Saturday, April 28, 2012

the future of the global church

Patrick Johnstone's The Future of the Global Church is one for the ages.

I'll leave you to check out the website. Make sure you click here for the full Table of Contents and some sample pages from the book to get a quick sense of what the book covers. Here are my reasons for loving this book:

It is visual
The graphs and tables, the colours and maps, all combine in a stunning presentation. So many are so intriguing. Like the graph showing Mexico's collapse in population in the 16th century (8) - or, the really cool graphs like 'Two Millennia of Superpowers' (34) and 'Global Political Freedom' (16) which are filled-in, multi-coloured and track the changes across history.

It is informative
It is such a smorgasbord that it is critical that one eats slowly in order to digest it all. The material on the the major World Religions, particularly Islam (73-78), is useful. Johnstone's characteristically friendly engagement with things Charismatic-Pentecostal has always helped me see upsides that do not come naturally, as it is not my background. His passion is most evident when he engages 'The Unevangelized' (161-224). It is partly because people are so uninformed that they remain so unevangelized. There is so much for me to learn in these pages.

It is short
For all that it tries to achieve, it is still only 240 pages. There is so much crammed into so few pages, while still being visually appealing and readable. It is a remarkable achievement. I hope that academics, Christian and otherwise, don't get all elitist and critical about the book because of its brevity. Afterall the flame in this book is the very one that colleges and seminaries around the world have had a nasty way of extinguishing. Let's appreciate it for what it is and make it known.

It has lots of numbers in it
'It cites statistics in such a way as to incite hearts' (ix) - and it succeeds. I've always pored over population statistics. Love it. Love it. Love it. These numbers are even able to distract me from cricket statistics - and that takes some doing. For example, who would have guessed that Pakistan would be the fourth largest country in the world in 2050 - and just think about the lack of attention it receives when compared with the three countries above it: India, China, USA (3).

It equips
The aim of the book is to better prepare Christians for the 21st century. When it is devoured alongside its cousin, Operation Worldthe string of books by a person like Philip Jenkins (some of which I have reviewed here and here and here)- and that gem of a book by Miriam Adeney ... the reader is brought right into the heart of what God is doing around the world. It makes some of our debates in the West, like the 'emerging church' one of yesteryear, seem so very eddy-ish to what God is doing.

It is subversive
It offers a view of the world that is very different from that presented by the media and educational institutions. In these pages you find History, Geography, Anthropology, Sociology, Religious Studies etc - but, as a refreshing change, it is not tainted with the anti-Christian bias that seeps into secondary and tertiary curricula in so many parts of the world. It is another voice which does need to be heard if the analysis is to be fair-minded. The book opens with the 'Nine Global Challenges' (1-20) and these pages are loaded with information for school projects.

It innovates
For me, the undisputed heavyweight highlight of the book is the section on History. Johnstone writes 'I realized that no one had pulled the information together, century by century, to show the rise and fall of empires and the advances and retreats of the Church around the world' (viii). And so on double facing pages each century is covered, with the 'Empires' on the left hand page and the corresponding 'Christian World' on the right side page (21-63). It is the most remarkable visual and informational presentation on the history of the world I have ever seen.

It provokes
The book is littered with 'Burning Questions for Today' and 'Food for Thought' boxes. In the Preface, Johnstone writes that in designing the book he wanted 'passion and vision to be paramount'. He achieves this. There is a verve in what is written, and the way it is written, which engages both head and heart.

It is multi-purpose
Like Operation World, it belongs on the coffee-table in every mission-minded home. I think it will be the next book which we buy for each of our kids, for example. Every church Mission Committee needs to have it at its right hand. It is a text book for theological colleges, and a resource book for other colleges. It is a prayer book. It is a rallying cry to be join God in His mission in the world.

It is accessible
DVD-Rom, eBook, book ... take your pick. In time the website is going to have hundreds of ppt slides/presentations and all kinds of other downloadable components. As with Operation World, there is a refreshing servant-heartedness which characterises the people who lie behind this ongoing project. They are more concerned about getting the information out than with lining their pockets.

The only caution I can muster up is similar to the one I have with Operation World. All the acronyms and colour-codings and classifications can quickly become a confusing foreign language, if you do not keep speaking that language. You almost need to memorise pp x-xi, or at least sticker it for easy access.

Be in

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