Shining Like Stars: The Power of the Gospel in the World’s Universities – Book Review

The Power of the Gospel in the World’s Universities
Author:  Lindsay Brown
Publisher:  Inter-Varsity Press, 2006
ISBN:  1844741672

Book Review by Tim Davy, Reviews Editor for Encounters.

Shining Like Stars is an account of the work of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) by its retiring General Secretary, Lindsay Brown.
It has a number of strengths.  Firstly it is very well written with a clear, conversational style that draws the reader into the book and links the stories together very effectively.

Secondly, the whole book hangs together well using themes around which to structure the narrative.  Issues covered include God’s sovereignty and human effort, evangelism, world mission, social and political engagement, the power of the gospel to bring reconciliation and forgiveness, the call to sacrifice and the need to persevere.  Each theme is reflected upon didactically and illustrated with rich examples of those principles in action in the student world.

Take, for example, the chapter on world mission.  Brown begins by reflecting on the significance of universities for reaching into all people groups, noting the importance of international students on our own doorstep.  Interestingly, he suggests that IFES was the first international mission organisation to appoint a non-Westerner as its leader (a Chinese Singaporean became its General Secretary in 1972).  He highlights mission conferences as a key factor in students volunteering for the mission field and recounts a remarkable story of the 1991 mission conference in Nigeria where 1000 students came forward to go on a short term project to a Muslim country when the organisers only asked for 15!  IFES, Brown says, has always sought to put cross-cultural work on the agenda of students.  He then tackles some common objections to the missionary task and even reflects on the choice some have to make between keeping their families happy and obeying God’s call on their lives.  Finally, Brown considers the importance of integral mission and partnerships with other mission agencies.  Most key points are illustrated by accounts of students putting these principles into practice; thus the reader is informed both by the stories themselves and explicitly (for example, in a box entitled: ‘How to develop a world mission mindset’).

Some of the stories Lindsay Brown recounts are deeply moving, but they are not overdone.  The temptation, I am sure, would have been to cram in as many stories as possible, but each one seems to have been chosen carefully.  They are taken from around the globe and emphasise the strength and importance of the non-Western church.  It is perhaps a sobering thought that most of the stories recounted come from outside Europe.

Missionary biography is a tricky genre.  How do you inspire without sounding judgmental or unattainable?  How do you encourage readers to consider the importance of cross-cultural mission without playing down the reader’s own mission situation at home or in the office?  Lindsay Brown has done an admirable job at striking a balance between these things.

Shining Like Stars is a good read and full of practical wisdom into mission and discipleship.  It would serve as a good narrative introduction to mission and, I suspect, will encourage the mission veteran with its realistic, yet confident assessment of the missionary endeavour.

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