Tuesday, May 11, 2010

'The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church' by Fritz Kling - Book Review

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The world is an ever changing place; nothing ever stays the same.  In his new book, ‘The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church,Fritz Kling assesses the world today and the trends that need to be understood by the Church of Jesus Christ in order to be most effective for the furtherance of His Kingdom in the future.

Here is the biography of the author:

Fritz Kling has spent the past decade in the heart of the global Church, traveling villages and cities in every corner of the world.  In preparing to writing The Meeting of the Waters, King spent a year conducting one hour interviews with more than 150 Christian leaders from 19 developing countries.  As a foundation executive, he has worked alongside both high-level leaders and grassroots workers, giving him an insider’s perspective on the changes occurring in the global church.  Fritz and his family live in Richmond, Virginia.

And here’s the description of the book from the back cover:

In The Meeting of the Waters, Fritz Kling identifies seven trends – such as Migrations, Machines, and the growing Mercy generation – impacting today’s global church.  Equal parts travelogue, character study, and global documentary, this breakthrough book is for anyone eager to understand and make a difference in a changing world.

Here’s the book trailer for this important book:

Mr. Kling derived the book's title from a natural phenomenon - an interesting aspect of two tributaries of the Amazon River.  Fritz describes the scene this way:

Like oil and water, the Amazon’s two tributaries do not blend or mix upon meeting, but create instead a seam of sorts.  They appear from the air to be side-by-side runners of black and caramel carpet.  From my plane, I could see tour boats sitting astride the seam, with passengers on one side of the boat looking down at the placid Rio Negro [“black water”], and people on the other side watching the caramel commotion of Rio Solimoes [“white water”]. (p. 23)

Mr. Kling makes this observation about how Christians will need to operate in the future, spinning off from Dr. John Stott:

Christians, I believe, have always struggled with whether to embrace or reject the world, but separation is no longer an option.  The admonition of British scholar John Stott rings truer than ever.  Dr. Stott charged world-concerned Christians with engaging in “double listening,” paying attention “both to the ancient Word and the modern world, in order to relate the one to the other with a combination of fidelity and sensitivity.” (p. 25)

In comparison to the Amazon River tributaries, Fritz sees two sides of the Christian church, exemplified by Mission Marm, who represents the old way of doing missionary work – leaving her culture behind and focusing on a new culture, and Apple Guy (meaning the gadget company, not the fruit!), who is described this way:

He excels in double tasking, but he will surely have difficulty double listening.  Flexible and capable of adapting, he likely lags in teaching skills, counseling, mission history, international experience, and ultimately, perhaps, commitment. (p. 25)

Fritz explains the purpose for this book:

This book provides the global church not with a one-size-fits-all map detailing the river’s course, but a flexible and varied tool for continually recognizing and adjusting to the all-bets-are-off global environment.  It is a tool that must be used widely and shared. (p. 26)

Mr. Kling reviews the following seven trends which he identified during his research which will affect the Church:

1. Mercy: Social justice has become a global imperative, especially among youth and young adults.  For Christians, this will lead to an increasing emphasis on meeting physical needs in addition to continuing the long-standing emphasis on evangelism.

2. Mutuality: Leaders from traditionally poor countries increasingly have education, access, technology, and growing economies…and they will demand to be heard.  Global church leaders from traditionally powerful countries will need to account for these new perspectives and voices.

3. Migration: Relocation among nations and regions is on the rise and will be rampant – especially to cities – whether for jobs, war, schooling, tourism, or politics.  All future Christian outreaches will need to adapt their message for radically diverse audiences.

4. Monoculture: The cultures of all countries will become more and more similar, thanks to the spread of worldwide images, ideals, celebrities, and ad campaigns.  Christians seeking to communicate with global neighbors will need to be aware that marketing from outside their borders now shapes many of their deeper values.

5. Machines: Cell phones, GPS, television, and the Internet are transforming lifestyles worldwide.  The future global church must recognize how newfound abilities to communicate, travel, and consume are changing individuals’ lives and values, too.

6. Mediation: Splinter groups now have more communication avenues for inciting discord and attracting sympathizers than ever, and the global church must find a mediating role amid increasing polarizations of all kinds.

7. Memory: Ever as globalization reshapes the world, every nation and region has distinct histories that have profoundly shaped their society.  Visitors must understand how yesterday affects today, in ways potentially undermining because they are invisible and unstated. (pp. 32-33)

Mr. Kling highlights several individuals and multiple situations in each chapter.   I will focus on two of the “M”s that are of great  interest to me – Mercy and Monoculture.

I am convinced that Jesus is the only answer – not the government, not the economy, not the military, not psychology, etc…  Therefore, I think that the Church is the most productive way to improve the problems of the world.  I am greatly encouraged by the fact that youth and young adults are so energized and interested in showing mercy to ‘the least of these.’  They are exemplifying Jesus in their lives, and the world will be a better place because of it.  Mr. Kling explains:

Just as a rash of global natural crises is occurring around the world, there has also arrived a new generation of students and young adults who view service to others as a defining expression of their faith.  Twentieth-century author Frederick Buecher wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”  As it intersects with this generation of students and young adults, the global church must model Jesus Christ, whose words survive today precisely because they were accompanied by acts of service and sacrifice. (p. 41)

Showing mercy and loving kindness is a much more effective evangelical tool than Bible thumping - 'actions speak louder than words,' as the old saying goes!

The trend of Monoculture reflects the fact that much of an individual nation’s culture is influenced by media, multinational corporations, etc…  Fritz explains how this trend affects the global church:

A distinctive of Christianity is that Jesus inhabited our world as a full human, and He loved the earth and all of its inhabitants.  He lived in a family, enjoyed beauty, endured conflict, and even worked a job.  Likewise, followers of Christ are called to be in the world…but we are warned not to be of it.  As the Current of Monoculture washes over and reshapes societies around the world, it is incumbent on the global church to muster a Christlike response.  Jesus no doubt embraces Ireland and Singapore, even as they change, and He finds ways to relate to people in their environment.  In that relationship, He offers another kind of transformation.  (p. 112)

Mr. Fritz points out that there are advantages to those who are newly exposed to the gospel:

The Bible promises – and history confirms – that close encounters with the lived-out gospel will be attractive and compelling.  Whenever Monoculture advances in the form of the global youth culture, the global church should also expect that opportunities will abound for creative relevant, authentic Christian witness.  Further, the church should celebrate the youth who are newly exposed to the gospel – in Cuba, in former Soviet countries, and in post-Christian countries with little current Christian influence – have not been inoculated against Jesus Christ.  Christianity has been, during their young lives, a non-factor.  A pastor planting churches in Amsterdam told me that youth in his city are invariably open to authentic, relational Christianity, if not to formal, tradition-bound Christian churches.  Sounds like what Jesus encountered – and took advantage of – in His days on earth. (p. 125)

That paragraph is a pretty persuasive argument that the unadulterated version of the gospel of Jesus Christ is most attractive to people.  I firmly believe that churches that, for example, try to entertain us and remove the crosses in their buildings – and thereby remove the saving blood of Jesus and water down the truth as a result – are not really gaining new followers of Jesus, but are instead creating followers of their charismatic pastors or their catchy messages.

Mr. Kling concludes his book this way:

Christianity around the world, too often viewed as staid or boring or regressive, actually provides the richest journey that life can offer.  The people are riveting the issues compelling, and the stakes high.  God knows the future beyond the Meetings of the Waters is full of possibility, hope, and reward – and the world is waiting…but not for long. (p. 201)

I found this book to be highly insightful and encouraging.  I enjoyed reading about the direction that the younger generation is taking the church, particularly in the area of extending mercy to others.  I see it as being more in line with how Jesus lived His life than the direction the generation currently in power has taken our society and our world, which is by focusing on division and the political realm to solve the world’s problems.  I think Jesus is pleased with this new direction, and I thank Fritz Kling for bringing these currents to our attention.

You can order this book here.

This book was published by David C. Cook and provided by the B&B Media Group for review purposes.

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