About the book
The American church is at a critical crossroads. Our witness has been compromised, our numbers are down, and our reputation has been sullied, due largely to our own faults and fears. The church's ethnocentrism, consumerism, and syncretism have blurred the lines between discipleship and partisanship.
Pastor Eric Costanzo, missiologist Daniel Yang, and nonprofit leader Matthew Soerens find that for the church to return to health, we must decenter ourselves from our American idols and recenter on the undeniable, inalienable core reality of the global, transcultural kingdom of God. Our guides in this process are global Christians and the poor, who offer hope from the margins, and the ancient church, which survived through the ages amid temptations of power and corruption. Their witness points us to refocus on the kingdom of God, the image of God, the Word of God, and the mission of God.
The path to the future takes us away from ourselves in unlikely directions. By learning from the global church and marginalized voices, we can return to our roots of being kingdom-focused, loving our neighbor, and giving of ourselves in missional service to the world.
That which is inalienable is essential and undeniable. That word resonates for some Americans because of its role in the Declaration of Independence, where it is used to describe the rights to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That commitment was, at best, what Martin Luther King Jr. described as a “promissory note” to be claimed by future generations of Americans, since it clearly was not applied by the founders to all men (to say nothing of all women) at the time of the nation’s founding.
Our goal is not to examine what’s admirable or not in the foundation of our nation, but rather the core, inalienable truths about God that we must recover if the American church is to save our sinking ship: his kingdom, image, word, and mission. These truths are at the very center of the biblical narrative.
Drawn from the Latin word alius, meaning “other,” to call something inalienable means that there is no other: what is inalienable has been established by God and therefore cannot be removed or abolished. For example, there is no other God (Ex 20:3) and thus we must reject idolatry—whether of our nation, our security, or our privileged position in society. Additionally, in God’s kingdom, while the beauty of culture and ethnicity remain, there is no “other”— neither Jew nor Gentile; male nor female; citizen nor immigrant; White nor Black, Latina/o, Arab, Asian, nor Indigenous. Instead we “are all one in Christ Jesus” and of equal worth and importance (Gal 3:28). Scripture is clear that “God does not show favoritism” (Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6) and that faithful discipleship requires us to emulate our Lord.
We’ve written this book because we believe American Christians are at a critical crossroad, and the very soul of the American church is at stake. Jesus Christ promised that his church will endure until he returns again (Mt 16:18). He did not make that promise to the American church, however. If we are to stem this tide of decline and decay, it will take all of us—and it will take humility to listen to voices of the church beyond the White American evangelical stream of the faith which has long assumed leadership.
Adapted from chapter one, “Why the American Church Needs Saving”
Matthew Soerens is the US director of church mobilization and advocacy for World Relief and the national coordinator of the Evangelical Immigration Table. Previously Matthew served as a Department of Justice–accredited legal counselor with World Relief's local office in Wheaton, Illinois. He is the coauthor of Welcoming the Stranger and Seeking Refuge.
Eric Costanzo (PhD) is a pastor and teacher from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who writes about biblical, cultural, and historical topics along with global issues affecting the church. Eric is executive director for RisingVillage.org, an organization with initiatives to help marginalized people become full participants in their communities. He is also the author of Harbor for the Poor. Eric and his wife, Rebecca, have four children who have wonderfully compassionate hearts for others.
Daniel Yang is the director of the Church Multiplication Institute at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, a think tank for evangelism and church planting. He has pastored and helped plant churches in Detroit, Dallas-Fort Worth, Toronto, and Chicago. He earned an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a BS in computer science from the University of Michigan, and is currently a PhD student in intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
"There have been few books that rightly assess and analyze the tensions American church leaders are managing in our current cultural moment. In Inalienable, the authors not only provide a proper assessment and analysis of these issues, but more importantly, they also offer a way forward. If you care about what the next generation of American Christianity looks like and how marginalized voices are shaping the future of American churches, I highly recommend this book."
– Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center and dean of the School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership
"This is a book for our times, some strong-but-needed medicine. The authors write, 'Many in the American church have replaced worship of God with idolatrous pursuits of wealth and power, at the cost of our integrity.' In many ways, much of the American church has lost her way in consumerism, political idolatry, and shallowness. As a result, the church in America is feeble. This book is a clarion call for American Christians to listen to and learn from our brothers and sisters in the global church. The future of the American church depends on it."
– Derwin L. Gray, cofounder and lead pastor of Transformation Church, author of How to Heal Our Racial Divide: What the Bible Says, and the First Christians Knew, about Racial Reconciliation
"This book, by some of the most thoughtful leaders in the church today, points us away from fear and panic and toward promise and hope and joy. Jesus is building his church, and doing so, as he always has, using those who are at the margins. This book will help ready you for the exciting next generation of the Spirit's work through the church."
– Russell Moore, Christianity Today
"As 'the most substantial threats to American Christianity are not those from outside but from within,' Costanzo, Yang, and Soerens in Inalienable employ the voices of world Christianity to call the American church to account. From the outset, the authors employ a global hermeneutic to revisit biblical concepts of the kingdom, image, word, and mission of God from the perspective of marginalized people to address the blind spots in American Christianity. Every pastor and Christian leader in the United States should read this book."
– Gina A. Zurlo, codirector of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
"The US church is in sharp decline. As in the days of Jesus of Nazareth, however, hope sometimes springs from unexpected and forsaken places such as 'Galilee of the Gentiles.' Costanzo, Yang, and Soerens point us to those voices of hope from the global and rapidly growing immigrant church."
– Robert Chao Romero, associate professor in the departments of Chicana/o studies and Asian American studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, author of Brown Church
"This is a must-read resource for church leaders and church members, for missionaries, and for any of us living in what feels like a world turned upside down. The answer to whether God is still at work in the American church lies in its capacity to grow and learn from those outside our borders. Inalienable is a guided tour by seasoned and dedicated travelers into what it means to be a church that is both locally rooted and globally minded. It's the journey of a lifetime."
– Mindy Belz, author of They Say We Are Infidels
"The church is flourishing in many parts of the world today, but it's easy for those of us in the West to feel a sense of hopelessness as we see the churches we attend, love, and perhaps lead mired in scandals, materialism, consumerism, and nationalism. Our brothers and sisters around the world, however, are tackling the challenges of poverty, forced migration, trafficking, and natural disasters, pointing a broken world to a better way, and we in the Western church have so much to learn and receive about the good news being proclaimed in both word and deed from the broader church. This book helps us do just that, sharing the incredible work that God is doing around the world, pointing us to a better way to listen and learn from our brothers and sisters who are living out the ways and truths of Jesus to transform their communities and ultimately point people to Christ. The Bible is the story of God centering those on the margins, and this book teaches us as the church to do the same."
–Jenny Yang, senior vice president for advocacy and policy for World Relief and coauthor of Welcoming the Stranger
"This is the book I've been waiting for. Each author is writing from different disciplines and ministry backgrounds, each grateful for their tribes yet seeing something far more important—kingdom citizens made of every tribe, tongue, and nation. Until we see ourselves as one people with one King and one mission, we will forever undermine Jesus, the One we claim to worship. It's time we stop talking so much and start listening a lot more—to God and one another. The church is broken and lost—this book points to the path back home. May we get on our faces before God and repent of our deepest sin, a failure to love with abandonment."
– Bob Roberts Jr., founder of Glocal.Net and Northwood Community Church in Keller, Texas, and cofounder of the Multi-Faith Neighbors Network
"Costanzo, Yang, and Soerens have given the American church a tremendous resource with this profound and needed book. Their impassioned call to us is to listen to our brothers and sisters in the Majority World and minority churches in the United States. These authors recognize that White American Christians can no longer act as the dominant partner in missions and theology, but rather we need to adopt a vulnerable and listening posture. This is a must-read for all Christians who long to see renewal in American evangelicalism."
– Tish Harrison Warren, Anglican priest and author of Liturgy of the Ordinary and Prayer in the Night