The Future of the Global Church: History, Trends, and Possibilities.
Patrick Johnstone, author of Operation World, is a leading expert in the field of contemporary world Christianity. His new book uses data from Operation World and David B. Barrett's World Christian Encyclopedia (1982; 2nd ed., 2001) to give an overall picture of the global challenges, mission history, religious context, and contemporary situation of world Christianity.
The book has nine chapters, each with tables and figures, as well as "Food for Thought" and "Burning Questions for Today," which highlight, recapitulate, and illustrate the text. The first five chapters are general in nature; the last four focus on evangelicals. This arrangement tends to overemphasize the evangelical movement and undervalue the ecumenical movement. The book ignores Hendrik Kraemer, W. A. Visser't Hooft, and Lesslie Newbigin, missionary statesmen of the World Council of Churches.
The four chapters on evangelicals are the focus of attention. They deal respectively with the evangelical explosion, the "unevangelized," the future of Christian missions, and the possibility of an evangelized world. Chapter 7, on the "unevangelized," is the longest and most challenging chapter. Johnstone prefers the term "unevangelized" over "unreached." However, this term is problematic as well. First, people outside the realm of the church are labeled negatively: un-. Second, how strict is this term? Are only non-Christians "unevangelized"? What about liberal and heretic Christians?
The "future of the global church" needs to be analyzed thoroughly and projected as prophetically as possible. The author's optimism about Christianity's future is appealing--but is it also convincing? I also appreciate Johnstone's comments on Barrett's encyclopedia. It is now time to carefully study the conceptual, methodological, and terminological agreements and disagreements between the two scholars and to evaluate carefully their shared optimism.
Johnstone has written an excellent work that will be studied all over the world. I have no doubt that many institutions will use it as a textbook. I recommend that a second edition include an index of geographic names; it is now impossible to quickly find data regarding, for example, Namibia, Nepal, or Nicaragua.
Jan A. B. Jongeneel, a contributing editor, is Honorary Professor Emeritus of Missiology at Utrecht University and author of Jesus Christ in World History (Peter Lang, 2009; reprinted in India, 2010).
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|Author:||Jongeneel, Jan A.B.|
|Publication:||International Bulletin of Missionary Research|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2012|
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