From Times Square to Timbuktu: The Post-Christian West Meets the Non-Western Church
by Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI 49516, 189 pages, 2013, $18.99.
—Review by Chuck Davis, partner professor, Intercultural Studies, Alliance Theological Seminary; senior pastor, Stanwich Church, Greenwich, Connecticut.
In his stirring missionary message to the Athenians, Paul declares, “And He [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27a). What was true of the apostle’s own epoch, when pax Romana allowed the safety and infrastructure of great mobility, has become prophetic reality multiplied in our day of globalization.
Wesley Granberg-Michaelson reviews this movement, noting the wonderful diversity of the Church in multiple localities (chap. 1-2, 8) and the shift of the center of gravity for world Christianity to the southern hemisphere and the East, or the Majority World. Whereas this global expansion fulfills missio Dei as echoed in Paul’s sermon, the growing Church body has lost some kingdom synergy. The Church struggles under a number of dividing factors—endlessly denominated, geographically separated, spiritually bifurcated, institutionally insulated, and generationally isolated (chap. 3). As such, our pilgrimage feels schismatic, more akin to the dispersion of Babel than the sending forth of Pentecost.
The model of God in Trinity is unity, and his call for the Church is the same (chap. 4). Granberg-Michaelson points to past efforts to foster global unity through institutions such as the World Council of Churches (chap. 5) with a call for new global Christian forums (chap. 6). He then dedicates chapters 7 and 9-12 to excellent strategic and theological reflection on this pilgrimage of a re-united Church that is finding more potential engagement through the proximity offered in global mobility.
Four aspects, woven through each of these practical chapters, become important places of interaction. First, the most fundamental place for shared journey is in worship and prayer. Second, unity in missional outreach becomes a safe ground of shared practice. Third, theology must always be local and contextual, but our most important place for interaction is in the themes of power and suffering. The Majority World is better positioned to lead the way in these times, which have not been regular aspects of Western theology. Finally, the most important place of enhanced relationships is in local settings through hospitality and listening. Partnerships, whether in Mali or in New York City, are often laced with an undercurrent: “We have a plan, come join us.” In the space of hospitality, our eyes of understanding will be opened as the journeyers on the Emmaus Road.
The one quibble with the book would be out of concern with the promotion of large global institutional efforts. Granberg-Michaelson has been closely involved with their movements and thus cares deeply for their efforts. Could more local-to-local global exchanges and local initiatives between diverse communities bear more tangible fruit?
Granberg-Michaelson’s work is a valuable voice in this discussion, with practical suggestions to walk together on a common pilgrimage. He invites us to proactively engage in this globalized, yet local pilgrimage.
Check these titles:
Jenkins, Philip. 2011. The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity. New York: Oxford University Press.
Sanneh, Lamin. 2003. Whose Religion Is Christianity? The Gospel beyond the West. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 4, pp. 375-377. Copyright © 2014 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.