Earlier this summer I had a great lunch at John’s Place with Randy Hein, a new friend here in Victoria, at the end of the lunch this local pastor also took me to a local bookstore where he bought me a book! Nice guy.
Randy either has great taste in books, or he very quickly and accurately evaluated what I would find compelling reading. Here is my review of that book
Christianity Rediscovered by Vincent J. Donovan
Donovans account of his missionary work amongst the tribal Masai of Kenya is a beautiful attempt of sharing the Jesus Story in culturally relevant ways. This is his reflection of his work in the African context, but his ability to separate his own culture from his story of faith speaks loudly to me. How can we take a 2000 year old story and attempt to bring it into todays culture in meaningful ways? This book is important for any person who would like to see Christ in their own specific cultural context.
I am sure that this book would have been inflammatory when it was first written as Donovan dramatically changed accepted missionary practice. Donovan describes his belief that Christianity has too often been simplified into:
- bringing development
- bringing God to a godless people
- bringing in a ‘newer better philosophy’.
He suggests that the original founders of our faith determined to bring only one thing, specifically the way ofChrist into a community. Once this was accomplished (or not) they left.
The problem with this simple understanding is that depending on your prior perspective, the phrase ‘bringing Christ’ is to easily reduced into a long held debate – what is the point of the Gospel? Social work or evangelism? Donovan suggests that the question at debate is the fault, both sides are making a gross assumption. Christianity is NOT social work, but neither is it creating versions of its western self in other nations. A true Christianity (the way of grace and shalom as revealed by Jesus) will take root within the prayer customs, morality, celebrations, rites and rituals, of any culture it finds itself within… exactly like it did in the western world for us! God is at work in creation in all places at all times.
Although dated in terms of modern politically-correct terms (phrases such as Natives and Pagans abound), I found Donovan’s obvious deep respect for the people he is in contact with, more than make up for any issues one might hold with his choice of language.
This is a book in which I will return to again, the simple story, and bright reflection was truly engaging.
What book matters to you right now?