The God Who Walks Slowly: Reflections on Mission with Kosuke Koyama – A review

Deputy General Secretary of CTBI Peter Colwell reviews this book by CTE's Principal Officer for Mission and Evangelism Rev Dr Ben Aldous.

Kosuke Koyama is not a universally familiar name but is someone whose thinking I have always found attractive and so for me this book is very welcome!

Koyama was Japanese and his Christian theology arises from his experience of post-War Japan, and also being a teenager in Tokyo during that war. One of his books No Handle on the Cross reminds us that calvary is no easy and convenient fact of faith. Another, Three Mile an Hour God, talks about how the God of the Bible and therefore the God of faith rarely moves faster than walking pace. This is the starting point for Ben Aldous’ book as he seeks to apply this idea to the matter of mission.

This is not a standard introduction to the theology of an important Asian theologian but is an exploration and a challenge regarding our ideas about mission. The book is therefore a journey through challenges in mission for the church today with a wise theologian from another culture to accompany us. It gently reminds us that all the work of God in the world is unlikely to be at a pace of our own choosing, nor is God likely to be cajoled into action by our own impatience, and yes, fear.

Ben has done us a great service in bringing before our eyes some of the ideas of Koyama: ideas of Eastern wisdom, of walking slowly, even plodding, and that not moving fast is absolutely fine, for that is what Jesus did in the New Testament and the way God works in the world. The need to listen (and stop talking) is there too! And this is a challenge to us in our situation where often strategies for mission and growth feel like everything must start happening straight away with no time to lose, the result is usually disappointment and exhaustion. So here is a book to liberate us from the compulsion to always be busy!

But this book is not only about Koyama, there is a good deal of the author’s own story here too, a practical missiologist not afraid to talk theology and to write in such a way that is accessible and engaging. And I think too that it is a hopeful book, hopeful in a God who will always take time in being with us whatever else is going on in our lives.

Benjamin Aldous, The God Who Walks Slowly: Reflections on Mission with Kosuke Koyama, SCM Press 2022 (also available as an e-book).

Peter Colwell is the Deputy General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.