Kingdom Without Borders
by Miriam Adeney
“Think of this as a continuation of Hebrews 11, that great list of people down through the ages who have lived and died by faith…but there are thousands more stories waiting to be told.” (9) These are just a few of the opening thoughts enticing the reader into a beautifully-woven tapestry of illustrations about the worldwide Church told in Miriam Adeney’s new book, Kingdom Without Borders. Among countless books exploring abstract reflections on Christianity throughout the globe, Adeney instead presents a collection of stories that give us hope and remind us that the gospel is nothing, if not embodied in the lives of Christians.
Adeney’s experiences living throughout the world, teaching on global and urban issues at both Seattle Pacific University and Regent College equipped her to write as an experienced voice in the field of global Christian engagement. Her passion for the movement of God’s Spirit and the conversion of all peoples bleeds through her narratives. The issues Adeney raises through her stories vary from the interpretation of Scripture in different cultural contexts to the Church’s responses to catastrophe and persecution to more recently explored missiological issues such as environmental stewardship and inter-religious dialogue. I also appreciated how issues such as micro-lending and fair trade crops were addressed in connection with the Church. Throughout her book, Adeney faithfully represents diverse contexts and cultures.
I would recommend this book to anyone who connects with stories of faithful Christians around the globe. Adeney includes stories from the frontiers of the missions movement to modern-day actions taken by Christians around the world to confront the injustices on their doorstep. Some of these chapters tell of seasons from Adeney’s own life, while others are great tales of encouragement and hope Adeney heard or read secondhand. Her intention is to give Western readers a glimpse of contextual issues Christians and missionaries face around the globe on a daily basis. Adeney allows these stories to speak for themselves and many are powerful enough that little commentary is needed. Adeney’s stories are largely limited to InterVarsity, but she is the first to admit how many more illustrations of the Kingdom must be told. The title itself, Kingdom Without Borders, is such valuable language for the Church as it continues to understand itself beyond national identities as a people united in God’s Kingdom. Unfortunately, Adeney’s use of the term fails to appreciate the profound theological and political implications of this phrase.
What struck me as significantly lacking in Kingdom Without Borders, however, was attention to the diverse theological perspectives that emerge in differing cultural contexts. Familiar with William Dyrness’ excellent book, Invitation to Cross Cultural Theology, I began reading Kingdom Without Borders hoping that it would address areas in which the non-Western church illuminates areas of faith that the Western church often fails to see. There is such rich diversity within Christianity throughout the globe that is begging to be told. A continuing challenge within missions is how the Western Church can learn from and see God in other cultures—a practice that forces us to step back and engage the rest of the world with great humility.
My only other critique is that based on my study of liberation theology, I felt Adeney’s treatment was unfairly critical. Her implication that liberationist voices were motivated solely by anger fails to recognize how the Spirit moved in Scripture and continues to move today through God’s people in community as they oppose structures of sin. Anger may be one motivator that many victimized peoples wrongly use, and this criticism is fair of many revolutionary movements, but I believe God has used liberation theology to highlight the voices of the poor and marginalized, voices often overlooked in shaping global theology for the Church.
All that being said, I still found this work to be a valuable contribution because of how many untold stories were brought to light. I found encouragement and solidarity in hearing of other Christians attempting to follow the radical, upside-down nature of the cross of Christ into areas outside of success and safety. Praise God for their faithfulness and may their witness continue to challenge the comfortable.