlike anyone else on the planet. His two most recent books have confirmed this: Evangelicals Around the World: A Global Handbook for the 21st Century (Zondervan, 2015) and An Insider’s Guide to Praying for the World (Baker, 2016). Simply put, Brian Stiller is a walking encyclopedia on all things Evangelical and he gains his information not from typical research but through firsthand, on-the-ground observation and involvement. We’re talking both frequent flyer miles, and the recognition of Christian leaders on every continent.

This time around he’s with InterVarsity Press (IVP) for From Jerusalem to Timbuktu: A World Tour of the Spread of Christianity (248 pages, paperback).

So…about that title. Brian Stiller argues that if we see Jerusalem as the birthplace, and thereby global center of Christianity, that center point moved up into Europe and then back down and then, around 1970 that center started shifting to the global south. The impact of this is huge; it means that North American and Western Europe are no longer setting the agenda for Christianity. It also means that one particular nation, rocked by the link between Evangelicalism and the election of a particular leader and now trying to consider if it’s time to rename the group entirely, simply cannot be allowed to dictate that change when one considers all that Evangelicals, quite happy with the term, are doing in the rest of the world.

Disclaimer: I am blessed to know Brian personally. His wealth of knowledge impacted me when I sat in the offices of Faith Today magazine, and Brian rhymed off the names of organizations founded in the years immediately following World War II, and then how, as these maverick, dynamic leaders passed the baton to the next generation, these organizations entered a type of maintenance mode, with lessened radical initiative. As Director of Youth for Christ Canada, President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (this country’s counterpart to the NAE), President of Tyndale University College and Seminary and now Global World Ambassador for the WEA, he has truly lived four distinct lifetimes.

But that’s not the topic for this book. Rather he looks at five drivers which have characterized the growth of Evangelicalism globally. These are:

  1. An undeniable increase in emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit.
  2. The fruit of years of work by Bible translators.
  3. A shift towards using national (indigenous) workers to lead.
  4. A greater engagement with legislators and governments.
  5. A return to the teachings of Jesus regarding compassion and justice.

Beginning with the first of these, Brian doesn’t hide his own Pentecostal/Charismatic roots, something I haven’t seen as much in his earlier books. A final chapter looks at the influence of prayer movements, the role of women in ministry, the trend in praise and worship music, the challenge of welcoming refugees, and the constant spectre of persecution.

The book compresses decades of modern church history into a concise collection of data and analysis.  It is an answer to the question, “What in the world is God doing?”

I know of no better title on the subject simply because I know of no one more qualified to write it. This is an excellent overview for the person wanting to see the arc of Evangelicalism since its inception or the person who is new to this aspect of faith and wants to catch up on what they’ve missed.

For both types of people, this is a great book to own.

► See the book’s page at the IVP website.

February 15, 2016

The Changing Face of the Global Church

“The Meeting of the Waters” in Manaus, Brazil: Two visually distinct rivers converge to form the Amazon River

I am no doubt a better person for the various books I have reviewed here over the years., but honestly, I’ve probably forgotten some of them. There is however one title that I still find myself quoting in discussions, particularly on the subject of missions, but often about the global church in general. 

Two very different missionaries are presented, one the author calls “Mission Marm,” the other is “Apple Guy.” Two vastly different mindsets having to join together not unlike the branches of the river above referenced in the book’s title. Reading that analogy alone is worth the price of admission.

This was the second half of a two part review I did  — here’s a link to  the original first part — of a 2010 book by Fritz Kling, The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church (David C. Cook, still in print). The book is based on what the author calls “The Global Church Listening Tour;” one-hour interviews with 151 church leaders in nineteen countries.



As Canadians, we often find ourselves despairing over the USA-centric approach of many popular Christian books. So one expects a book with a ‘global’ perspective to transcend any particular nation. However, in some chapters more than others, Kling would relate his findings to the church in America. In this case that’s a good thing. If the book were just theoretical it would not accomplish much. Some of the real value here — although it’s never truly spelled out in ‘macro versus micro’ terms — is the application of what’s happening globally to the local church; the church you and I attend on weekends. But then again, this is a very, very ‘macro’ kind of book.

So what are the seven currents? There’s a great economy of language in Fritz Kling’s writing style, so I can’t do this adequately, but here’s a few things that stood out:

  1. Mercy — Kling uses an anecdotal approach in this social justice section: a young woman who gives up a promising law career to work with oppressed people in India; a young man who is a native of India who operates a technology firm guided by Sermon-on-the-Mount principles.
  2. Mutuality — It’s hard to function in the global church if you think you or the country you come from has all the answers; and that bias leads to further believing that you (or we) should be the ones in charge. He also suggests that people in other parts of the world don’t understand our various debates about practices or behaviors or doctrines, since they simply take the Bible at literal face value.
  3. Migration — There are three issues here: Worldwide migration patterns in general; the migration taking place from rural areas to cities at a time when churches are fleeing the urban core for the suburbs; and the ministry opportunities that exist when you have displaced, and therefore lonely people all around.
  4. Monoculture — This chapter looks at the dominance of the English language as a symptom of the much larger, accelerating spread of Western culture, and in particular, Western youth culture.
  5. Machines — Kling begins with a look at technology as a tool in disaster relief. (He mentions a 2008 cyclone that hit Burma. As the book was being published a major earthquake struck Haiti.) He moves on to discuss the role of technology in evangelism, and backtracks to show how that motive led to some other technological applications now enjoyed worldwide.
  6. Mediation — Kling delineates several areas where there is a need for reconciliation and mediation. He notes this will be a challenge for Westerners to function in a world that has become, in particular, very anti-American. He speaks in detail of the conflicts that exist, “not between Muslims and Christians, but between Muslims and other [more militant] Muslims.” Kling believes Christians should be leading the way toward reconciliation on all fronts.
  7. Memory — Knowing the past can be a blessing and a curse, but in many places, Kling sees more downside than upside, with entire cultures having a depreciated view of themselves. Still, Christians need to fully enter into, understand and even embrace the history of the place where they serve, and from there aim to bring hope and wholeness.

As I originally stated, I still hope this book finds the wider audience it is deserving of. This is a book for pastors and missiologists for sure, but I think it’s also a title that business leaders, church board members and people who simply care about the future of the church should want to study.

February 19, 2010

Seven Currents Affecting The Global Church

"The Meeting of the Waters" in Manaus, Brazil: Two visually distinct rivers converge to form the Amazon River

This is part two of a review begun on Sunday of a new book by Fritz Kling, The Meeting of the Waters:  7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church (David C. Cook, publishing March 2010).   The book is based on what the author calls “The Global Church Listening Tour;” one-hour interviews with 151 church leaders in nineteen countries.

As Canadians, we often find ourselves despairing over the USA-centric approach of many popular Christian books.   So one expects a book with a ‘global’ perspective to transcend any particular nation.   However, in some chapters more than others, Kling would relate his findings to the church in America.   In this case that’s a good thing.   If the book were just theoretical it would not accomplish much.   Some of the real value here — although it’s never truly spelled out in ‘macro versus micro’ terms — is the application of what’s happening globally to the local church; the church you and I attend on weekends.  But then again, this is a very, very ‘macro’ kind of book.

So what are the seven currents?   There’s a great economy of language in Fritz Kling’s writing style, so I can’t do this adequately, but here’s a few things that stood out:

  1. Mercy — Kling uses an anecdotal approach in this social justice section: a young woman who gives up a promising law career to work with oppressed people in India; a young man who is a native of India who operates a technology firm guided by Sermon-on-the-Mount principles.
  2. Mutuality — It’s hard to function in the global church if you think you or the country you come from has all the answers; and that bias leads to further believing that you (or we) should be the ones in charge.  He also suggests that people in other parts of the world don’t understand our various debates about practices or behaviors or doctrines, since they simply take the Bible at literal face value.
  3. Migration — There are three issues here:   Worldwide migration patterns in general; the migration taking place from rural areas to cities at a time when churches are fleeing the urban core for the suburbs; and the ministry opportunities that exist when you have displaced, and therefore lonely people all around.
  4. Monoculture — This chapter looks at the dominance of the English language as a symptom of the much larger, accelerating spread of Western culture, and in particular, Western youth culture.
  5. Machines — Kling begins with a look at technology as a tool in disaster relief.  (He mentions the cyclone in May, 2008 that hit Burma.   One wonders if delaying the book to include mention of Haiti might have made it more pertinent.)   He moves on to discuss the role of technology in evangelism, and backtracks to show how that motive led to some other technological applications now enjoyed worldwide.
  6. Mediation — Kling delineates several areas where there is a need for reconciliation and mediation.   He notes this will be a challenge for Westerners to function in a world that has become, in particular, very anti-American.   He speaks in detail of the conflicts that exist, “not between Muslims and Christians, but between Muslims and other [more militant] Muslims.”   Kling believes Christians should be leading the way toward reconciliation on all fronts.
  7. Memory — Knowing the past can be a blessing and a curse, but in many places, Kling sees more downside than upside, with entire cultures having a depreciated view of themselves.   Still, Christians need to fully enter into, understand and even embrace the history of the place where they serve, and from there aim to bring hope and wholeness.

As I stated in part one, I truly hope this book finds the wider audience it is deserving of.   This is a book for pastors and missiologists for sure, but I think it’s also a title that business leaders, church board members and people who simply care about the future of the church should want to study.

February 14, 2010

Currently Reading: The Meeting of the Waters

When David C. Cook sent me a review copy of a fiction title last month, I immediately shrugged my shoulders sighing, “Boy, have they got the wrong guy.”   I almost felt that way with the arrival this month of what appeared to me to be a missions title.

I grew up in a very missions-focused church.    I’ve heard all the missionary stories, seen all the native costumes, listened to John 3:16 recited in the indigenous tongues, and endured the playing of familiar hymns in foreign languages with decidedly non-western harmonies on a bizarre collection of musical instruments.

In other words, I’ve grown immune to missions in general, and that’s too bad because I ran the danger of completely missing the point of The Meeting of the Waters by Fritz Kling (Cook; March 2010).

In a kind of Future Shock for the global church, Klung points out that what’s happening in missions around the world has massive implications for us in the west.   We are part of a global church where changes are taking place rapidly. Quoting hockey great (and Olympic torchbearer on Friday night) Wayne Gretzky, Kling reminds us, figuratively speaking, that we don’t want to aim for “where the puck is” but rather, “where the puck is going to be.”

Kling also turns our missions concept on its head with the reminder that we in the west are now as much a missionary-receiving culture as well as a missionary-sending culture.  His extensive experience in both the western Church and the third world gives him a somewhat unique perspective.

He also reminds us of the example of Timothy Keller, whose ministry in Manhattan was born out of a need to put a new spin on the term, “unreached people group.”  I loved this quotation from Keller:

For many outsiders or inquirers, the deeds of the church will be far more important than words in gaining plausibility.   The leaders of most towns see ‘word only’ churches as costs to their community, not a value.  Effective churches will be so involved in deeds of mercy and justice that outsiders will say, ‘we cannot do without churches like these.’  [italics added]

I started reading after lunch and — just as I’m being called for supper — I’m already half-way through.   I really hope this title doesn’t get lost in the ‘missions’ section of your local bookstore.    The full title is The Meeting of the Waters:  7 Global Currents That Will Propel The Future Church.

Late in the week, I’ll get back to the book with a look at the seven global currents themselves and why they matter.

Update:  To read part two of this review, click here.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.