Kingdom Without Borders, Miriam Adeney. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009.
Summary: Adeney, a professor of global and urban ministries, chronicles the global spread of Christianity through stories of sacrificial and courageous Christians in the Majority World.
Philip Jenkins has studied the spread of Christianity in the southern hemisphere and majority world. For many this is a study of statistics and demographics. Miriam Adeney tells a similar story, not so much through demographics as through people, some deeply spiritual, some taking great risks, and some suffering great loss, and achieving great glory and the spread of the gospel.
In her first chapter, on the spread of global Christianity, she observes:
“…the future global church may not be Western-led, and that’s OK. Let the mantle pass. We in the West can learn to follow, can’t we?” (p. 40).
The remainder of the book is the story of some of those who we may follow, or at least learn to work with in humble partnership.
She begins with the rapidly growing church in China, and the persecution that has and still occurs and the courageous witness of house church leaders and rural pastors. She then alternates chapters on peoples or even continents with themes like “Word” focusing on Ann Judson’s pioneering Bible translation efforts and the continuing importance of this work. She turns to pentecostal Latin America, and then the spirituality of Sadhu Sundar Singh. She turns to the Muslim world, and particularly Iran where there may be as many as 800,000 Christians facing everything from losing their jobs to losing their lives.
She explores the catastrophe of global poverty, the mistakes often made in development efforts and the creative programs that are fostering sustainable development in various parts of the world, particularly uplifting women. Then she tells the stories of Christian mission in the Hindu world and the challenge of contextualizing the gospel without compromising it in this context. She considers “song” and the necessity of music in the heart languages and musical idioms of majority cultures.
She explores African Christians who “go through fire”, facing the challenge of Islam in some countries, the challenge of prosperity gospels in others. Her concluding two chapters center around the death and resurrection life of Jesus–the real thread of persecution and suffering and death that runs through many of these narratives, and the vision toward which the church lives of the new heaven and new earth where the nations are gathering into “the kingdom of the Lord and of his Christ.”
This book is less a tight intellectual argument and more an exuberant travelogue around the theme of the growth of global Christianity. It is not a book of strategy but of stories that challenge, inspire, and exemplify vibrant Christian faith. In particular, it can serve to lift the eyes of westerners caught up in our intramural controversies and cultural captivities to see the moving of the Spirit of God and the faithfulness of Christians. Hopefully this book might awaken us to what God is doing beyond our own borders (and how silly we must look to some of our brothers and sisters). And that would be a good thing.