by Scott W. Sunquist
—Reviewed by Timothy L Eckert, missionary to the FulBe of West Africa
The Unexpected Christian Century is an interesting, well-written book containing a relevant smorgasbord of information on how Christianity transitioned from a predominantly Western-based religion to a global and southern-based religion during the twentieth century.
In light of how this topic is central to many current-day missiological discussions, Scott Sunquist does an excellent job of covering broad swaths of information relevant to the topic without getting bogged down on any specific point. The result is that the reader is introduced to a vast array of issues which can be used as a foundation to more in-depth research. Sunquist also gives a very satisfying answer, supported by relevant, terse historical discussions, as to why this unexpected reversal and transformation of Christianity took place.
Sunquist begins with a brief, helpful, and needed historical treatment of pre-twentieth-century Christianity and how the stage was set for Christianity’s global transformation. In Chapter 2, he briefly discusses the individuals who were primary influencers during Christianity’s global transformation. He then demonstrates how discussions of politics, persecution (Chap. 3), migration (Chap. 5), and interactions with other religions (Chap. 6) emerge as appropriate and needed understandings as to why and how the global expansion and transformation occurred.
The book allows the reader not only to understand the importance, significance, and impact of these dynamic issues, but it also gives a very brief yet important understanding of the integrated influence of each upon the growth and dispersion of Christianity across the globe. Examples include what happens within the four diverse Christian confessional families (Chap. 4) and the how and why certain leaders emerged to be influencers in this worldwide phenomenon (Chap. 2).
Sunquist’s book is a wonderful, useful tool for both the missiologically-interested scholar as well as the student confronted by a flood of missiological discussions and materials in an Internet-saturated world.
Sunquist does an outstanding job of thoroughly yet succinctly amassing a very readable, well-written, helpful, and interesting treatment of Christianity’s twentieth-century transformation. Importantly and beneficially, the content of the book also gives indications of potential ways the Church will continue to expansively struggle forward in our ever-changing, increasingly globalized world that is influenced by factors such as politics, migration, persecution, and competing world religions, where Christian movements and leaders emerge and fade.
Stiller, Brian, Todd M. Johnson, Karen Stiller, and Mark Hutchinson. 2015. Evangelicals Around the World: A Global Handbook for the 21st Century. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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EMQ, Vol. 53, No. 2. 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.