After reviewing Johnstone's Future of the Global Church, I felt there was a little more to be said. This was a book with many powerful statements, worthy of underlining and passing on. Some quotes that particularly stood out to me were:
"The 21st Century will be the first urban century in history . . . by 2050, 71% of humankind will live in cities" (pp. 6-7).
"About 10-20% of the global GDP is spent on bribery--about $1 trillion in 2005" (p. 13).
"The [global] expansion of Christianity between 1950 and 2000 has no parallel in history" (p. 94).
"Over 50% of Europeans claim to be religious but never attend a place of worship" (p. 98).
"By 2050, over 44% of all Protestants will probably be African" (p. 109).
"By 2050, eight of the top 10 Anglican countries will probably be African" (p. 111).
"The 'successes' of US Evangelicalism--its management styles, its mega-churches, its business ventures and so on--have all to often become models for church life somewhere else in the world. How much of this is more cultural than biblical?" (p. 141).
"The disturbing truth is that there may still be nearly 2 billion individuals . . . who have never had a a chance to hear the Gospel" (p. 161).
Finally, I ran across this brief video of the author talking about his motivation for writing and discussing some of the book's features.
The Future of the Global Church: History, Trends, and Possibilities. By Patrick Johnstone. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2011. xiv + 240 pages, hardback, $40.
I greatly appreciated Johnstone’s new work, Future of the Global Church. Having benefited from Operation World since the late 80s, I am grateful for Johnstone’s research that has helped Christians for decades to be more globally aware and able to pray more intelligently. Upon first glance, FOGC strikes me as a cross between OW and the World Christian Encyclopedia as the author communicates much data through the language of graphs, tables, and maps.
In the first of nine chapters, Johnstone discusses nine global challenges, including critical issues like migration, disease, and water resources. In chapter 2, in a brief forty pages, he lays out twenty centuries of church history. A survey of the world religions is the focus of chapter 3, while chapters 4-6 are devoted to global Christianity from its broadest expression, to movements of renewal, and finally to evangelical Christianity. The largest chapter (chap. 7) focuses on the status of world’s unevangelized peoples. Finally, in chapters 8-9, Johnstone looks at missionaries and the remaining task of global missions.
This resource book has a number of strengths. As noted, many of the maps are phenomenal and certainly engaging for visual learners. I particularly appreciated those that conveyed the history of evangelical awakenings (pp. 132-38). While the book is full of maps, graphs, and tables, Johnstone is also an able writer and his prose nicely compliments the visual data. Nearly every page includes a section called “food for thought” or “burning question for today” that engages the reader and invites a moment (or more) of reflection. My favorite part was chapter 7 in which Johnstone lays out his paradigm of affinity blocs of people groups (i.e., Arab, Eurasian)—a fresh and challenging framework for how we understand cultural groups. In my research on Brazilian intercultural workers in the Arab world, I have relied on Johnstone’s innovative thinking in this area.
What could have been improved? First, I was a bit puzzled why the author spent so much space on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a section on water resource issues (pp. 18-19). The scope of the global issue seemed overtaken by this regional conflict. Second, there appeared to be some unnecessary overlap between the chapters on church history (chap. 2) and evangelical awakenings (chap. 5). Finally, while I am delighted that Johnstone located his work on the global church historically, there were some historical overstatements. For instance, he has a map (p. 23) showing the missionary itineraries of the first-century apostles, which are at best conjecture. Also, he makes the problematic and anachronistic comparison between the second- and third-century Montanist sect and the modern Pentecostal movement (p. 25).
All said, this is a great resource that should be referred to regularly by missionaries and pastors as they educate the church on global missions. College and seminary students will also find this useful for research in missions and global Christianity courses. As a teacher, I found myself coveting many of the maps and tables; so I was happy to learn that the book is also available in digital form to facilitate classroom presentations.
I greatly appreciated Augustus Nicodemus Gomes Lopes' article "The Growing Crisis Behind Brazil's Evangelical Success Story" from the Gospel Coalition. A Reformed theologian, Lopes expresses the sentiment of many Brazilian Christian leaders who are concerned with the disappearance of essential evangelical doctrine amid the explosive growth of evangelicalism in the country. While Brazilian evangelicals have tended to be more inclusive of expressions of Christianity (including historic Protestant churches and Pentecostals) than their North American counterparts, the word evangelical is quickly losing its meaning in the Brazilian context. Lopes' short article serves as a rich, sober, and prophetic assessment.
One explanation he offered for this decline particularly grabbed my attention. He noted that "historical denominations [were] gradually [abandoning] the great creeds and confessions of the past that shaped the historical faith of the Church. By disdaining centuries of tradition and theological interpretation, evangelicals found themselves vulnerable to any new interpretation." Indeed, a key element in faithful global theology--one that offers accountability and self-correction--is listening to the voices of the historic church expressed in its creeds and confessions. Sound theology must surely be local, global, but also historic. While some elements of the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed addressed heretical thought that were unique to the early church context (i.e. docetism in the Apostles Creed; Arianism in the Nicene), the creeds nevertheless provide a framework for reflecting on Scripture and equipping the believer with essential Gospel understanding. After all, the creeds were developed for catechumens (those preparing for baptism) and basically responded to the question, what must a believer in Christ believe?
Lopes' article serves as a refreshing admonition to love the Gospel truth and to guard the good deposit of faith--a timely word for Brazilian evangelicals and all global Christians.