“This Terrifying and Beautiful World“
A Review of
Kingdom Without Borders:
The Untold Story of Global Christianity.
by Miriam Adeney.
Reviewed by Laretta Benjamin.
Kingdom Without Borders:
The Untold Story of Global Christianity.
Paperback: IVP Books, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ]
“I will build my church,” Jesus said, “and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18) Today we have the great privilege of being part of that together, linked as never before. (40)
For those of us who daily pray the words Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, this book comes as a joyous account of many of the ways God is working to answer that prayer. I am extraordinarily grateful to Miriam Adeney for the time, research and thought that went into the writing of this very encouraging and hopeful book.
Ms. Adeney takes us on an incredible journey to meet and share in the lives and experiences of our brothers and sisters from all across this planet…China, Africa, Latin America, the Muslim world, India, the Philippines…just to name a few. Do you know what we discover on our journey? God is present everywhere. He is at work – and has been all along – building his kingdom in very powerful and creative ways in the midst of great challenges and sometimes great opposition. You won’t find too many of the facts, figures and statistics that one usually finds in books such as these, mostly you will be drawn into the stories – stories of God’s kingdom coming in the lives, families and communities of people all around the globe – stories that come from Ms. Adeney’s own travels.
This book is a wake-up call on many levels. For those of us continuing to hold on to the myth that America is the center of the universe, this book is a challenge to open our eyes and allow our narrow and limited vision to be enlarged and expanded. “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….God is doing something new in our time. People of every nation are joining in. We can too, wherever we are. This book is not primarily about us or what we should do. It is a humble celebration of the kingdom that glows from generation to generation and will never be destroyed.” In our world, walls that divide are everywhere. Division, separation and competition are the order of the day. Ms. Adeney encourages us to have a missional vision, a kingdom vision, which as Scripture tells us, is “bringing all things together in Christ.” That kind of perspective has been greatly lacking in the people of God for many years.
Into our specific culture of rugged individualism, greed and self-indulgence we hear the call to let go, lay down our lives and enter in to something bigger than ourselves. Ms. Adeney draws us into the stark reality of persecution that so many of our brothers and sisters face daily as they live out the kingdom of God. “The gospel is not only good news. It threatens established systems and powers. Those systems and powers fight back. In the past few years, Pakistani churches have been bombed with the worshippers inside. Indonesian Christian women have been raped by the dozens. Multiple Vietnamese pastors have languished in cruel jails. Korean and Filipino workers have been martyred in Saudi Arabia. Tens of thousands of Christians have been slaughtered for their faith in Sudan. Christian women in India and Turkey have seen their husbands burned to death and their throats slit.” (257). Shame on us for taking it all so lightly and relaxing in our safety and comfortableness.
Kingdom Without Borders taken as a whole presents us with a sound theology of missions. Partnerships, Christian community development and networking are woven throughout these kingdom stories. “So often we expect that the next social reform will solve the problems…..while we work for justice and order and beauty in small and large arenas, our hope is not in the systems of this world, not in ourselves, but in Christ and His kingdom.” (11-12)
Chapter 7 speaks of responding to the catastrophes in our world, which have been many in our lifetime. We are given her perspective on knowing when to do charity work, when to do development and when to do advocacy. “What do you do when the most powerful tsunami in recent history wipes out your family, your house, your business and much of your city? Ajith Fernando is a native of Sri Lanka. Standing amid the wreckage of his smashed country, he took up his pen. Like writers in biblical times, he faced disaster with words of wisdom. ‘What should we be doing now?’ is addressed to his national church. The eight activities are good for anyone…a time to mourn (grieve first)…a time to ask why (great saints wrestled with God)…a time to work…a time to pray…a time to give…a time to plan…a time to be careful…a time to comfort” (180-185).
The author shares enough of the Christian history of some areas of our world to enable to us to have a more accurate picture of what is happening. She touches on immigration issues (chapter 12), how Christ is penetrating the Muslim world (chapter 6) and His work in the Hindu world (chapter 8).
This book is subtitled “the untold story of global Christianity”. Although I did not get a clear sense of why it is untold, I suspect it is probably, as Ms. Adeney says, because most of us lack a broad missional/kingdom. Our view of life is very introverted and very small, and many times very culture-driven. In this culture that encourages self-indulgence and self-centeredness, we have to take steps to open our eyes and minds and hearts to the rest of world and the ways God is bringing all things together in Christ. Many of us are content as we are. God is revealing His incredible story in many ways, we are just apathetic and not listening.
This book is not hard to read although it is not a fast-read. There is way too much information to skim through and still be able to grasp all of what is being shared. One of the author’s underlying messages is to think globally, act locally.
“We do not know the future. There may be tidal waves. Terrorism. Germs that do not respond to antibiotics. Water shortages. Five hundred years from now our universities could be ashes….the United States of America could be gone. But Jesus’ church will be alive, blossoming in a million places in several thousand languages, salting the earth, lighting neighborhoods, blessing broken people and connecting them with the God who made them and loves them and can empower them to live with meaning and joy in this terrifying and beautiful world. These are my people. They tell me about hope.” (39)
C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com
Thank you, Laretta, for such an insightful, thoughtful and passionate review of this new book. Your review is both a rebuke and an exhortation to the American Church in general and to ECC specifically.