Book Review for Gospelbound: Living with Resolute Hope in an Anxious Age

Book Review for Gospelbound: Living with Resolute Hope in an Anxious Age

Editor’s note: I received an advance copy of this book free of charge in exchange for an honest review. Gospelbound was released earlier this week.

In a former life, I was, for a brief period, a reporter. I hated it: hard news was, essentially, a roundup of all the worst and most bizarre things currently happening in my local sphere. Searching for things that satisfied that criteria corroded my soul, leaving me angry and depressed even as I continued to believe that the light and truth brought by good journalism are essential to a healthy and functioning society. Gospelbound: Living with Resolute Hope in an Anxious Age, a new book by Collin Hansen and Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, is the antidote to our modern obsession with bad news. (Funnily enough, early in the book Zylstra confessed her initial, journalistic skepticism for anything that focused too much on so-called fluff.) In line with Paul’s Phil. 4:8 admonition to think on that which is excellent and worthy of praise, Gospelbound disciples us to turn our eyes from the anxieties of the age to things that are true, honorable, just, and commendable.

The book’s opening salvo is that the anxiety and fear that dominates American lives and phone screens is understandable, especially for Christians. Faith is declining, everyone is angry, even children are stressed, and our society’s moral compass seems completely up for debate. Yet, despite all the uncertainty, God is still accomplishing his good purposes.

At China Partnership, we are continually begging the global church to remember and pray for our Chinese brothers and sisters. I was pleased, therefore, to see Gospelbound open by turning our eyes to the hopeful experience of Chinese Christians. “Sliding out of a privileged position may not be a bad thing for the American church,” Zylstra and Hansen write. “What if our proximity to power of all kinds is not making us stronger but is sapping our potential for genuine Christ-like faith and action?”

Western Christians are accustomed to feeling at ease in a world that has been in large part built on the assumptions and foundations of Christianity. Yet current societal changes may actually help believers develop a healthier relationship with this world. Zylstra spoke with a believer who works regularly with house church Christians. He reminded her that earth is not our home, and said persecution is not the biggest hazard Chinese Christians face: “When the tension eases between your earthly identity and your heavenly identity—that’s the biggest threat.”


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A few chapters later, Zylstra and Hansen revisit the experience of Chinese Christians, talking of how they suffer with joy and embrace the cross. They contrast this with the prosperity gospel often endemic to American churches—although I would note that the prosperity gospel is also a temptation and an allure for Chinese Christians, who are no less susceptible to its siren call than any other people group around the world. Still, the lived experience of faith in a country that is determined to stamp out any who give their allegiance to God above their government does indeed remind Chinese believers that following God comes at a cost. Thus, they embrace the cross, proclaiming that “suffering leads to glory”—not because suffering itself is glorious, but because it leads to greater intimacy with the God of glory.

While my interest was particularly piqued by the China-centric sections, the rest of the book offered much of value. One chapter focused on Christian care for the weak and vulnerable, drawing from the experiences of a young woman who started an outreach in strip clubs in Kentucky. Another centered on the Christian imperative to love one’s enemies, sharing the story of a woman whose husband and two young sons were killed by Hindu extremists in India, where they were serving as missionaries. John Piper’s radical call to not waste your life by focusing on money or comfort, but instead to live with the kingdom and glory of God as our lodestar, was also featured—and is always a welcome and needed perspective for any Western Christian surrounded by material comforts and pleasures. They also talk of the example of Black American Christians, who have long been accustomed to following Jesus in a world that is not welcoming or comfortable.

As a parent of three young children, I was particularly encouraged and challenged by a chapter on radical hospitality—especially a section that spoke of education as “an act of inclusion, extending the hospitality of knowledge to another generation.” I was reminded of the solemn responsibility I have as a mother to safeguard and protect the religious and moral formation of my children’s minds, and my imagination was fired by the story of a high quality classical Christian school just a few blocks from the neighborhood where George Floyd was killed last summer. Hospitality, the way it is presented in Gospelbound, can and should include even education, driving Christians to open doors for their neighbors’ children as well as their own, welcoming little ones from every neighborhood into a lifetime of following and knowing their Creator and the world he made.

I would heartily recommend Gospelbound. I found myself reading certain sections aloud to my husband, a church planting pastor, as I thought about the challenges and opportunities of our day and age, and how to live godly lives in this time. If there was a weakness in the book, it was that the foibles and failings of the believers featured—whether they be Southern Baptist disaster response teams or Chinese house church Christians—are merely touched upon, not examined. While the book did attempt to avoid this pitfall, Gospelbound’s very premise makes this hard to avoid.

Overall, the book is a much-needed and helpful lens change for Christians caught up in the negative and despondent discourse of our day. Zylstra and Hansen joyfully turn the spotlight to how God is working, examining Christians who continue to joyfully follow Christ in difficult circumstances. They write: “[These Christians are] still showing us the way of resolute hope in hostile cultures. They expect to fight for faith amid this world that put Christ to death on the cross.” I believe this book will help Christians to remember that God is still the King and is always in charge. With that in mind, perhaps we can follow these “gospelbound Christians” and live that way as well.

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Nanjing: Bringing the Gospel Into Life
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Nanjing: A Welcoming City of Newcomers
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Nanjing: A Relational Gospel
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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Stories from Shenyang

About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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Stories from Xiamen

About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Stories from Chongqing

About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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Stories from Nanjing

About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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Stories from Changchun

About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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Stories from Kunming

About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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Stories from Shenzhen

About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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Stories from Chengdu

About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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Stories from Shanghai

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