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Philip Jenkins: Companions of Life

Basically, I heartily agree with Jenkins on Christian mission (see my “Revamping Pentecostal Evangelism,” forthcoming in International Review of Mission). However, I am unsure of his suggestion that now the “primary obligation” of Northern Christianity is tending to the social status and well-being of Southern Christians. While I certainly wouldn’t argue against making this an important priority, making it the primary task is problematic. And in addition, though he speaks of “the ambiguous blessings” of our economic riches and wealth, scientific technology, and even our political predominance and military might as resources we might share with less fortunate Christians to the South, we are not informed as to precisely how this might be accomplished—except to say that they ought to be “used judiciously.” My own experience with international Christians and adherents of other religions suggests “judiciously” might be putting it too mildly. For example, often Christian aid is conceived and received as a covert, and to some extent, coercive, conversionary tactic (so-called “aid evangelism”). This can be the case especially when Christians are targeted for special aid while needy non-Christians are simply passed by. Resentment and even retaliation sometimes result. Nevertheless, powerful and prosperous Christians cannot conscientiously abdicate their responsibility to share their blessings with others, and to work for world justice and peace as well. Perhaps, however, such generosity may be best offered, according to opportunity, “to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Gal 6:10 NIV).

Whether or not Dr. Jenkins would enjoy or accept the title of “Mr. Fantastic” his work is certainly a fantastic call for Christians to accept, affirm, and embrace variety and vitality in the global Christian family through exercising flexibility. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in carrying out authentic and effective Christian mission in today’s world whether at home or abroad.

Reviewed by Tony Richie


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Category: Living the Faith, Summer 2007

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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