by John P. Bowen
Wipf & Stock, 199 W.8th Ave., Suite 3 Eugene Oregon, 97401, 283 pages, 2013, $34.00.
—Reviewed by Willem Fietje, president of Associated Gospel Churches of Canada, Burlington, Ontario.
Anyone engaged in Christian ministries in Canada today knows that our nation has experienced a major cultural shift. As perhaps the most secularized society in the Americas, our nation prides itself on its enlightened pursuit of pluralistic humanism and affirmative multiculturalism. Religion is at best privatized. Christianity, although still the dominant religious culture, is marginalized in its ability to impact or speak to our society.
The Church in Canada knows intuitively that in the midst of this change we must find a new place to stand and find a new way to re-enter the cultural milieu that we seek to challenge with the claims of Christ in the mandate of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20). The message of the gospel can no longer be hidden behind the outward trappings of institutionalized church structures.
In this book, John Bowen correctly states the dilemma we face by likening Canada to “dry ground”—not yet a barren wasteland, but dry and in need of new streams of water (thought) to nourish new green shoots of Christian Church endeavors.
Rather than being discouraged by this cultural assault on the Church, Bowen has gathered seventeen Canadian writers and practitioners who share striking, though divergent ministry initiatives that have begun to water the dry ground. The writers present real-time, innovative, evangelistic approaches to reaching strategic segments of our society. Their broad range of experience touches on both urban and rural approaches to church revitalization. They work with both the marginalized and the mainstream segments of society. The stories range from First Nations peoples to newly-arrived immigrants. It is refreshing to see God at work in Canada today.
The key concept developed in this book is the importance of understanding the mandate of Christ from a missiological perspective. The gospel in the person of Jesus is the focus and the methodology is strictly contextual. The writers introduce readers to the good thinkers on missiology in the multitude of helpful footnotes (such as Philip Jenkins and Lesslie Newbigin). Green Shoots opens up a virtual library of excellent books on this topic.
Like all books of this type, there is a caveat. The case studies are drawn largely from mainstream, historic denominations in Canada and (by Bowen’s own admission) don’t show the growth and vitality of the wider variety of evangelical and charismatic expressions of the Church in Canada. Also, the methodologies that are emphasised are not fully tested and the final results are not in as to their effectiveness. Yet there is much to encourage and challenge believers to bring change to the Church in Canada.
This book brings a sense of hope for the Church in Canada. It demands that we all think differently about what Church is, and what really is the goal of the gospel. Certainly, Green Shoots is a must read for anyone who is serious about impacting Canada with the gospel of Christ in life transforming ways. Well done.
Check these titles:
Bibby, Reginald W. 1987. Fragmented Gods. Toronto: Irwin Publishing.
Newbigin, Lesslie. 1989. The Gospel in a Pluralist Society. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
EMQ, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 134-135. Copyright © 2014 Billy Graham Center. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.