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Brian Stiller: From Jerusalem to Timbuktu

Brian C. Stiller, From Jerusalem to Timbuktu: A World Tour of the Spread of Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2018), 220 pages, ISBN 978-0830845279.

Brian C. Stiller has had a very rich and diverse ministry experience. He has served as the president of Tyndale University College & Seminary, written books, founded and edited Faith Today magazine, and currently is global ambassador for the Evangelical World Alliance ministry. What may be of particular interest to some of our readers is that he is also a Pentecostal. This brief list of his ministry involvements tells us that he has engaged the Christian faith both intellectually and practically. In this volume he shares both his knowledge and experience of the church around the world.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1, which is very short (only one chapter), points out that the Christianity is experiencing tremendous growth in the global south: Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Part 2 is devoted to a consideration of what the author calls five “drivers.” These drivers have substantially contributed to the growth and shaping of Christianity in the world. This is the longest section of the book. In part 3 Stiller looks at factors that are intertwined with the drivers that have also helped to fuel the growth of Christianity.

As I indicated in the previous paragraph the majority of this book focuses on the five drivers. The drivers that Stiller identifies are: the Holy Spirit, Bible translations, indigenous leadership, re-engaging the public square, and the power of the whole gospel. He devotes a chapter to each of these subjects.

The Holy Spirit is a person whose work continues in the same manner that it did in the first century church.

In chapter 2, “The Age of the Spirit,” the author writes about the importance of the Holy Spirit in the spread of Christianity. This should not be surprising because Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would give his people power to be witnesses (Acts 1:8). All Christians believe in the Holy Spirit. However, Stiller is referring to a particular aspect of the work of the Spirit; he is referring to the charismatic working of the Spirit in supernatural power. This aspect of the Spirit’s work is for service and ministry. As God has poured out his Spirit in this way, and as the church has embraced it, the church’s understanding and experience of the Holy Spirit has been enhanced. The church has been released from the largely cerebral, and at times arid, understandings of who the Spirit is and what he does that has existed in some places. The Holy Spirit is a person whose work continues in the same manner that it did in the first century church. The Pentecostal Movement played a large part in bringing this experience back to the church. God later brought this experience of the Spirit to the mainline Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church through the Charismatic Movement. This experiential faith has played a large part in the growth of Christianity around the world.

A second driver that has helped Christianity to spread is Bible translation. In chapter 3, which is called “The Power of Bible Translation” Stiller points out a number of benefits people have when they have the Bible in their own language. He says one thing that is implicit in Bible translation is the idea that God is at the center of all cultures (page 56). The author also points out that the Bible empowers its readers against errant ideas. He mentions specifically false ideas from the West and the Enlightenment (page 57). One of the things that the Bible defends against is the anti-supernaturalistic views that frequently come from the West (page 57). Another benefit of Bible translation may be an unintended consequence. In some cases, when translators work on the Bible they create an alphabet and a written language in a culture that does not yet have one, this development can help the culture as a whole (page 55-56).

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Category: Fall 2018, Living the Faith

About the Author: John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. He has written for a number of publications and is the author of four books Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now (Xulon Press, 2008), The Power and Practice of the Church: God, Discipleship, and Ministry (J. Timothy King, 2010), Answer the Prayer of Jesus: A Call for Biblical Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2011) and Dreams & Visions: Divine Interventions in Human Experience (J. Timothy King, 2012). He also served as co-editor of the book Creative Ways to Build Christian Community (Wipf & Stock, 2013). Amazon Author page. Facebook

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