Kreider, Alan and Eleanor. Worship & Mission After Christendom. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2011. 322 pp. $19.99.
Alan and Eleanor Kreider have been involved in missions their entire lives. They grew up as missionaries in Japan and India. Alan studied English Reformation history at Harvard and Eleanor studied piano performance at the University of Michigan. After their marriage, they traveled to England as Mennonite teachers where they lived for thirty years. While living in England they began to be interested in the early church and Eleanor studied advanced liturgy at King’s College. They were directors of the London Mennonite Centre and were pastors in the London Mennonite Fellowship. Before concluding their time in England, Eleanor taught worship at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University and Alan was the director of the college’s Centre for Christianity and Culture. In 2000, they relocated to Elkhart, Indiana but maintain a teaching schedule that takes them all over the world. Alan is a professor of church history and mission at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary. In addition, they are both active in writing books and articles.
The book begins by defining Christendom as “. . . a historical era, a geographical region, a political arrangement . . . for many centuries Europeans have lived in a society that is nominally Christian” (p. 15). Worship & Mission was written as a reaction to the decline of Christendom the authors witnessed while living in England during the latter half of the 20th century. They saw the good and bad of Christendom’s culture and how it affected the missio Dei, or mission of God (p. 20). Overall the book serves as a compilation of the history of worship and mission before and after Christendom. According to the authors, mission was not a focus during Christendom because church membership was given at birth. Therefore missionaries were not needed since all citizens were “Christian” (p. 24). It is obvious that the authors have studied the history of worship and are able to discuss it in a scholarly manner. They adhere to a theology of shalom, which means that Christ’s reconciling work on the cross is going to eventually usher in worldwide peace. They say, “ . . . our worship is authentic when it ascribes worth to the missional God, whose passionate project is to restore all things in Jesus Christ, and whose mission is to bring about impossible reconciliation” (p. 59).
The book is divided into thirteen chapters with various subheadings within the chapters. Worship and mission are discussed during and after Christendom. The resurgence of narrative story telling is mentioned briefly along with the search for hope. The inclusion of other cultures and outsiders is also explored. The Eucharist receives the most emphasis and is discussed from its beginnings and the various forms it has taken. Beginning in chapter six, the Eucharist is mentioned in some form throughout the rest of the book. Because of this, references to the liturgy are made throughout the book and each element is analyzed carefully. The authors’ goal of the book is to help the reader see how worship can be reflected in a missional lifestyle.
The history of the Christian church is outlined well and thoroughly covers the elements of the Eucharist and the liturgy. They include examples from Christians all over the world and make application for the Christian reader. For example, the section discussing testimonies gives practical application of how a church service can incorporate them effectively. They cite examples from the early church as well as modern examples (pp. 81-85). The incorporation of the L[A2] iturgy is important because the majority of Christians are not aware of how their worship has progressed historically. The authors clearly trace the history of the liturgy and show its relevance to readers today.
Although the authors support their arguments from history, they do not incorporate Scripture for all their ideas and suggestions. The focus of the book at times is primarily on the worshipper and not God. They do not fully explain their theology of shalom and seem to be more interested in addressing the social issues of the church over evangelism by the concern they show for how we worship within our cultural context (p. 228). For example, the author cites an example of his pastor who wrote a song about the environmental pollution caused by the “mega-shredder” down the street (pp.158-159). The authors mention sensory worship and social issues frequently which leads one to believe that they are supportive of the Emergent and Missional movements. The term “catholic” is used interchangeably with the “universal church” and the “Roman Catholic Church,” so that it is confusing to the reader. The book is timely because it deals with issues that the evangelical church is facing. Many churches are asking the same questions addressed here and are trying to make church more appealing to outsiders. Overall this is a useful text that expounds on church history and its implications for today.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, TX