Brian C. Stiller. From Jerusalem to Timbuktu: A World Tour of the Spread of Christianity. IVP Books, 2018. See here to purchase the book.
Brian C. Stiller serves the World Evangelical Alliance as a global
ambassador. He was President of Tyndale University College and
Seminary, which is in Toronto, Canada. He also founded and edited Faith Today magazine.
This book is about Christianity throughout the world, particularly
the Global South, Asia, and the Middle East. The Western world still
looms large in the book, however, since it provides background for the
trends and developments that Stiller discusses.
Among the topics that Stiller discusses are:
Pentecostal and charismatic movements: Stiller traces their
historical development in the United States and their spread throughout
Vernacular translation of the Bible: Stiller argues that the Bible
becomes powerful when it is translated into people’s vernacular. Not
only is this the case spiritually, but it also has contributed to social
and political change, providing the colonized with the literacy to
challenge their colonizers.
Indigenous Christianity: Stiller is critical of Western missionaries
trying to run everything when they spread the Gospel to other
countries. He tells stories of indigenous Christians running their own
churches in their own countries.
Different cultural mindsets: Stiller contrasts the secularism of the
West with the belief in the supernatural that exists in many other
countries. He believes that they recognize something authentic.
Political and social engagement: Stiller traces the historic
conservative Christian aversion to politics and the rise of the social
Gospel. He describes how evangelicals in other countries are
challenging oppression, sometimes quietly, and sometimes openly.
Stiller argues that Christianity is about more than the salvation of the
soul but includes a concern for the material world. Stiller does not
endorse the prosperity Gospel and recognizes its abuses, but he does
believe that it is speaking to real needs and concerns—-the desire of
the poor to escape their poverty and have control of their lives—-and
that it provides them with tools to do so.
Prayer movements: Stiller discusses the various forms these have
taken, as Catholic, Orthodox, and doctrine-focused evangelicals pursue
charismatic routes, and Pentecostals study the church fathers. Stiller
also tells a compelling story about the role of prayer in bringing about
a smooth transition after the fall of Apartheid in South Africa.
Women in ministry: Not surprisingly, women throughout the world provide the backbone for churches.
Praise and worship: Stiller talks about classic hymns and the
emergence of contemporary praise music. He discusses his own
preferences in music, while acknowledging that the Spirit has worked
powerfully through other avenues, even through music that he deems
Refugees: Stiller discusses the refugees from Syria. He doubts that
they pose a terror threat, but he compares his own country’s (Canada’s)
attitude towards them with that of the United States, which experienced
Persecution: Stiller talks about the persecution of Christians in the
Middle East, Asia, Turkey, and Russia. Does the blood of the martyrs
provide the seed of the church? According to Stiller, it has, but not
always. Stiller also includes under “persecution” the extreme
separation of church from state, presumably in the U.S.
This is somewhat of a stream-of consciousness book, yet without too
much chaos. The book is organized by topic. Yet, Stiller will give
historical background, shift somewhere to a personal anecdote, tell
stories about Christianity in other countries, and provide statistics.
Reading the book felt like a dream, in a sense, and that added to its
appeal. The book was a bit meandering, but in a reflective way.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
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