Book Review: Meeting of the Waters by Fritz Kling
Fritz Kling, The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church (David C. Cook, 2010). 240pp. Paper. $16.99.
While globalization is an established phenomenon, Fritz Kling was interested in how it affects the church. To that end, he interviewed church leaders in underdeveloped countries, the data from which organizes The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global Currents That Will Propel the Future Church.
Kling also uses two motifs to describe the interplay of tradition and change. One contrasts “Mission Marms”—traditional, evangelism-focused missionaries, against “Apple Guys”—innovative, global affairs-focused missionaries. He believes they must blend in a “Meeting of the Waters”—the other motif—to effect evangelism and social change.
The first current is Mercy, or social justice. Kling believes evangelism should be accompanied, and perhaps preceded, by service. Mutuality is the second: the West needs to listen to the contributions of church leaders from developing countries. Additionally, the church needs to be aware of and adapt its message for global migrants, the third current, as unreached peoples are no longer “over there” but here as well.
The fourth current is Monoculture, a homogenized global culture which, though flawed, can be used to spread the Christian message. Following Monoculture are Machines—technology—which can be utilized to show Mercy. The sixth current is Mediation: in a polarized world, the global church should offer reconciliation. The last current is Memory by which the church can affirm but heal the scars of the past. Concluding, Kling believes that Mission Marm was valuable but is waning. It is Apple Guy attune to the global currents who will “steer the global church downstream, beyond the Meeting of the Waters” (198).
One strength of this book is that it is interesting. Through travel stories, analyses of globalization trends, and examples of global Christians, Kling keeps the reader’s interest. This is also an accessible book which explains current issues the global church is facing by Kling who, as a philanthropic organization executive, knows about and has a heart for less-fortunate individuals. Additionally, each chapter provides information on “representative organizations” through which Christians can become involved.
A weakness to note, however, is Kling’s overemphasis of experience. It seems as if his imperatives for the global church arise more from his interviews and his and others’ experiences, than the indicatives of theology and Scripture, both of which are underrepresented in his book. Another problem is his emphasis on social action and transformation as functions of the church. Kling emphasizes service over evangelism and believes the church should “find its voice in…poverty, human rights, ecology, justice, conflict, equality, reconciliation, and global events” (24). This approach confuses the roles of Christians and the church in society, and law with gospel. The gospel is not good works; it is Christ crucified for sinners. Unfortunately, the latter is nowhere in Kling’s book.
Therefore, Kling poses good questions and identifies factors with which the global church interacts but does not provide adequate answers. His book might therefore be recommended for its assessment of global currents but should be supplemented with a gospel-centered missions book to provide scriptural and theological engagement.
Brandon Hoffman, MDiv Student