I was disappointed that I only finished 2 books this month, and one of them was rather short, at that. However, at month end, I had 3 other books read up to the 75% mark, which will show up on next month’s book notes. The two I did finish however, were both very good, although very different types of books. Here’s my synopsis:
Towards a Clean Church: A Case Study in Nineteenth-Century Thai Church History
This was a fascinating case study about what went wrong in the growth of the church in Petchaburi, Thailand in the late 19th and early 20th century. Relying on many primary source materials, author Herb Swanson shows how the church grew and thrived under the leadership of missionary Eugene Dunlap, who had a gracious and forgiving attitude towards moral failings and problems in the Petchaburi church, and showed good pastoral care and a willingness to give practical help to church members. However, after Dunlap left, a newer, younger group of missionaries cycled in and out of the Petchaburi church, pursuing an agenda of cleansing the church of unconverted and wrongly-motivated converts. They were highly suspicious of “rice Christians” who were only at church for financial or practical help, and were strong on church discipline. The result is that the church floundered and almost died. Swanson advances the thesis that the Thai Christians and the newer group of missionaries had very different expectations of church membership, and neither group was able to understand or appreciate the expectations of the other. I found the cultural and social analysis intriguing, and I was given pause to think about patron-client relationships and what attitude missionaries and church leaders should have towards church members who are probably at church for mixed motives. The major short-coming of this short book (only 70 pages) was a lack of biblical analysis of how to think about the nature of conversion and church discipline. However, it would take a more evangelical author to delve into such subjects.
I found a hard copy of this out-of-print title in the seminary library, but you can