“The situation in which American church members now find themselves is one of unprecedented opportunities for engagement in the experiences of people whose lives are quite different from their own.” So says Robert Wuthnow in his new book Boundless Faith; The Global Outreach of American Churches. Wuthnow, a professor of Sociology at Princeton University, takes a scholarly look at the effects of ever-increasing globalization on the American church and its approach to missions. He notes that American churches have already responded in positive ways – with giving to overseas ministries having increased by 50% within the last decade, and numerous members involved in short-term missions trips or other forms of cross-cultural outreach. He also points out that greater exposure to other countries, peoples, and cultures has changed the way the U.S. church goes about setting policies and priorities for missions programs. For example, with a greater knowledge of slavery, religious oppression, and other social justice issues around the world the church is more concerned with a holistic approach to missions which goes beyond evangelism and community relief.In the final chapter, Wuthnow states “The future of American Christianity’s engagement with globalization depends on coming to a clearer understanding of its past.” I can only agree. With the resources (and with it influence) possessed by the American church, we have a tremendous potential for good. But if we are not careful and sensitive in our approach we can continue to be seen as arrogant and imperialistic.In the end, this book is not for everyone. It is high on research and theory, but rather lacking in practical application. Even so, pastors, missions leaders, and others concerned with the present state of world missions – and the American church’s involvement in it – will find value in Wuthnow’s analysis and observations.
Reviewed by Jerrid Stelter, Contributing Researcher/Writer