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 the world.
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 rather banal.
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 9/11.
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.