By Harvey Kwiyani. London: SCM, 2020. ISBN 978-0-334-05752-9. 256 pp.
Reviewed by Walter McConnell
Mission Round Table 18:3 (Oct-Dec 2023): 39
To read articles in this edition, visit this post on Mission Round Table 18:3.
Kwiyani’s book rightly declares that the church is a Multicultural Kingdom. His understanding is strikingly illustrated by his mother’s comparison of the church to a mosaic. “The beauty comes out of each piece being in its right place and contributing its colours—and all the pieces, in their magnificent colours, are needed for the mosaic to be a mosaic” (3). No matter what color we may be or how we fit into the mosaic, the book will give readers insight into what it means for the church to be multinational, multiethnic, and multicultural and thus reflect Christ’s vision and reveal both the goal of mission and means by which it is accomplished.
Following an introductory chapter, the book falls into three parts. Two chapters summarize the spread of the gospel through the modern (mainly Protestant) mission movement, how this interfaced with colonialization, and the recent migration of Christians to former colonizing countries, particularly Britain (where Kwiyani, who was originally from Malawi, now lives). Migration has caused places that were once largely monocultural to display great ethnic and cultural diversity. The next part considers the implications of the church’s diversity from cultural, ecclesiastical, and missiological perspectives. A main goal is to show that cultural diversity is a gift from God to be celebrated and taken advantage of. The final chapters focus on what Kwiyani identifies as the need for churches to reflect this diversity in their membership, leadership, and worship practices. Though the ideas discussed can be applied to many settings worldwide, the book is largely written for a British Christian audience.
As this book was written by a concerned Christian to his brothers and sisters in Christ, it is a highly personal account, peppered with numerous stories that illustrate the realities faced by many who live in culturally diverse contexts. There is much to applaud. As our earthly worship should resemble that which is to come, the mosaic Kwiyani envisions is a precursor of the worldwide multitude that Revelation says will worship the Lamb in the future kingdom. The author’s emphasis on our need to express hospitality, listen to one another, and build cross-cultural relationships demonstrates his concern for the needs of both minority and majority people within a larger culture and highlights things that benefit everyone. While this is nothing startling, it is refreshing to hear it again, read examples of how it is being done, and realize that it can be transferred to other settings.
Though this very readable book has a lot going for it, it is far from perfect. The power of some points is weakened by frequent repetition. How many times do we need to hear about rapid church growth in Africa or that the Western church needs to listen to immigrants? The author, just like the rest of us, at times uses Scripture and church history to support his ideas even when it is not certain that they do. The fact that Antioch was a cosmopolitan city and the church there had a multiethnic leadership does not demand that churches today follow this pattern. Similarly, tracing mission history back no farther than William Carey ignores more than 1700 years of mission by non-Protestants along with the fact that through much of its history the church was stronger and more missionally active in Asia and Africa than in Europe. Readers should also be careful to think through the statistics given. Some are just plain wrong and some are used to support ideas that conflict with others in the book. These cautions aside, most missionaries—particularly those working with diasporic peoples—would benefit from giving this book a thorough reading.