What can we learn from the World Christian Movement? How is Jesus worshiped in diverse religious and cultural contexts? Are there fresh expressions of faith which can bring new vitality to our stagnant European-American churches? Bryan Bishop thinks so. Having managed research projects for Youth With A Mission (YWAM) for twenty years and a communication and mission instrructor, he has colorful firsthand accounts of what following Jesus looks like in the two-thirds world. In Boundless: What Global Expressions of Faith Teach us About Following Jesus he shares stories, lessons and challenges.
Bishop observes the radical diversity of Jesus followers throughout the world. In chapter two he introduces ‘the C-Scale,’ based on John Travis’s work with Muslim populations (p. 31) The C scale measures the full spectrum of Christian practice ranging from: Traditional Church Using OUtsider Language (C1) to Small Christ-Centered Communities of Secret/Underground Believers (C6). Between these two poles are: Traditional Churches using insider language (C2), Christ-Centered Communities using Insider language and neutral cultural forms (C3), Christ-Centered Communities Using Insider Language and Biblically Permissible Cultural and Religious Forms (c4) and Christ-Centered communities of those who have accepted Jesus but still remain part of their cultures religious context (C5).
While Travis’s research focused solely on Muslim communities, Bishop has observed the entire spectrum of Christ followers among Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Indigenous communities. In part one he profiles Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Native Americans who follow Jesus within their cultural contexts, often having shared language and practices with the wider culture. Part two unfolds lessons that Bishop has learned: fresh ways of telling the biblical story, Christ centered spirituality, a focus on ‘kingdom language’ in interfaith dialogue, trusting the Spirit, speaking gospel in new religious idioms. Part three focuses on how learning to see Jesus outside of our cultural biases reinvigorates the church here.
Bishop is looking at religious practitioners and thus, there is a practical bent to his reflections. He acknowledges the problem of possible syncretism but observes that through the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the groups he saw weren’t developing weird theologies (90). The people and communities that Bishop profiles all hold fast to salvation through Christ alone.
I liked hearing the different stories of Jesus followers in different contexts. This isn’t a repudiation of traditional church and missional models. Instead Bishop opens us up to the diverse ways people are coming to meet Jesus. This is exciting stuff. Four stars.
Note: I received this book from Baker Books in exchange for my Honest review.