Local Church in a Global Era

The Hearts & Minds travelinÕ book show was set up at the annual Pennsylvania State PastorÕs Conference in Harrisburg the last three days and, despite an all night set up, two flat tires before-hand, and a van (full of heavy boxes) needing to be towed home due to engine problems (just try getting a heavy, low-riding, overweight van on a tow truck!) we had a great, great time. Greetings to new readers who may drop in here because we met there. We hope you subscribe to the blog, so you will be notified whenever I post a new review.
The theme was fascinating and important—globalization, world poverty and the need for a ministry of justice and social transformation. And, then, how that effects our worship, specifically around the question of how and what is best to sing. Perkins School of Theology prof C. Michael Hawn has written several good books on using global music in traditional worship, and we found him to be not only theologically solid, but an absolutely delight. From teaching South American hymns to African choruses, from leading a Taize service to helping us all think how to make slow, careful, but intentional changes in worship, he showed the wisdom and joy that are present in his books. WeÕve have taken his Gather Into One: Praying and Singing Globally to nearly every event that weÕve done (where worship books are relevant) since it came out several years ago from Eerdmans ($28.00.) A more recent book was published last year by the Alban Institute, entitled, One Bread, One Body: Exploring Cultural Diversity in Worship ($16.00.) Both are really important.
Others have said this, of course, including Marva Dawn in her books on worship. A great, succint, article that would be worth sharing with your worship leaders at your church can be found in the catapult e-zine, put out by the good folks at *cino, written by Toronto friend, Angela Strauss. See her brief piece, here.
This trend of being aware of the global and multi-cultural nature of the body of Christ reminds us of the Penn State event we did a few weeks back where we had the immense privilege of meeting Dr. Philip Jenkins. His The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Oxford University Press; $15.95) has been on everyoneÕs Ã’must-readÓ lists, and I am in the middle of the excellent and fascinating follow-up, The New Faces of Christianity: Reading the Bible in the Global South (Oxford University Press; $26.00.) Had I had more time to present recommended titles at the State PastorÕs Conference, I surely would have explained the significance of JenkinÕs pair of books. His friend, Lamin Sanneh, of Yale Divinity School, was speaking at the conference, and it was a privilege to extend greetings between the two. Sanneh, a native of Gambia, gave a great overview of his important little book, Whose Religion is Christianity? The Gospel Beyond the West (Eerdmans; $12.00) It is interesting to me that he commended the provocative little book by the Spiritan missionary Vincent Donovan, Christianity Rediscovered, about his experiences in learning more about the New Testament realities of Jesus, as he experienced life among the Masai in Tanzania. The recent 25th anniversary edition published by Orbis ($18.00) has a new afterward by Sanneh. It not only is a classic of missionary thinking, cross cultural theology, and post-colonial perspectives on faith, but it has recently been noted by folks in the emerging church dialogues. I recall McLaren recently sharing how helpful he found it, and I’ve happily seen it footnoted a few places. We carried the first edition when we first opened decades ago.
There is only so much one can do in an event like this, so it is understandable that not every global concern or geographic locale was mentioned. Still, anyone interested in the world-wide church simply must pay attention to China. Just this week, a very important book was re-issued in paperback, Jesus in Beijing by David Aikman (Regnery; $16.95.) The subtitle proclaims: ÒHow Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power.Ó Highly recommended, written by the former Time magazine bureau chief in Beijing.
The conference ending was a major presentation by social ethics professor and award winning author Rebecca Todd Peters. After a broad call to seek justice, she told of efforts for faithfulness in small things—-changing habits, like where we shop and the kinds of products we support (fair trade stuff, for instance) and how we can examine the responsibilities of those of us who live with great privilege such as relative wealth, education, racial advantage. She called upon church folks to use their collective power to make a difference, and shared stories such as the recent Taco Bell boycott that helped get better conditions for migrant workers who pick tomatoes in the Southeast. (Those who know us best know of my long-standing admiration for nonviolent, Catholic unionist, Cesar Chavez, so I wanted to clap when she spoke of the Imokalle Workers strike.) Peter’s book, In Search of a Good Life: The Ethics of Globalization (Continuum; $16.95) looks seriously at the big picture, and invites local responses. It has been highly regarded by the likes of Cornel West if that gives you a hint to it’s reputation!
If I were to pick one book that I really wish I could have announced in my public book blurbs at the gathering that I failed to promote, I would shout out one that came out a few years back, a stellar anthology, gleaned from larger, more academic works, edited by Max Stackhouse, Tim Dearborn and Scott Paeth. I am so excited about this collection that I will offer as great blog special (see below.) The Church in a Global Era: Reflections for a New Century (Eerdmans; $15.00) is a treasure trove of ideas, data, theologically-informed cultural studies, missionary inspiration and ways local churches can be increasingly aware of and involved in global issues. From the debt crisis to involvement in higher education, from gender studies to ways to think about war and peacemaking, from science stuff to economics, interfaith discussions to environmental concerns, this book covers it all, showing how globalizing influences have impacted various spheres of life. And, quite specifically, it allows these global realities to shape the way we think about the local parish. Want to care about the world? Passionate about wholistic, missional outreach? Concerned about the integrity of your local church? This book really could be useful as a resource, and would be a great follow up to the visionary work of this yearÕs State PastorÕs Conference (whether you were there or not.)

Regularly priced $15.00
While supplies last

The Local Church in a Global Era: Reflections for a New Century
edited by Max Stackhouse, Tim Dearborn, Scott Paeth (Eerdmans)
usually $15.00 HERE, $10.00

2 thoughts on “Local Church in a Global Era

  1. I must tell Angela that you linked to her article. It’s one of my favourites … for several reasons.

  2. Christianity Rediscovered was an awesome adventurous read. I romped through it with a couple of my friends on my blog. It holds much good for Christians in America today.

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