Slow Kingdom Coming: Practices for Doing Justice, Loving Mercy and Walking Humbly in the World by Kent Annan is not a very long book (146 pages including Appendix and Notes) but it offers practical application meant to be used on a daily basis.
We live in a world surrounded by great needs and good causes. There are children starving in other countries, hurricane and earthquake victims right here and home, and homeless people probably nearby no matter where you live. A single person can be overwhelmed and wonder “why even bother?” No one person can do it all and with a little bit of perspective we realize that no one has to. With focus and discipline we can each do our part, realizing that God’s will being done “on earth as it is in heaven” is a slow process that does not bring instant gratification.
Kent Annan lists five practices, devoting a chapter to each one, that he claims have sustained him for the long term. The five practices are Attention, Confession, Respect, Partnering and Truthing. He offers many practical steps for putting these into practice and personal testimonies and stories from individuals and churches that demonstrate their effectiveness. Annan himself travels from his home in Florida to Haiti several times each year, developing long term relationships rather than “flirting” with mission work a week or two each year visiting a different exoit destination each time. Seeing the need and the work done in other cultures should have the effect of changing our perspective on needs across the street and around the block from our homes as well.
I like everything Annan says about the five practices and how to implement them. He has a heart for mission work and hurting people and his desire is that Christians work together in meaningful and effective ways to do good in the world. Having said that, however, I do have some reservations about the language he uses and perhaps his basic motivation. Jesus taught his disciples to pray “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We can easily tell by looking at the world around us this doesn’t happen. I agree wholeheartedly that God’s kingdom is slow in coming. Kingdom work looks more like a slow cooker than a microwave. My issue with the premise of Annan’s book is his repeated use of the word justice.
“We need to be transformed ourselves as we work for the world to become more just.” p.44
“For individuals, these five practices apply to how to participate in God’s justice in your family, community, country and the world.” p.24
“These practices are crucial because a paradoxical element of faith within our work for justice is that in a sense we believe the outcomes are completely up to God, yet in another sense it seems God has left the outcomes up to us.” p.22
He never says we are responsible for bringing the kingdom of God but hints at dozens of times throughout the book. The motivation to do any works and bear fruit of any kind is because we seek justice in the world. I believe faith without works is dead per James 2:17. The kingdom is slow in coming but the fact that it isn’t here yet does not reflect some failure on humanity’s part to bring it sooner. Annan doesn’t say it in so many words, but one possible interpretation of his writing is that when enough people are working toward justice in enough places around the world, we will finally get our act together and bring the Kingdom.
Let me be clear: I agree with the vast majority of everything he has to say. I recommend this book to anyone that has noticed many of our American churches seem to be self-serving and are ready to take their first steps into a larger world. The practices described and the methods of application are all things that Christian believers need to be doing. I wish it was a little more clear the we each do the work we are called to and that God will bring the Kingdom. The book seems to focus on the self-realization that the world is an unjust place and says little or nothing about the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit will guide us into wisdom and guide our steps toward doing God’s will. The Spirit still convicts people of sin and draws them toward Jesus, making it possible for people to hear the Gospel message we share. Annan’s formula, from the chapter on Truthing, is that “truth multiplied by love leads us toward God’s justice.”
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.