Miriam ADENEY, Kingdom Without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity. Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 2009, pp.294. ISBN-978-0-8308-3849-3.
Reviewed by Anneris GORIS, La Esperanza Center, New York 10032

The book Kingdom Without Borders: The Untold Story of Global Christianity by Miriam Adeney consists of twelve chapters which alternate between regions and topics. The chapters on religion describe different places where Christianity is practiced today (China, Latin America, Africa, and people in the Muslim and Hindu worlds). The book also highlights important topics (the Word, the Spirit, catastrophe, song, way to the cross, and way of life) which alternate between the regions of the world.

The first chapter is entitled “These are my People” where Adeney posits that Christians can become “pawns in a global game” (p. 24). When this happens, her advice is to follow the strategies modeled in the bible. In reference to “cope with globalization when jobs are outsourced and terrorism erupts” (p. 24), she advises to follow the examples of Daniel, Esther, and Nehemiah because they can hold Christians together in the vortex (p. 25). She also contends that the story of Jesus brings the vision of life and of God (p. 25), and explains that when people are hired in strange lands due to labor shortages, Christ’s love can flow through immigrants (p. 28) and Christianity flourishes in those places.

The second chapter is about China which personalizes the elephant in the room. The “Chinese people are blazing trails…, and who would have predicted [that] millions and millions of Chinese [would praise] Jesus today” (p. 64). Chapter four is on Latin America which is a pulsating passion because “Throughout the continent..., Pentecostals—Christians who emphasize the Spirit—are spreading like wildfire” (p. 93); Christianity is in action (p. 94); Pastors are reaching out to the community rather than just [caring] for [their] church members (95); people are accessing the Bible themselves (p. 97); women’s power is enhanced (p. 98); the Spirit is “serving all the needs, moving through people at the grassroots” (p. 99); and “Latin America [has spilled] across borders” (p. 110).

Chapter six is about the Muslim world or the axis of hope where “A new tier of leadership is developing among Iranian Christians from Muslim backgrounds” (p. 147). However, Adeney explains that “God has been there all along” for not only did “God create the Iranian people and endowed them with the capacity to create unique cultures,” but “Daniel, Esther and Nehemiah lived there” too (p. 149). She advocates for the contextualization of worship and to allow circumstances to become venues for witness (p. 157).

The next chapter on the region (chapter eight) presents the Hindu world as mystic servants where the gospel needs to connect with the heritage which must be, not only respected, but also appreciated (pp. 187 and 191) in order to reach both lower- caste and upper-caste people (p. 191). According to Adeney, India is a place where “Caste-based Christianity still riddles the church” (p. 197). But, the church there has strengths because it is nonviolent; good to women; educates girls; and women find affirmation in the gospel (pp. 197 and 198).

On chapter ten, she describes Africa as epitomizing going through fire because of the atrocities that have occurred there; raping and beating women, and the massive killing of the Tutsi people (pp. 231 and 232). In Africa, people have been practicing different ways to deal with the lived experiences of physical, economic, and mental abuse. According to the author, nailing their grief to the cross (p.233); burning the papers and remembering that God can bring beauty out of ashes (p. 234); taking people’s guilt on themselves (p. 235); and placing rape in the Sunday school curriculum (p 237), all have help them practice forgiveness.

According to Adeney, “The center of gravity in the Christian world has shifted inexorably southward to Africa, Asia, and Latin America” [and that] “Already today, the largest Christian communities on the planet are to be found there” (p. 29). She emphasizes that “Christianity is the wave of the future” [and it also] “is the wave of the past” (p. 29). She further points out that Christians belong to “a pure pilgrimage church. A multicultural, multilingual, multiracial church composed of the faithful more or less from all over the world;” hence “Reaching across…cultural boundaries should feel natural” [because] “It always has been [their] call” (p. 33). Adeney warns, however, that “the future global church may not be Western-led...” and that the mantle should be passed on toothers (p. 40).

In terms of the different topics weaved throughout the book, the author highlights the importance of the Word, the Spirit, catastrophes, songs, way to the cross, and way of life for the multicultural, multilingual, multiracial for Christianity and the global church. Christians are “centered by the never-ending story of the Bible” because the “Scripture connects us with our roots” (p. 70) because it is a living Word and the Word became flesh (p. 87). The author explains that “The Spirit does a lot of things, but first of all the Spirit creates and cares” (p. 119), and sustains (p. 126). The Spirit also “gives power not just for healing or exorcisms or untrained believers, but also for the faithful believers who need endurance” (p. 131).

Adeney’s book also addresses the issue of catastrophes. She posits that “trouble takes us by surprise” and that “in a blink of an eye, an abyss opens under our feet” (p. 166). She asks: “What should we do? Facing a sudden catastrophe or, on a broader scale, facing the systemic evils of racism, poverty, injustice, disease and ecological disaster, how should Jesus’ people respond? The key principles according to the author are: “Know when to do charity, when to do development, and when to do advocacy” (p. 167). She argues that “Advocacy toward a more equitable spread of resources, infrastructure, and opportunities is needed at the local, national, and international levels” (p. 167). The author also contends that “transnational problems may need transitional solutions” (p. 176), but it needs to be done “on their own terms” (p. 178).

Songs, according to Adeney, have teaching qualities (p. 208), “can help remember a message,” and are “a precious source for Christian communicators (p. 214). Furthermore, she feels that “Songs can help keep the message accurate, because rhythm and melody, like writing, stabilize a text…,” and “can help us witness and help us worship” (214). Stories also do the same as songs (p. 219).

In chapter 12 (on a way to the cross) and chapter 13 (way of life), she explores two contrasting frames for Christian experience, the global and the local (p. 269). Andeney explains that the “gospel is not only good news,” but that it “threatens established systems of power” (p. 257). Moreover, she asserts that “Suffering can yield positive results, and “God can bring good out of evil” (p. 258). However, “walking the way of the cross” can “Sometimes lead to death.” But, “Other times it leads to service in hard places” (p. 260). She cautions that there “are rhythms to living in God’s world” (p. 274). Adeney feels that “Jesus people are called to be strong, like lions,… to create…, [and] to build” globally and locally (p. 280).

This book makes valuable contributions to the understanding of the globalization of religion. It describes the contextualization of Christianity, and the social responsibilities of Christians. The author reminds Christians that the Scripture is the living Word of God; that the Spirit maintains; that songs help transmit the message of God; and that catastrophes will occur, and when they do, Christians need to know what type of action the situation calls for. Adeney’s book takes the reader through an important historical, religious, social, and political journey. She was able to accomplish this task beautifully by using different methodological techniques such as “stories;” strategic “Bible teaching;” “economic theory and comparative religion;” and “speeches and writings.” This is a book about the untold story of global Christianity and of a Kingdom without borders.


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