A Christian Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep midway through the 20th century and woke up today “would not recognize the shifted shape of world Christianity.” So says author and renowned Notre Dame church historian Mark Noll. What once was a faith concentrated in the global North and West appears now to be a majority situated in the global South and East.
Philip Jenkins’s much-discussed 2002 book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford University Press) perhaps most notably kicked off what has become a cottage industry for researchers examining this emerging global church. Within the past year three important books have been released that offer a paean to world Christianity, but with choruses that, while echoing common themes, offer differing and sometimes disagreeing insights.
Soong-Chan Rah, a professor at North Park Seminary, provides a blunt, prophetic book that takes the (white) North American church to task in The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity (InterVarsity Press). “Racism is America’s original and most deeply rooted sin,” he says. Writing in an accessible style, Rah says the “next evangelicalism” should give up power and follow the lead of immigrants who hold the map to a changing cultural context.
Noll’s contribution is The New Shape of World Christianity: How American Experience Reflects Global Faith (InterVarsity Press). Noll looks back to the 19th century, when America appropriated and transformed inherited European Christian traditions, in order to look forward to how the new “shift” in energy and influence is transforming the global church scene today and tomorrow. America’s shadow looms large in his interpretive forecast.
Robert Wuthnow, the prolific Prince-ton sociologist, in his new book Boundless Faith: The Global Outreach of American Churches (University of California Press), almost celebrates the dominance of American churches on the world scene. Countering the popular notion that the locus of Christianity has shifted, Wuthnow builds a heavily documented case against what he describes as the “global Christianity paradigm.” The globalization of the American church, in fact, leads it to an even more significant role in emerging world Christianity.
Our global God is on the move; read these chroniclers to catch a glimpse of the Spirit’s work.
reviewed by Ron VandenBurg
Reframe Media’s “Under the Radar” showcases the new music of “undiscovered or under-appreciated” Christian artists. It’s a one-hour nationally syndicated radio program that is also available as a podcast download. In each episode, together with songs, stories, and artist interviews, host Dave Trout brings spiritual insights and a complete “picture” to each song. By getting air time on “Under the Radar,” Christian independent artists can introduce themselves to a wider audience. If you like what you hear, you can go to iTunes and download it to your player. (radarradio.net)
by Thomas G. Long
reviewed by Wayne Brouwer
We all make judgments about preaching. In this book, Long gives helpful reflections about both preaching well and listening well. He believes narrative preaching can be made better without becoming mere religious-entertainment-by-way-of-storytelling, and he provides a meaningful guideline: 1) interpret my story 2) in light of the biblical story 3) as it illumines the eschatological story of what God is drawing us toward. Long also shows how much of our desire for relevant preaching undermines the true hope of biblical engagement. Great book. (Westminster John Knox)
reviewed by Ron DeBoer
After the birth of her son, Heather falls into a deep depression and one day vanishes from the lives of her husband, Jeff, and their child. Ten years later, Jeff, on the verge of proposing to his new fiancé, unexpectedly finds Heather, now volunteering for a church’s vacation Bible school. Although the plotline contains plausibility gaps that help move the story, No Greater Love is a film about forgiveness and grace that the whole family can watch together. (Lionsgate)
by Virginia Walton Pilegard
reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema
During the rule of China’s first emperor, a scholar and his son flee to a cave when their lives and those of other artists are threatened. While there, the boy studies math. Sent on an errand, he discovers a pit for the excavation of clay and a prison camp where artists create life-size clay statues of soldiers. Later the boy’s mathematical knowledge leads to the discovery of a terracotta army complete with weapons, which are used to rebel against the despotic dynasty. Based on the 1974 discovery of China’s terracotta army, this exquisitely illustrated picture book effectively blends the disciplines of history and mathematics. Ages 4-8. (Pelican)
by Jennifer Brown
reviewed by Kathryn Hoffman
Valerie penned her private hate list after her classmates began to call her “Sister Death.” When her boyfriend uses the list to select his victims in a Columbine-style massacre, Valerie is shot in the leg as she shields a classmate. She is seen as both an accomplice and a victim. Now Valerie must return to school and navigate the twisted anger and gratitude of her family and peers. Hate List is a realistic tale of redemption, filled with sorrow, spilling over with grace. For high-school-age readers and up. (Little, Brown)
Hungry for More: Fans of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins eagerly await the third installment of the trilogy, Mockingjay, due out this month. In these layered, moral, and culturally relevant young adult novels, an oppressive, futuristic government forces young people to participate in a violent reality show. (Scholastic)Something Fishy: The Fish, at www.thefish.com, offers opinion and commentary on pop culture from a Christian perspective—a great resource for teens and adults, including parents who want more information on popular entertainment.Still Singing: Be Still and Know is a new CD filled with songs for Children and Worship, giving children a chance to sing worship songs anytime. (Faith Alive)Gotta Get It: Gregory L. Jantz explores our desire for more than we need in his book Gotta Have It! Freedom from Wanting Everything Right Here, Right Now. (David C. Cook)