Pressure can be an amazingly destructive force. When pressure builds up inside the earth’s crust, it can result in a devastating earthquake. But pressure can also be beneficial. We would not have running water with it; neither would be able to enjoy the beauty of diamonds. Pressure, with its possibilities of benefit or destruction, is the metaphor at the heart of a new book by J.D. Payne.
Pressure Points lays out twelve of the global issues shaping the face of the church today, which is to say, twelve of the global issues that already are, and will continue to, impact the advancement of the gospel in the twenty-first century. Christians do not get to choose the issues that we must respond to or adapt to; however, we are able to choose how we will respond to them. Each of these issues represents a pressure point and with each point comes the possibility of success or failure, of responding well or responding poorly. Payne says, “While the church does not have control over the macro-level contextual issues of each generation, her response to them is a matter of kingdom stewardship.”
While we have seen many books like this in the past—books that describe contemporary challenges to Christianity’s advance—Pressure Points stands out in its positive tone. This is not a lament for what was or what should be. It is not a complaint about current realities. It is simply a realistic assessment of ways the world is changing and the new realities it presents. Payne believes the church’s best days are ahead and that each of these pressure points represents a great opportunity for the gospel.
Here are a few of the issues he identifies:
- unreached people groups
- the West as a mission field
- international migration
- oral learners
- pornification of societies
In each case he describes the issue, explains how it challenges the church, and offers a few thoughts on how the church can face the issue well. While none of the issues will have equal urgency in every place and every context, at least a few of them will apply to your church and to mine. Here in Toronto we see massive international migration, we see the effects of globalization, we see the importance of cities, and we cannot deny the impact of the pornification of society.
If there are weaknesses in the book, they may be related to the cursory examination of each of the issues. Because this is meant to be only a short book, Payne can not go into great detail on any single issue, though each could easily merit a book of its own. Also, he at times seems to blur “professed Christians,” of which there may be 2 billion on earth, with true disciples of Christ of which there are obviously far, far fewer. One of the greatest and most difficult mission fields of all is those who profess Christ and yet are committed to a false and unsaving gospel.
I found this a helpful examination of current issues and an encouraging look at the issues that will either help or hinder gospel advance in the years to come.