The Kingdom Unleashed: How Jesus’ 1st-Century Kingdom Values Are Transforming Thousands of Cultures and Awakening His Church

Written by Jerry Trousdale and Glenn Sunshine Reviewed By Bradley Cocanower

The Kingdom Unleashed utilizes narrative accounts of revivals and “kingdom movements” around the world to demonstrate why the Global South is in a season of spiritual flourishing and how the Global North must change their ways to overcome the trends of spiritual decline seen throughout the past several decades. “Kingdom Movements,” often called “Disciple Making Movements” (DMM) or “Church Planting Movements” (CPM), are defined as “a process of disciples making disciples, and churches planting at least 100 churches, with four or more generations of replication” (p. 21). These movements have caught the attention of missions organizations and missionaries around the world, but Trousdale and Sunshine argue that these movements are relevant for any and all who yearn for God’s kingdom to come in the Global North.

The book is divided into two main sections: First, Trousdale and Sunshine’s critique of the Global North by describing the “five categories of spiritual malpractice.” Second, the authors describe practical solutions to these areas of “malpractice” utilizing stories that illustrate how God is using Kingdom Movements around the world for the holistic transformation individuals and communities.

The authors explain the first area of malpractice by saying, “the church is not an end in itself, but the means to build the Kingdom” (p. 48). Their critique of compartmentalized Christianity, which fails to transform lives in a holistic way, is mixed. Certain elements are well founded; other statements are a stretch. Appropriately, however, they address issues such as the fact-value distinction and the bifurcated gospel. The second area of malpractice in the global north is prayer. Trousdale and Sunshine claim that “the church in the Global North does not pray enough” and “when we do pray, our priorities tend to not be the same as God’s priorities” (p. 62).

Third, the authors identify Constantine as a root problem, claiming that after his rule, church leadership became professionalized in a way that crippled the role of the laity. The fourth malpractice is that the church has emphasized knowledge instead of obedience. Again, they go deep enough to tackle some of the historical milestones such as the Reformation’s acknowledgment of grace as well as contemporary extremes like the idea of “cheap grace.” Lastly, Trousdale and Sunshine contrast movements and institutions, concluding that the Global North depends too much on institutions that simply can’t multiply. Though the malpractices addressed were inevitably generalizations, the broad criticisms are both accurate and well thought through.

The second part of the book describes fundamental aspects of Kingdom Movements, which can be taken, by implication, as the authors’ proposed solution to the aforementioned malpractices. For starters, we should understand and follow Jesus’s model for ministry as well as clarify our vision and strategy to accomplish that vision. They illustrate this through W. Allen’s story of reworking his vision for India in which he concludes, “I no longer say ‘I want to reach India’; I say, ‘Lord, I want to see India reached.’ I want to put God’s Kingdom first, rather than my own personal ministry” (p. 175).

Next, they argue that ordinary people must be equipped to do extraordinary things. A Christian businessman who observed Kingdom Movements in Africa says, “We cannot add disciple making and church planting to what we’re already doing. It has to be what we’re doing” (p. 211). Trousdale and Sunshine point to other issues as well. These include a concern with “branding,” a plethora of resources in the Global North that results in minimal dependence on God’s provision, and the need for simple training and resources that anyone can reproduce. This section contains many incredible stories of Kingdom Movements that almost sound too good to be true. Some stories felt squeezed in or forced, but it is clear that Trousdale and Sunshine have done extensive research into what God is doing around the world through these Kingdom Movements.

Trousdale and Sunshine acknowledge that DMM has received its fair share of criticism. Notably, the authors defend against critiques of “obedience-based discipleship” twice (chs. 5, 15). They ask, “Can there be any serious question about how important obedience is to our Christian life?” (p. 317). However, the critique of obedience-based discipleship is partly about the emphasis on obedience and more about the lack of emphasis on grace. The authors fail to respond to that critique, falling in line with many other DMM advocates who seem to gloss over this foundational element.

Finally, they look at the critique that Kingdom Movements don’t fit within the paradigms of modern ministry in the Global North. Their response is to point to Scripture: “It is our contention, though, that from the perspective of biblical faithfulness and spiritual fruitfulness, the Disciple Making Movement ministry paradigm is more consistent with Jesus’ instructions for His people, more aligned with the earliest church, and more empowering of ordinary people to change their world than the models of ministry that are currently in place in the Global North” (p. 365). The critiques of the Global North that this book puts forth must be considered and answered by every Christian in a position of spiritual leadership. The answer may not be DMM, but it is essential for the vitality of global Christianity that leaders answer these questions.

Bradley Cocanower

Bradley Cocanower
Columbia International University
Columbia, South Carolina, USA

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