The World Is Not Ours to Save: Finding the Freedom to Do Good, By Tyler Wigg-Stevenson

The World Is Not Ours to Save

Finding the Freedom to Do Good

by Tyler Wigg-Stevenson

The World Is Not Ours to Save
  • Length: 222 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.5 × 8.25 in
  • Published: January 29, 2013
  • Imprint: IVP
  • Item Code: 3657
  • ISBN: 9780830836574

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Christianity Today Book Award Winner

Outreach Magazine Resource of the Year

We want to save the world—and we have a dizzying array of worthy causes to pursue.

But passionate enthusiasm can quickly give way to disillusionment, compassion fatigue or empty slacktivism. As we move from awareness to mobilization, we bump up against the complexities of global problems—and liking Facebook pages only goes so far.

Veteran activist Tyler Wigg-Stevenson identifies the practical and spiritual pitfalls that threaten much of today's cause-driven Christianity. He casts an alternate vision for doing good based on the liberating truth that only God can save the world. Wigg-Stevenson's own pilgrimage from causes to calling shows how to ground an enduring, kingdom-oriented activism in the stillness of vocation rather than in the anxiety of the world's brokenness.

The world is not ours to save. And that's okay. Discover why.

"I love Tyler. He has style, and wit, and innovation, and sass. I didn't like the title of the book. But then I read it. Tyler corrects some of the errors of activism and challenges the assumptions of belief-only Christianity. He reminds us here that works don't earn our salvation, but they do demonstrate it. And Tyler insists that we pray as if we depend on God, because we do . . . but that we also live as if God depends on us, because God does. May Tyler's words inspire us all to become the change we pray for."

Shane Claiborne, author, activist and lover of Jesus,

"Tyler Wigg-Stevenson's The World Is Not Ours to Save walks Christ-followers through both his own journey and the story of Scripture, helping us arrive at a kind of world engagement and activism that is more effective than slogans and social media and more humane and healing than shouting down the world on cable news. This is a kind of activism that is drenched in the story of God and Christ's love for humankind. The World Is Not Ours to Save is a pilgrimage of the heart for those longing to see the fullness of God's kingdom."

Sean Palmer, lead minister, The Vine Church, Temple, Texas

"Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is a great communicator. I haven't had a book challenge me so deeply or prompt so many valuable conversations in a long time. This book is smart, thoughtful, thought-provoking and important for anyone desiring a long obedience in their advocacy and activism. "[It] is impossible to paint over a rotten wall or build a large structure on a compromised foundation. We live on top of unmendable cracks, and the insoluble nature of the world means that the question posed to us is not 'how do we fix this?' but 'how can we live out the love of God in the midst of such brokenness?'" In answering this question, Wigg-Stevenson casts a vision for the Christian activist devoid of the weight of the world, rooted in Christ and oriented toward the kingdom coming."

Sara Groves, award-winning singer/songwriter

"Tyler's example of deep faith has given him the ability to engage a topic that most are overwhelmed by and helps us believe the seemingly impossible is quite possible. This book is one in which love for God and people meet in a super inspiring way, and it leaves you believing the world can change."

Leroy Barber, president, Mission Year

"The World Is Not Ours to Save makes an exceedingly subtle and important argument; namely, Christians must reconfigure their public engagement based on humble recognition that this world and its future belong to God and not to us. But this demotion of our human/Christian ability to fix the world frees us precisely to engage the world, in love, in hope and in Christ. "I find in this book the emergence on the evangelical theological scene of a significant, creative new voice. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is a "younger evangelical" recounting lessons learned in his precocious public engagement, lessons that apply not just to his earnest activist peers but to every Christian attempting to make a difference in the world. Tyler's voice is deeply biblical, theological and ecclesial in an era of disastrous Christian shallowness in each of these critical arenas. Simultaneously majestic and hilarious, memoir and public ethic, The World Is Not Ours to Save is absolutely must-reading for any Christian who would seek to engage our broken world in the name of Jesus Christ."

David P. Gushee, Distinguished University Professor of Christian Ethics, director, Center for Theology and Public Life, Mercer University

"Tyler Wigg-Stevenson's The World Is Not Ours to Save is a must-read for anyone serious about understanding and ending the threat of nuclear weapons in our world today. As believers we are to be Christ, conscious of what a world with nuclear weapons and a world without them means to us socially, humanly and spiritually. The abolition of nuclear weapons is one of the most important issues we must pray for and take a stand on today."

Jaeson Ma, artist, musician and church planter

"Tyler Wigg-Stevenson has opened a hatch, offering a breathtaking view into the kingdom of God. Painting a backdrop of some of the most harrowing realities and possibilities from the past century and the century to come, Tyler invites us to reorient our impulses toward either apathy or activism, centering our gaze instead on Jesus Christ himself and the character of our God who reigns over all. It is impossible not to be challenged--deeply--by this book. Read it. Wrestle with it."

Bethany H. Hoang, director of the IJM Institute for Biblical Justice, author of Deepening the Soul for Justice

"We all want to be heroes, but there are true limits to our activism. The World Is Not Ours to Save is a humbling reminder that we are free to love, serve and speak up because the greatest battles are not ours to win. This is an important read for young activists who seek to understand God's biblical vision for peace, justice and love on earth--while exploring their own role in the world. Through compelling historical and present-day narratives, Wigg-Stevenson casts a vision of activism that encourages us to think theologically about our activities and steward our calling, ultimately drawing us back to Jesus."

Jena Lee Nardella, cofounder and CEO, Blood:Water Mission

"The World Is Not Ours to Save is a bold and thorough exploration of Christian activism for the twenty-first century. Using rational biblical and theological reflection alongside heart-wrenching narrative and skillful juxtaposition, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson paints a descriptive landscape of the social, moral and ethical complexities of our time. The reader will be challenged to reach for a prophetic imagination and invited to live the way of peaceable action in a troubled and conflicted world."

Phileena Heuertz, founding partner of Gravity, A Center for Contemplative Activism, and author, Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life

"God builds his kingdom, says Tyler Wigg-Stevenson. We don't. We can, however, dare to let God reveal his justice in our lives. The result is just as risky, but ultimately far more rewarding."

David Neff, editorial vice president of CT initiative development, Christianity Today Media Group

"Anyone seeking to change the world? For the love of the planet and yourself--please read this book first. Mandatory navigation tools for the deep dive into social causes."

Steve Haas, chief catalyst, World Vision US

"The book of Galatians exhorts the church to 'not become weary in doing good.' But how does the modern-day Christian activist react when confronted by the myriad of social issues needing attention? With uncommon skill, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson provides answers. This is an essential book for any Christian activist."

Richard Stearns, president, World Vision US, and author of The Hole in Our Gospel

"I don't agree with Tyler Wigg-Stevenson on everything, but I always find him to be provocative, in the right sort of way. Tyler provokes thought and reflection, even from those who disagree, not simply the rattling of rival ideologies. Reading this book will prompt you to careful deliberation about what it means to love Christ and love neighbor. Even when you are on the opposite end of where Tyler comes down, you will be led to think through the issues in a fresh way. And that's a blessing."

Russell D. Moore, dean, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"Brilliant, biblical and immensely important. This wise, Christ-centered book by an extremely gifted emerging evangelical leader and scholar/activist strengthens my hope that the next generation of Christian leaders will embrace biblical balance in every area of their thought and life."

Ronald J. Sider, professor of theology, Palmer Seminary at Eastern University, and president, Evangelicals for Social Action

"Tyler Wigg-Stevenson offers in these pages some wise remedies for the signs of 'cause fatigue' that he sees as beginning to afflict a younger generation of bright and committed young Christians. This is a book I wish that I had read during my own early activist days!"

Richard J. Mouw, Ph.D., president and professor of Christian philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary

"If you are an activist inspired by the Christian faith and are experiencing a 'cause fatigue'--read this book! Tyler's beautifully written essay, theologically penetrating, wise and born out of his own experiences, will give you rest and help you not tire out of radical commitments and faith-based activism."

Miroslav Volf, author of A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good, Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology, Yale Divinity School, and founding director of Yale Center for Faith and Culture

"Deeply personal, always fresh and to the point, and often funny, this book carries a wise and timely message. Wigg-Stevenson is both a voice to listen to and a leader to follow. I read the book with great profit."

Os Guinness, author of A Free People's Suicide

"There is a generation arising committed to reconciling Billy Graham's message of salvation with Dr. Martin Luther King's march for justice. Tyler Wigg-Stevenson embodies that mission and presents a practical framework for building a firewall against activism fatigue and cause-related myopia. In The World Is Not Ours to Save, Tyler submits the proposition that unbridled activism and advocacy results in a spiritual disbalance that merits a corrective prescription--one that emerges out of a kingdom lens and vocational discipline."

Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Hispanic Evangelical Association

"Tyler Wigg-Stevenson points us beyond the all-too-trendy and empty hope of mere activism and toward a life of freedom and faithful living. He writes that trusting God in our pursuit to do good and looking to the future for God's ultimate works of kingdom justice help us avoid activism fatigue. He reminds us that the world is, indeed, not ours to save but to love and serve while reinforcing the important synergy between theology, evangelism, mission and practical, compassionate living. With an emphasis on the person of Jesus and his paradigm for kingdom justice, Wigg-Stevenson paints a picture of sustainable, personal responsibility in a world of unimaginable evil and relentless need. This book is an essential contribution to the burgeoning body of literature in pursuit of compassion and justice, and it's a deeper and more holistic understanding of what it means to love God and his world."

R. York Moore, Outreach Magazine, 11th Annual Resources of the Year: Compassion, March/April 2014

"Wigg-Stevenson offers insight and advice to a generation badly in need of visionary yet earthy wisdom. This book is freighted with the kind of realism capable of restoring and sustaining high ideals."

Eric Miller, "The 2014 Christianity Today Book Awards," Christianity Today, January/February 2014

"This is a powerful book. The author is an expert storyteller, harnessing the power of narratives—some deeply personal—without being sensational or manipulative. For those who are skeptical of Christian activism for various reasons, Wigg-Stevenson offers an approach that is deeply rooted in a biblical worldview and richly informed by sound theology. He replaces the false dichotomy between activism and evangelism with an approach that incorporates both naturally in an exhortation to embody the kingdom of Jesus Christ now, wherever possible. For the burned-out activist, the author provides encouragement to be energized by the gospel and by a simple embracing of the fact that the victory over evil has already been won."

Andy Snider, Themelios, 38.3

"In an age of growing activism and mounting anxieties about the main injustices of our world, Tyler provides a thoughtful, Christian narrative of how we can work for good while also maintaining spiritual vitality."

Winn Collier, Religious Herald, May 20, 2013

"If Shane Claiborne's Irresistible Revolution began the conversation about biblical justice for many young evangelicals, then Wigg-Stevenson is a necessary voice to ensure the conversation matures. The book reminds us of the scope of the world's brokenness as well as our inability to effect lasting and just change. But the author is no cynic. The chapters are full of heartening examples of justice, glimpses of life within God's coming kingdom."

David Swanson, Leadership Journal, Summer 2013

"Wigg-Stevenson is my favorite kind of writer—a great storyteller. His stunningly worded turns of phrase give delicious (and memorable) shape to his ideas. In tickling our imaginations with moments from his travels around the world, he consistently honors the tension between a world that needs to be saved, eager activists who are ready to do the saving, and the reality that there is One alone who saves. He exercises integrity, presenting and dealing fairly with the arguments of others. He writes with a relatable, intelligent, compassionate voice. . . . If you're someone like me, committed to partnering with God . . . this book is for you."

Margot Starbuck, PRISM, Summer 2013

"The theology that Wigg-Stevenson offers in this new book is indeed freeing, not only liberating us from cause-fatigue, but posing key questions about our identity: Are we activists who happen to be Christians also, or are we primarily Christians who are called to engage in God?s work of reconciling all creation? The sort of conversation between theology and activism that Wigg-Stevenson proposes is deeply needed in our times."

Christopher Smith, "Slow Church" blog at

"It is clear that the primary audience for this book is a recently reinvigorated species of evangelicals committed to social justice, but mainline readers steeped in a globally engaged liberal Protestantism also will benefit from its hopeful realism. . . . It offers hope, encouragement, and inspiration to a generation of young Christians intent on laboring for God's kingdom in the world."

James Calvin Davis, Interpretation 69(3)


Part I:The Limits of Activism
1. The World Is Not Ours to Save: Thinking We Will Save the World
2. Don't Be a Hero: Getting Ahead of Our Calling
3. Broken beyond Our Repair: Getting the World Wrong
4. Fear God: Getting God Right
5. Take These Snakes: If Only...
Part II: A Deeper Calling
6. The Peaceable Kingdom: Moving Toward a Calling
7. Peace with God: Worship, Discipleship, Evangelism
8. Peace among the Nations: Justice, Industry, Nonaggression
9. Peace in Community: Dignity, Prosperity, Security
10. Living Out Our Callings
Study Guide
About the Author


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Tyler Wigg-Stevenson

Tyler Wigg-Stevenson is the founding director of the Two Futures Project, a movement of Christians for the global abolition of nuclear weapons. He also chairs the Global Task Force on Nuclear Weapons for the World Evangelical Alliance. His award-winning writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Sojourners, Relevant and Christianity Today, and he is the author of Brand Jesus.