Missiology Book Review: Beyond Christendom

Hanciles, Jehu. Beyond Christendom. Maryknoll: Orbis Books, 2008.

In this book Hanciles looks at three different subjects: 1) globalization, 2) African migration, and 3) the transformation of the West by these immigrants. Hanciles’ main argument is that migration and mission are inextricably connected. He shows that migration and Christian expansion have always gone hand in hand, and that in the West migration will change the shape of Christianity.

One of the most insightful chapters in this book is his chapter on assimilation. His exposition of the straight-line model, or “Anglo-conformity” model, helps the reader understand the immigrant experience in a new way. Anglo-conformity assumes that Anglo-Saxon culture is the superior and normative culture, and that immigrants should conform to this culture. He shows that this has been the assimilation model that most Americans have bought in to. (Think for a moment… do you feel as though this is true? It has certainly been my own experience when talking to Americans about immigration issues.) His discussion of various models of “assimilation” especially the straight-line model makes me wonder if our churches have adopted this model, which is absolutely unbiblical.

Another insightful point that Hanciles makes in this book is that the growth of Christianity has always gone hand in hand with migratory movements. This debunks the myth that Christianity has grown because “professional” missionaries have carried the faith to foreign lands. Although to an extent this is true, most of the growth in the Church is due to Christians migrating and carrying their faith along with them to their new homes. (Consider the persecution that happens in Acts, this persecution is an example of a “push” migration resulting in the spreading of the faith.)

If you work with a population that deals with immigration issues, this is a must read book. I highly recommend it.




Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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