A. No Mission without History!
Why our understanding and practical involvement in mission is deeply affected by history, and needs to take a lively interest in history.
B. A Pattern of Mission History emerges in the New Testament.
Luke, the Evangelist and first church historian discerns a pattern of developments: God's Spirit overcomes barriers... Believers act responsively and sacrificially... Response mixed with compromising sin... Barriers re-erected by human antagonism and satanic opposition... The Spirit's initiative is renewed.
C. From Pentecost to the Present: Four Periods of Mission History
1. Pentecost to AD 500 - Suffering and Vindication
The Church living in the shadow of the Roman empire, penetrating society within and beyond the empire's boundaries. The Church weak, and yet strong through its witnesses, martyrs and teachers of faith.
- [-] 64 Persecution begins under Nero
- 180 First Christian King (Edessa)
- 303 Last Roman Persecution (Diocletian)
- 313 Edict of Toleration signed in Milan
- 339 Forty years Persecution begins in Persia
- 343 Ulfilas' mission to the Goths
- 410 Alaric sacks Rome
- 426 Augustine of Hippo writes "City of God"
- 431 Patrick sent to Ireland
2. AD 500 to 1500 - Conquest and Defeat
The Church assumes temporal power. Two dominant ecclesiastical centres: Rome and Constantinople. Christianisation of all Europe. North Africa, wholely, and the Middle East partially lost to Islam. Growth of "Fortress Christendom". The Church strong and yet weak.
- 496 Conversion of Clovis, King of the Franks
- 590 Gregory the Great made Bishop of Rome
- 596 Gregory sends Augustine to Canterbury
- 622 Mohammed establishes his community in Medina
- 635 Alopen arrives as a missionary in China
- 719 Mission of Boniface to German tribes
- 800 Charlemagne crowned Emperor by Pope
- 862 Cyril and Methodius evangelise the Slavs
- 1096 First Crusade
- 1208 Francis of Assisi gathers and sends out his friars
- 1272 Thomas Aquinas writes his Summa Theologica
- 1415 John Huss burnt at the stake
Reformation divide, yet the expansion of Europe. Mission runs parallel with colonisation, seaborn to the coastlands and then overland into the interior. Atrocities and compromise. Holiness and heroism.
- 1492 Isabella of Spain defeats the Moors at Granada. Columbus crosses the Atlantic and reaches West Indies
- 1517 Luther posts his 95 thesis on door of Wittenberg Cathedral
- 1541 Frances Xavier arrives in India
- 1700 Peter the Great christianises the Russian Empire
- 1792 William Carey writes his "Enquiry"
- 1807 British parliament votes for the abolition of the slave trade
- 1813 East India Act increases the access of missionaries to India
- 1856 David Livingstone crosses the African continent
The Church is tested by world wars, resurgent religions, secular ideologies. Enhanced opportunities and compounded difficulties. Southward shift in Christian influence. Attempted re-evaluation of the missionary enterprise.
- 1909 Pentecostal stirrings in South America
- 1910 World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh
- 1914 Outbreak of First World War
- 1917 Bolshevik Revolution
- 1922 Willem van Rossum becomes "missionary Pope"
- 1952 Missionaries expelled from China
- 1968 Latin American bishops support liberation thrology at Medillin conference
- 1974 Evangelicals at Lausanne Congress pledge themselves to world evangelisation
APOSTOLIC: The New Testament pattern and model explained in B.
ANONYMOUS: The unselfconscious witness of ordinary people: [-elided-]
ESTABLISHMENT: Development of orders of ministry, patterns of worship, and systems of theology. The attempt to mold society as a whole according to the Gospel.
CHARISMATIC: Renewed energy and gifts of the Spirit disturbing the institutional church.
VOLUNTARY: The attempt to [-elided-]
RADICAL: Protest against political and social status quo.
E. Biblical, Christian and Missionary Understandings of History
(a) A SCHOOL FOR MATURITY: "God made temporal things for the sake of man, that by their means he might grow to maturity and bear fruit for immortality." Irenaeus. "History for Irenaeus, was an education by which God led the human race to maturity and would bring all "to a head in Christ". R.A. Markus
(b) THE STAGE FOR A POWERFUL DRAMA: "there was in Christianity a propulsive vigour...it was forever giving rise to something new... I could not guarantee that its contribution would remain unmixed with contradictory elements... It had failed to safeguard the Roman Empire after that state had professed allegiance to it... It had not preserved the structure of medieval Europe it had done so much to shape... [-elided-] More than one of the movements of which it was the source was diverted to quite un-Christian purposes... Yet in Christianity was a vital force impelling man towards the "high calling of God". Kenneth Scott Latourette
(c) THE UNFOLDING OF GOD'S PURPOSE: "I am God. I make known the end from the beginning... My purpose will stand... What I have planned, that will I do." Isaiah 46:10 "Israel's history has a purpose running through it... an end to which it is moving... Since God had set Israel in a universe he had created, that universe too must have an end... This end is not merely the last moment in a series of historical moments; it is also the meaning of the whole." George Knight