book reviews

The World Behind ‘Evangelicals Around the World’

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By Karen Stiller.

This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue of the Lausanne Global Analysis and is published here with permission. To receive this free bimonthly publication from the Lausanne Movement, subscribe online at lausanne.org/analysis

It is amazing what a capital letter can do. It was not quite a controversy, but it was quite a hill to climb in the copy-editing stage of the newly released Thomas Nelson book, Evangelicals Around the World: A Global Handbook for the 21st Century. When is Evangelical capitalized, and when isevangelical lower case?

It turns out that the world does not stand in agreement on this issue. The Canadian managing editor finally worked it out with the copy-editors (American), working on chapters submitted from authors (from all around the world, in many different capital usage zones).

Evangelical self-identification

The Big E question does not seem important on its own—it was more annoyance than scandal—but it posed an interesting question of how theevangelical community (lower e as an adjective please!) identifies and views itself as one, large and growing, global community of believers.

How important is it to identify as Evangelical? Why does it matter? What makes a movement or a work or a thought require the adjective evangelical? It was a small grammatical question that hinted at a larger identity issue of a movement that is large and growing, but as far from homogenous as the East is from the West. It is a colorful collective proudly using the termEvangelical, but still working out what exactly that means, and therefore, whom exactly that includes. It is a Gospel people who do not all look alike, sound alike, or even think alike on all things at all times.

A messy church

The book itself is a neat and tidy collection of 51 chapters by 46 contributors, including Rose Dowsett (who was a member of the Lausanne Theology Working Group), in the very relevant chapter ‘The Challenge of Evangelical Diversity’.

Dowsett writes: ‘How inclusive, and how exclusive, should the evangelical family be . . . Is it possible to keep the peace between whose who call themselves conservative Evangelicals, those who call themselves open Evangelicals, those who call themselves Charismatic, those who call themselves Reformed, and those who find most or all of those terms utterly irrelevant and prefer no label at all other than Christian or perhapsBible-believing Christians?’ An excellent question.

Dowsett concludes: ‘Siblings in a family may be very different from one another, but we recognize that something is badly wrong when they are at war with one another.’ She then calls Evangelicals forward to a life of worship, life, and service.

Lives of service

It is the life of service of Evangelicals that I believe will capture the attention—and admiration—of readers of the book. We were concerned that if we only had chapters like ‘Evangelicals and Politics’, ‘Evangelicals and Missions’, and ‘Evangelicals and Science’, as helpful as those would be, we might be missing the activist and ministry edge of the evangelical community around the world.

So we issued a challenge to a Christian journalist. It was to find the stories of Evangelicals around the world engaged in ministry on the ground, and tell them succinctly in captivating mini-profiles that show the difference Evangelicals make in the communities they call home.

Canadian Debra Fieguth did just that in profiles that range from reconciliation ministry in Israel and Palestine, to an institute for indigenous theological training in North America, to Christian Relief, Assistance, Support and Hope (CRASH), the disaster relief ministry in Japan—and everything in between. The 23 stories Fieguth investigated and wrote demonstrate the breadth of global Evangelicals on the ground, responding to sometimes desperate need in their communities because of the love and commission of Jesus Christ.

In her profile of the India Missions Association, Fieguth shares the revealing story of a mission director who says that when the question, ‘Do you know Jesus?’ is asked, many people replied: ‘He doesn’t live in my village.’

The stories of Evangelicals engaged in ministries of mercy and activism are beautiful proof that Jesus does indeed (and of course) live—and work—in small villages and large cities and down dirt roads and beside paved highways around the world. Amid the book’s more scholarly considerations of the interactions of Evangelicals in areas like urban witness, the arts, presence in mainline denominations, and interaction with other religions, these mini-profiles remind us that ultimately we are a breathing, serving Body living out our high calling of service from day to day in communities from Phnom Penh to Pasadena. Doctrine and belief become service and sacrifice in the stories of these diverse ministries.

What lies ahead?

When our editorial team discussed a chapter on what lies ahead for the evangelical movement around the world, it was immediately clear we had to have a writer from the Global South. Nothing else would do. Any other perspective would be an insult to what is happening in the Global Church today. Paul Joshua Bhakiaraj is a professor at the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, India. He wrote the challenging chapter: ‘The Future of the Evangelical Movement’ for the handbook.

It is clear to any observer of the Global Church that if you want find richness and strength in the Church, the Majority World is where you look. If you want action and growth, that is where you find it too.

There, it seems, is where our bright future lies. Bhakiaraj would most definitely agree. He says the time is ripe for ‘a protest and a reformation’, pointing out that the malaise, or crisis, in the Church around the world ‘revolves primarily around Western Evangelicalism’. It is the ‘rare Western scholar who recognizes the vitality of the Evangelical Movement in the Majority World, and rarer still to identify it as an asset to the world church’, he writes in what may be the most provocative chapter in the book.

While hoping that Bhakiaraj is not 100% correct in that assessment of the rarity of Western recognition of strength elsewhere, it is in any event essential for Western ears especially to hear from this Majority World scholar and leader calling the Church to task—and to hope—as well. Even as Bhakiaraj points to crisis, he points to kairos. In crisis, there is opportunity. This could be ‘a kairos moment that affords us opportunities to protest against that which we have allowed to stagnate the faith. And a moment to scripturally and substantially reform ourselves by returning to and rebuilding on the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The time is ripe to review the integrity of our claim to gospel centeredness, indeed even our Evangelical credentials’, he writes. There is hope and growth and light and life for the Church—and it is global indeed.

‘The Evangelical Movement of the future will be a recognizably global movement, spread predominantly throughout the Southern and Eastern continents’, writes Bhakiaraj. ‘Not necessarily characterized by its Western features and represented by its Western celebrity leaders alone, it will clearly be a world Christianity, a movement that is recognized as a truly global phenomenon. It will become increasingly more globally representative and expressive of the realities of Southern and Eastern continents.’

A representative Evangelical, writes Bhakiaraj, will probably be a ‘Chinese woman engaged in the marketplace, rather than a white Western theologically educated male. The Evangelical Movement may not be centered any longer in Colorado Springs or in London, but will move, if it already has not, equally to Beijing, Lagos, and São Paulo.’ Bhakiaraj defines the nature of the Evangelical Movement as ‘a gospel centered people in multiple and complex contexts. While our contexts will differ and our responses vary, we must never lose sight of the centrality of the gospel itself.’

The author’s experience working on the massive, sprawling project that eventually narrowed and sharpened to become Evangelicals Around the World: A Global Handbook for the 21st Century suggests that Bhakiaraj is correct. For those who call themselves Evangelical everywhere, the gospel is central and the contexts are complex indeed.

Buy-in

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By Floyd McClung.

“Buy-in is believing in a leader. People buy into a relationship first and then the person’s vision. Through close association with Him, Jesus’ disciples bought into Jesus and then His vision. They even became willing to die for Him. Every effective leader has a core team of people who believe in him or her personally, and because they believe in their leader, they believe in the vision.

We shouldn’t expect others to buy into us as leaders if we have not bought into another leader ourselves. It is our authenticity, believability and Christ-likeness that compels people to buy into our vision. Are your team members buying into you because you have bought deeply into Jesus?…”

To read more about Jesus style leadership click here to find Leading Like Jesus on Amazon Kindle

(Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões)

The Jihad of Jesus 

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By Jeff Fountain, director of YWAM Europe and the Schuman Centre for European Studies.

Called The Jihad of Jesus, it’s a handbook for reconciliation and action, a do-it-yourself guide for all Christians and Muslims who want to move beyond the ‘clash of civilizations’ and struggle for justice and peace nonviolently side by side.

I’ve known the author, Dave Andrews, for four decades, during which he has been consistently provocative and radical in his application of Jesus’ teaching to daily life and contemporary society.

Dave doesn’t pretend to be an expert: ‘I have not written this book as a specialist. I am not. I have simply written this book in conversation with Muslim friends, seeking to find a way we can struggle for love and justice that is true to the best in our faith traditions.’

Frequent misleading references to ‘jihad’ in newspaper, radio and tv headlines prompted some of Dave’s friends, both Christian and Muslim, to suggest he write a book about Jesus and ‘jihad’ and call it ‘The Jihad of Jesus’.

They hoped the provocative title would get a lot of attention, and introduce Christians and Muslims to a Koranic reconstruction of the concept of ‘jihad’ in the light of the radical practical nonviolence of Jesus.

Presently in Europe to promote his book, the Brisbane-based Australian has had prominent attention from the major papers in his home country with front page and full-page stories. Also the influential American Huffington Post review urged ‘all Christians and Muslims to join the Jihad Of Jesus’.

Oxymoron

For most of us, the book’s title seems an oxymoron. That word ‘jihad’ clashes with the Jesus we know. And Dave admits that the word conjures up images of terror and atrocities–from 9/11 to the recent aborted Thalys would-be massacre.

But if you go back to the Koran, he explains, the word jihad actually means struggle, not war. The word for war in the Koran is qital. The overwhelming emphasis of the word jihad in the Koran is non-violence.

Which means that what most ‘jihadists’ are involved with is totally unacceptable in Koranic terms, Dave argues.

‘So rather than taking the anti-jihad stand–which won’t succeed because jihad is such an important view in the Koran–we’re saying let’s reclaim it from the extremists, reframe it as a sacred nonviolent struggle for justice,’ proposes the author.

‘If both Christians and Muslims believe Jesus is the Mesih or the Messiah–which they do–let’s look at Jesus as a role model for non-violent jihad. Rather than see Jesus as a poster boy to legitimate crusading against Muslims, we see Jesus as a Messiah who can bring Muslims and Christians together, to work together non-violently.’

But achieving common ground it is not as simple as condemning violence, concedes Dave. Rather, it involves a critical reflection of the way religions have been constructed.

He argues in The Jihad Of Jesus that we are caught up in a cycle of so-called ‘holy wars’, but while this inter-communal conflict may be endemic, it’s not inevitable. And this gets to the core of the book’s argument: our religions can be either sources of escalating conflict, or resources for overcoming inter-communal conflict. For that to happen, we need to understand the heart of all true religion as open-hearted compassionate spirituality.

Open-set

When we define religion as a closed set–where you’ve got people who are in the right, and people who are in the wrong–we tend towards the violence of religion, believes Dave.

People who believe they are right feel they have the responsibility to impose their views on others non-violently, or if necessary, violently, he reasons. We all know examples of Christians and Muslims who operate like that.

However, an open-set mindset exists within both traditions which recognises that it has no monopoly on God, or a franchise on the truth. It includes the other in a way that is empathic and respectful. It leads to non-violent resolution of conflicts instead of violence.

‘There’s a thousand years of conflict between our communities,’ explains Dave. ‘So you’ve got this strong paranoia and this great underlying fear of one another that has erupted again since 9/11 in explicit and graphic and catastrophic ways. That is the challenge.’

Dave acknowledges theological differences between Christians and Muslims, but intentionally tries to focus on those beliefs about Jesus that Christians and Muslims have in common as the place to start conversations.

Such ‘common ground’ is not suspect compromise, but is ‘sacred ground’ on which we can stand and speak to one another, Dave believes. He urges Christians and Muslims to reflect the kindness and humility of Christ, who they should follow ‘with every beat of their hearts, through every vein in their head, their hands and their feet.’

For further information, see jihadofjesus.com, or order the book here.

 

Thanks to Jeff for letting us repost this. The original article can be found by clicking here.

Spring Reading on Social Justice

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Relevant Magazine just put out a list of 9 Social Justice Books to Read This Fall (or Spring for us). They point out that When we think of social justice, we typically think of action, and action is certainly vital, but we also need study and reflection to help us understand the complexity that surrounds any given issue. If you’re interested you can check out their whole list, but here are the ones that stood out to me.

The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence

by Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros (Oxford University Press)

Although we have made great strides in the battle against global poverty over the last three decades, Western generosity alone will not eliminate poverty. This important book looks at various forms of violence—for instance, rape, slavery, land theft—and how they contribute to the cycle of poverty. The authors make a convincing case that efforts to work for a world beyond poverty must include the messy work of resisting violence.

Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?

by Eugene Cho (David C. Cook)

Never afraid to ask a pointed question, Eugene Cho calls us not just to love and talk about justice, but to be actively engaged in seeking justice. It is not just others who need to be healed and transformed, but we ourselves as well, and Cho maintains that we start to find our own transformation in working for change among others.

The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

by Dan Barber (The Penguin Press)


This new work by Dan Barber is likely the most important book on food to be published this year. Barber argues that the food produced by neither conventional agriculture (the first plate) nor local and organic agriculture (the second plate), is a sustainable way to farm and eat. Rather, he argues for the third plate, “an integrated system of vegetable, grain and livestock production that is … dictated by what we choose to cook for dinner.”

Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White—Who’s More Precious In God’s Sight?: A call for Diversity in Christian Missions

by Leroy Barber (Jericho Books)

Rooted in over 20 years of urban ministry, Leroy Barber’s newest book makes the pointed observation that people of color almost never serve in the mission field. Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White explores the implications of this observation, and argues persuasively that a diversification of both church and mission field is sorely needed.

To read the whole list visit 9 Social Justice Books to Read This Fall

Review: Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults

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Scot McKnight shares a friend’s review of a book on discipleship among young adults.

This review is by my colleague, Joel Willitts, who posted this earlier at his blog, Euangelion. Joel teaches Bible at North Park and works with young adult ministries at his church in Geneva IL.

Richard Dunn and Jana Sundene have written an important book about ministry among emerging adults: Shaping the Journey of Emerging Adults: Life-Giving Rhythms for Spiritual Transformation(IVP, 2012).

The term Emerging Adulthood has been coined by sociologists (e.g. Jeffrey Jensen Arnett) and refers to that segment of young adults that largely mystifies most churches, the 19-35 year old crowd. I know of very few established churches that are effectively reaching and discipling adults in this life stage.

If you have a burden for the next generation of the church, this book will not only fire you up but also give you some practical wisdom for shepherding them. This is not a pragmatic ministry strategy book. No ministry models will be found in these pages. If anything, it’s a call for the church to come back, to return to the basics of pastoral ministry. It is a call in fact to relational discipleship – a striped down, decentralized, face to face, authentic living life with young adults approach. Through the ebbs and flows of life, one disciples emerging adults intentionally toward maturity in Christ. In Dunn and Sundene’s words, “[The book] is a call to vision and action”.

Emerging adulthood is now widely recognized as a “new and unique” phase of life. Jeffrey Arnett provided five distinguishing marks of emerging adulthood (Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens Through the Twenties, p. 8):

1. It is the age of identity exploration. 2. It is the age of instability. 3. It is the most self-focused age of life. 4. It is the age of feeling in-between, in transition. 5. It is the age of possibilities, when hope flourished, when people have an unparalleled opportunity to transform their lives.

The content of the book was borne out of a question: What can we do in this generation to empower and equip emerging young adults to reach their God-designed potential for spiritual transformation?

Dunn and Sundene put forward to potential disicplemakers the central task of a disciplemaker of these young adults: to empower them to discover their adult identity and their present purpose in the midst of God’s larger story (40).

 

Emerging adults need spiritual caregivers who will prayerfully engage the disciple’s maturation, steering them away from navigating these life-shaping years primarily based on their own personal or experiential truth. To reach full maturity and maximize potential impact, the emerging adult needs to be challenged and supported as they are awakened to the way, the truth and the life offered by the Father, discovered by the Son and imparted through the Spirit . . . As disciplemakers of emerging adults, God has given us a stable “geographic center” based on the reality reflected in God’s Word and represented by his Son (41).

 The book is divided into three parts after an introduction. Part one addresses the art of disciplemaking. Among the notable elements of this first part is this quote:

 

Let’s face reality: There are no programmatic shortcuts to effective disciplemaking. There is no “easy button”. Disciplemaking is about relationships. Relationships are inefficient. Disciplemaking is about life change. Life change is messy. Disciplemaking is centered in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ allows no pretense. Disciplemaking is unpredictable. Unpredictability requires risk. Disciplemaking is unique to each person, each generation, each cultural context. Uniqueness eliminates the possibility of universally applied “paint by the numbers” disciplemaking relationships (58-59).

So, what is the essence of disciplemaking according to Dunn and Sundene? Two things: (1) a simple vision of what a mature disciple of Jesus looks like, and (2) an authentic understanding of relationships that will facilitate, encourage, challenge, support and lead young adults in this generation to become mature disciples of Jesus. A more concise and useful answer you’ll have a hard time finding.

 

No mechanical five-step strategies for life change, clever methodologies to mimic or ultra-cool programs to apply. Just inefficient, messy, unpretentious, unpredictable, risky relationships with no “paint by the numbers” answers on how to proceed. Just you, the young adults you are investing in and Jesus. Nothing more—but so much more than enough (59)

One expression of the vision of a mature disciple is with the three irrefutable essentials provided by Dunn and Sundene: Trust, Submission and Love. They discuss what these look like in the life of Jesus and in his disciples. They point out that these are things that must be true of the disciplemaker first.

But the next question, and perhaps the most crucial, is what is the core capacity a disciplemaker needs to foster these qualities in the lives of emerging adults?

The answer: The ability to build authentic, naturing discipling relationships. They state it so clearly:

 

A person’s unwavering trust in God’s wisdom, humble submission in embracing God’s heart, and love that pursues God and others with selfless generosity can all be rendered ineffective and unproductive by relational incompetence in the disciplemaking journey (74)

There is real advice here. Not models, but good advice. We must raise up adults who have an aptitude for developing discipleship relationships. The three skills of discernment, intentionality and reflection provide the foundational skill set of a disciplemaker. The first deals with attention, the second, with direction, and the third, with evaluation.

The second part of the book is dedicated to exploring five issues that are particularly complicated or confusing in the phase of emerging adulthood: (1) identity and purpose, (2) spirituality, (3) relationships, (4) sexuality, and (5) daily life. And the third part consists of three chapters focused on the disciplemaker.

Shaping The Journey of Emerging Adults will be an excellent resource for ministry teams in the present committed to a vital church in the mid-twenty-first century.

 

Re-blogged from www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed with permission.

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author or editor of forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. He’s also a veteran blogger. Scot’s passion is to see the church embrace the mission of God in the 21st century. For more from Scot visit www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed