Take & Read: Global Christianity

Five new books about the lives and faith of Christians around the world

Those who write the story of Christianity commonly focus on deliberate and conscious mission. But that is misleading. Repeatedly, the church has spread through actions that seem unrelated to any religious intent. People move and migrate, sometimes reluctantly, and they take their religion with them, often with no particular intention of sharing it beyond their own community. Still, such people are creating a bridgehead for their faith. Believers arrive first, and the missionaries follow. Never underestimate the power of happenstance—or dare we call it Providence?

In an admirably ambitious study, Jehu J. Hanciles illuminates the relationship between Migration and the Making of Global Christianity (Eerdmans). To some extent, his work should be categorized as historical, as it spans the first 1,500 years of the faith. But he never loses his central focus on the core theme of migration, which he rightly presents as essential to understanding global Christianity in any era. Hanciles frequently refers to his other writings on modern-day African diasporas, and he never lets us forget the links and parallels that bind the early centuries to our own day.

Hanciles redraws the historical maps by which we understand the Christian story. He rightly places the emphasis on borderlands and frontier states—those territories that stand uncomfortably poised between the great empires and states, and which so often prove vital for the preservation and transmission of faith. This is an adventurous transnational study that demands to be read and cited.