While in Vanuatu last week I read Miriam Adeney's, Kingdom Without Borders: the untold story of global Christianity (IVP, 2009).
If you love potted and inspiring stories, then this book is for you. [I can actually lose interest with stories and wander off as they are told - but not these ones!]
If you want to 'click refresh' in your understanding of what God is doing around the world and haven't been invited to Lausanne in Capetown(!), then this book is for you.
If you are a preacher wanting to infuse your sermons with stories from around the world, but the call of God on your life is not to go around the world yourself, then this book is for you. I can hear a lot of preachers using the following line, "In her book, Kingdom without Borders, Miriam Adeney tells the story of..."
If you are a woman (or, a man for that matter!) wanting to read more about how God has used and is using women around the world, then this book is for you.
If you are a skeptic who believes all that stuff at university about how missionaries have destroyed culture blah, blah, blah - then this book is for you (start with pp30-31).
If you share my enthusiasm for the books of Philip Jenkins - particularly The Next Christendom - with all their clarity and sanity, then here is your companion volume, full of pulse and staccato. While I find there to be just a tiny gap between my mind and my heart, many people talk like there is a chasm and for such people I commend Jenkins to your mind, as much as I commend Adeney to your heart.
Let me quit the "ifs" and "thens" and make a few other comments about the book.
1. Take the structure of the book. Story-filled chapters on what is happening in China (41-64), in Latin America (88-114), in the Muslim World - mainly Iran (139-164), in the Hindu world - mainly India (186-207), and in Africa (231-252) alternate with chapters on Word (65-87), Spirit (115-138), Catastrophe (165-185), Song (208-230) and the Way of the Cross (253-268).
2. Take the style of the book. Adeney flits from one dialogue-filled story to the next with virtually no transitions and the reader is drawn along. Country after country is covered. It almost makes you dizzy, needing time to recover from a paginated jetlag at the end. She is such a good writer - and her knowledge of what is happening is broad and deep.
3. Take the purpose of the book: "think of this as a continuation of Hebrews 11" (8), as she tells the stories of mainly "indigenous believers" (34) with very few foreign missionaries making the final cut. "It is a humble celebration of the kingdom that glows from generation to generation and will never be destroyed" (40). One might well add that it is not just 'glowing from generation to generation', it is growing in time zone after time zone.
4. Take the instruction that drifts into the book. Every now and then she stops to linger with a topic or someone's insights. Be it interpreting the Bible contextually (72-76); exploring community, suffering, and power as themes in Africa (76-83); reflecting on the nourishment of the Spirit (135-137); being "called to witness, not to convert" (156-159); helping the poor and oppressed (167-170); noting Ajith Fernando's 8-fold response to the tsunami (180-185), or K. Rajendran's five suggestions for indigenous mission (203-207 - India has 50,000 cross-cultural missionaries serving within India!); depicting the three streams of Indian Christianity as "dharma, dalit, dot.com" (187-201); exploring the function of songs (214-218); training godly leaders (244-248); or, embracing best practises to limit suffering (265-267) ... it is all ever so wise and practical.
One searing weakness of the book is the lack of an Index. Another caution is that every now and then the sources being quoted are quite dated. But this is a book I will treasure and to which I shall return.