Stumbling toward Zion
Recovering the Biblical Tradition of Lament in the Era of World Christianity
In this powerful and challenging book, David W. Smith identifies a crisis at the heart of the church. It is the crisis of triumphalism – the tendency to avoid honest engagement with brokenness and suffering, privileging victory while rejecting the practice of lament. This imbalance, Smith argues, threatens to undermine the credibility of faith for a watching world, alienating those experiencing hardship and oppression; those wrestling with doubt, uncertainty, and loss.
In Stumbling toward Zion, Smith reclaims the importance of lament throughout Scripture – from the Old Testament to the gospel narratives and Paul’s letters – and explores the history and impact of its loss within certain church traditions. World Christianity, with its heartlands in contexts of poverty, war and persecution, has a crucial role to play in recovering an understanding of God’s love for a suffering creation capable of restoring the credibility of Christian witness in the midst of our brokenness. Containing practical application for church life and mission, Smith offers an opportunity to reengage with biblical lament, rediscover neglected aspects of Christian faith, and reawaken to God’s heart for a suffering world.
Stumbling toward Zion is an outstanding book that makes a unique contribution to understanding a spirituality of lament in the era of world Christianity. There is a deep authenticity about David Smith’s approach. He listens carefully to the biblical text, is attentive to a rich diversity of voices from the Majority World church and, crucially, demonstrates an honest and vulnerable spirituality in his own writing.
Peter Rowan, PhD
Co-National Director, OMF UK
In Stumbling toward Zion, Dr David Smith brings an age-old biblical tradition back on the table. He points out biblical examples of what was sometimes a long and hard struggle between things promised or hoped for and fears arising from a contradicting reality. Such tension between promise and brokenness is still with us to this day.
While acknowledging that human suffering is universal, this book brims with examples of adversity from non-Western contexts, underscoring how such hardship can breed unique perspectives on the spirituality of lament, thereby leading to hopes of social transformation and healing.
For all who yearn to see a bridge in the gap between faith and suffering, promise and reality, vision and limitation, divinity and humanity, through deep reflections on prayerful lament, this book is a very promising read.
Samuel O. N. G. Nwokoro
Department of Public Theology,
Theological College of Northern Nigeria, Jos, Nigeria
Stumbling toward Zion offers a penetrating analysis regarding the loss of lament amidst global and cultural changes that are overtaking Christian faith and witness. The book is pregnant with biblical scholarship and insights from the world church; David Smith weaves personal stories of loss and hope and includes thoughts for reflection at the end of each chapter. I recommend this treasured gift warmly to mission workers and church leaders for careful study and application.
Kang-San Tan, PhD
General Director, BMS World Mission
Table of Contents
- Recovering a Lost Biblical Tradition
- The Testimony of Biblical Israel
- The Testimony of the Jesus Movement
- The Witness of Paul: Ecstasy and Agony
- Speaking of God
- Biblical Lament and the Future for World Christianity
- Appendix 1: Paul’s Missionary Theology
- Appendix 2: A Global Chorus Singing New Songs