Book review: The Meeting of the Waters

meeting of watersFritz Kling is a well-travelled man working with many mission agencies around the world. He’s also a thoughtful observer of what he’s found. In The Meeting of the Waters: 7 Global currents that will propel the future church Kling articulates those observations.

Kling introduces two characters to illustrate how the world has changed and how that affects the mission of the church both positively and negatively. On the one hand we have ‘mission marm’ who moved to serve God in the jungle in the 1950s and stayed there until she retired or died and expected almost total disconnection from life in her homeland. On the other hand we have ‘Apple Guy’ who is short-term and expects to stay entirely connected to friends, family & life back home.

Because the world has changed the future of mission belongs to ‘Apple Guy’ and not ‘Mission Marm’ but there are seven trends that the church is capitalizing on that give hope for the future.

Mercy (fairly self-explanatory), mutuality (the world is now a two-way street, we give and receive and learn from each other), migration (the nations are now in the cities of the world), monoculture (a flattening of cultures as globalisation takes hold), machines (the impact of technology), mediation (acting as peacemakers and go betweens) and memory (for example the memory of the genocide in Rwanda is something that will affect mission there for generations to come).

Some of the trends that Kling observes are stronger than others, some more apparent (machines and mercy) and others need a bit more thought (memory and mediation) but each trend is keenly observed and well told with stories from all around the globe. Kling makes his case well that these currents are flowing and that global mission needs to change and is changing as a result. Of course because these trends are global trends they don’t just affect mission somewhere else but also mission on my doorstep. Each chapter ends with a brief introduction to some organisations that represent best practices or are pioneering in the seven different areas.

The situation Kling describes is a fluid one and so in one sense this is only half the story, follow ups need to be made. Kling also mostly describes the activities of mission, development and aid agencies but there is little of the significant work of churches and local congregations. As a local church pastor committed to global mission I’d love to know more of how a church can respond to these challenges and opportunities, what that means for a church who hopes to send resources to the global mission field.

On the whole I found this book helpful, hopeful and encouraging and for those thinking and engaging in cross-cultural mission, this is a book worth reading.


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