One of my New Years Resolutions is to read outside my cultural comfort zone. I was convicted of the need for this last month when I read Soong-Chan Rah’s The Next Evangelicalism and realized that 90% of the books I read in 2009 were by white men. So, in 2010 I’m going to deliberately seek out books that expand my horizons.
The first such book was Miriam Adeney’s Kingdom Without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity. Story is the key word, too. Adeney presents true stories collected from both research and first-hand experience of Christians from all around the globe: the Philippines, Iran, China, Peru, Rwanda are just a small sample of the countries from which the stories come. Kingdom Without Borders does through ground-level stories what Philip Jenkins’ The Next Christendom does through statistical overviews: present the lively face of the growing Church in the global South and East. Adeney is a storyteller at heart – I remember her speaking on the subject of storytelling at my seminary a couple years ago and can still hear her voice in some of the stories in the book – but the value of the book lies in more than the medium. The sources of the stories themselves are the real-life experiences of people whose voices are too rarely heard in America.
From the stories I learned of people like Narayan Aman Tilak – an Indian Christian from the Brahmin caste whose worked to contextualize the Gospel to Indian culture – and of dalit Christians who’ve experienced terrible persecution. A chapter on China contained stories of martyrs, imprisoned pastors, and leaders in the underground church there. The second-to-last chapter – “Way of the Cross” – is a powerful reminder of the place of martyrdom and suffering in global Christian experience. For pastors reading the book, the stories provide excellent sermon illustrations. (I already used the story of Simin, a young woman from Iran who comes to faith in Jesus through a series of visions as one this Sunday.) More importantly, though, the book helps develop a greater sense of what God’s doing in the world: sending missionaries Brazil to Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa, from China to the Congo, from Guatemala to Kurdistan. Filipino Christians working in the Middle East as maids and construction workers building developments like the Burj Kalifa – and carrying their faith with them.
As Rah says in The Next Evangelicalism, “the real emerging church is the church in Africa, Asia and Latin America that continues to grow by leaps and bounds . . .” (p. 124). I’m grateful to Adeney for providing a glimpse into that church. Now to keep my attention focused there this year . . .