Christianity began in Jerusalem—the place where Jesus died and rose again, and where the Spirit descended like a rushing wind on Jesus’ disciples. Through much of Christian history, the center of Christianity was in Europe, but in the past century, the church has spread east and south, across Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Today, the geographic center of density for the Christian faith is found in the East African country of Mali, the city of Timbuktu.
In From Jerusalem to Timbuktu, Brian Stiller traces the dynamic growth of the Church in the global south, identifying 5 key factors which have shaped the Christian mission (more on this below). Stiller is the global ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance, the former president of Tyndale University College & Seminary in Toronto, and the founder and editor of Faith Today magazine. He is a Pentecostal evangelical engaged in mission and has an eye on many of the trends he describes here.
So what are the 5 key factors that have ignited church growth in the global south? Stiller’s 5 key drivers are: (1) a renewed openness to the Spirit (Pentecostals and Charismatics enjoy the most exponential growth), (2) Bible translations in the language of the people, (3) indigenization of Christian leadership and mission, (4) re-engagement of the Public Square, and (5) a holistic gospel which tackles not only Spiritual issues (getting right with God) but systemic injustice (e.g. global poverty, racism,etc). Stiller introduces these five drivers in Part 1 of his book, explores them in detail in part 2, and the notion of wholeness in mission for part 3 (with an eye toward prayer movements, women in ministry, praise and worship, refugees and migration, and global persecution).
Stiller is well-connected to the worlds of evangelicalism and Pentecostalism with an eye toward their global mission, as both a scholar and practitioner. The trends (or drivers) he identifies have shaped the worldwide evangelical movement and the rapid growth to the south. Stiller gives a sort of insider perspective on how these drivers have impacted the movement, weaving together statistical data, history, with narrative and personal anecdotes. I found this book well-reasoned, and well-researched, but not a dispassionate account. These are trends that Stiller is excited about, and it is infectious.
Despite the title, there is not much mention of Jerusalem or even Timbuktu. These cities are used symbolically to describe the shift of Christianity’s Center to the south. However, Stiller focuses on what is driving the growth the global church in the Southern hemisphere, not on the movements of the church which took us from the first century in Jerusalem to where we are today. So really the focus is on the last hundred or so years. Most of the trends that Stiller mentions, trace the shift of Christianity from Eurocentric and colonial toward indigenization.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in the global church and mission. I give it four stars. -★★★★
Notice of material connection, I received a copy of this book from InterVarsity Press in exchange for my honest review.