Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
Everyone Belongs to God: Discovering the Hidden Christ
by Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt
About the Book
How can Christians represent the love of Christ to their neighbors (let alone people in foreign countries) in an age when Christianity has earned a bad name from centuries of intolerance and cultural imperialism? Is it enough to love and serve them? Can you win their trust without becoming one of them? Can you be a missional Christian without a church?
This provocative book, based on a recently uncovered collection of 100-year-old letters from a famous pastor to his son-in-law, a missionary in China, will upend pretty much everyone's assumptions about what it means to give witness to Christ.
Blumhardt challenges us to find something of God in every person, to befriend people and lead them to faith without expecting them to become like us, and to discover where Christ is already at work in the world. This is truly good news: No one on the planet is outside the love of God.
At a time when Christian mission has too often been reduced to social work or proselytism, this book invites us to reclaim the heart of Jesus' great commission, quietly but confidently incarnating the love of Christ and trusting him to do the rest.
Our gospel has been too small. It is, indeed, too small a thing to think that the hope of the world rests in our ability to recruit others into our religion. Blumhardt calls us to embrace the revolutionary notion that everyone belongs to God. He is a prophet for our time.
Who Is Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt?
by Charles E. Moore, Editor
Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt (1842–1919), a Lutheran pastor in Germany, was not at home either in church or secular circles; his views seemed to challenge and disconcert everyone. And yet he possessed a strange, infectious confidence in God's history and an uncanny ability to see what it takes to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world.
Son of the renowned Johann Christoph Blumhardt, a pastor in Möttlingen and later in Bad Boll, Christoph Blumhardt continued his father's work. But he found himself increasingly alienated from the established German church and eventually broke with all the outward forms of church life, clerical robe and all. His exit from the institutional church was partly due to his growing concern over the dire social conditions around him, which eventually led him to take to the streets in support of the labor movement.
Though he served in the Wurttemberg parliament as a Social Democrat from 1900 to 1906, he could never really bring himself to be a tried-and-true party member. He returned to Bad Boll and in his later years sought to point those who would listen to him to a vision of God's kingdom that would bring about lively communities of faith where people could give themselves completely to God's future.
Richard Wilhelm was one of many who were greatly influenced by Blumhardt's fiery conviction that the advancement of God's kingdom – its here-and-now actualization – must take precedence over all else. When Wilhelm set out to become a missionary in China, he was already closely involved with Blumhardt. During his short service as an assistant pastor in Bad Boll, Wilhelm had been deeply moved and gripped by this spirit-filled man of faith. He went on to marry Blumhardt's daughter Salome. So it was of special significance to Blumhardt that Wilhelm and his wife went oversees to serve the cause of Christ. To him they were, above all, envoys of God's kingdom – a cause far greater than what was expected of missionaries.
In May 1899 the General Evangelical-Protestant Missionary Society (Far East) assigned Wilhelm the territory of Kiaochow, on China's Yellow Sea. Under European duress, China had been forced to cede this area to Germany on a ninety-nine-year lease. As a missionary pastor in Tsingtao (fast becoming a flourishing colonial city), Wilhelm was assigned a threefold task: to be a pastor, spread Christianity among the Chinese, and promote understanding between China and Germany.
Under Blumhardt's influence, however, Wilhelm viewed the Missionary Society, of which he was formally a part, as merely an outward instrument serving the higher purpose of God's kingdom. He was neither interested in traditional mission nor in representing Germany. He wanted something entirely new.
Blumhardt, for his part, felt a special responsibility for the work of his son-in-law, whom he had so obviously influenced. This motivated Blumhardt to write over a hundred letters to Wilhelm between 1898 and 1914. Many of the selections in Everyone Belongs to God are extracts, thematically arranged, from these letters. The rest are from various sermons and lectures.