by Patrick Johnstone with Dean Merrill
Global Mapping International, 2016.
—Reviewed by Joshua Gorenflo, MDiv and M.A. theology student at Abilene Christian University.
Patrick Johnstone has spent a lifetime as a missionary evangelist in countries from Africa to Asia and the Pacific. While serving with Dorothea Mission in Africa, Johnstone began researching and compiling data on people groups which would birth Operation World, a resource with an untold impact on global missions. Johnstone now lives in England and serves on the leadership team of WEC International, a large pioneering church-planting mission. Johnstone brings this background to offer apt insight of the migrant crisis while insisting that the Christian response to the displaced can only be the hope of the gospel.
The primary objective of Serving God in a Migrant Crisis is to address the problematic ‘disembodying’ of displaced peoples—an attitude carried too often by Western Christians about anyone whose name is too difficult to pronounce or whose mention in a headline is far removed from our daily experience.
Johnstone does this by presenting (1) what is going on in the world, (2) what is essential to know about refugees, and (3) what can be done about the migrant crisis both individually and collectively. While not a rigorous academic explication of the crisis and its complexities, this book serves as an introduction for those who desire to be aware of and active in caring for the millions of displaced people in our world today.
Despite its thin demeanor, Serving God offers contemporary statistics, engaging testimonies, and most importantly, has its fingers on the pulse of the current situation, both in the world at large and in the Church’s response. Knowing the aversions and aptitude of the Christian community, Johnstone grounds his research in a theological and pragmatic foundation, an attempt which is brought home by reflective questions at the conclusion of each chapter.
Taken seriously, such questions can illuminate why it is that, as the president of World Relief, Stephan Bauman, stated in the book’s Foreword, “Churches are twice as likely to fear refugees as help them” (p. v). As such, Serving God is an excellent resource for individuals, small groups, and churches alike to challenge themselves with living the title of the book.
Our cultural and political climate is rife with suspicion, and even hatred, of ‘the other’, and many Western Christians hesitate to take a stand, or make excuses why they shouldn’t. The force of Johnstone’s book is to remind Christians of their biblical roots in exile, their call to welcome the stranger as they would Jesus himself (Matt. 25), and to address the fears, facts, and feelings surrounding displaced persons.
Serving God achieves this without preaching at or shaming the reader; rather, the authors encourage them to recognize that the migrant crisis isn’t going away soon, and that many who do not know Jesus are arriving in our hometowns, desperate for good news.
After reading Serving God in a Migrant Crisis, one is left with some important questions: What is God’s perspective on the migrant crisis? And how can we adopt the heart of God for these, his children?
. . . .
EMQ, Vol. 53, No. 4. Copyright © 2017 Billy Graham Center for Evangelism. All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMQ editors.