After taking several weeks off from my recap of our Perspectives class I’d like to pick up where we left off. So here we are at Perspectives week 6… The Expansion of the World Christian Movement.
Let me preface this with mentioning that I have always loathed history. It was my most dreaded subject throughout school (well maybe in addition to gym… I wasn’t very athletically inclined when I was younger… who am I kidding… that’s still not my strength). So anyway, this may be a shorter blog because I am a little out of my element here. Because I’m history deficient I used to dread certain books of the Old Testament. Throughout this year God has given me an appreciation for history through His eyes, to understand how He has been at work over time, how He has revealed Himself, promises that He has made and what that reveals about current times and the future. So even though history isn’t my passion or strength I have come to love and enjoy the Old Testament as well as the few weeks of Perspectives that dealt with history. I’d like to quote our study guide on our purposes here “It’s not a matter of memorizing the dates and names of past popes and rulers. It’s a matter of tracing the hand of God as He fulfills His purpose” (p. 47)
Part of our assigned reading was “The Kingdom Strikes Back” by Ralph Winter. In this Winter divides mission history expansion into the periods below, each consisting of 400 years.
I. AD 0-400 Winning the Romans
-Initially Christianity has no national or political identity and appealed to many, then became the official imperial religion and became culturally and politically associated with being Roman in many ways.
II. AD 400-800 Winning the Barbarians
-Barbarians invaded the Roman Empire and adopted Christian faith.
III. AD 800-1200 Winning the Vikings
-The Vikings were evangelized by the faith of their captives. The Gospel spread to Scandinavia and other north European areas.
IV. AD 1200-1600 Winning the Saracens?
-As our study guide comments on the Crusades “the greatest perversion of mission in history” (p. 51).
V. AD 1600-2000 To the Ends of the Earth
-Protestant missions extended across the globe.
“Western civilization, with all of its wealth and corruption, may be the greatest flourishing of all. However, Winter poses the question: if we insist on keeping the blessing instead of sharing it, will God move so that we, like other nations before us, lose some of the material benefits of God’s blessing in order that God’s purpose to bless all the nations will be fulfilled?” –study guide, page 52
(This quote provokes a deeper topic, that would take much more time and effort then this entry on history is going to get into… maybe more to follow on another post. This is one that Jeremy could go on and on about, combine that with the state of our economy and you could get him fired up for hours.)
Winter’s distinguishes between a Western idea of blessings as material or social benefits and the Hebrew context of blessing as relational realities carrying responsibility, obligation and privilege. It’s a familial idea. This means that when God extends His blessing He is establishing family. This is the blessing that God’s people were meant to become and pass on to others.
Winter’s also points out four mission mechanisms throughout history. That when God’s people aren’t willing to go and carry his message He still works to accomplish missions in His ways.
-Voluntary going (Abraham to Canaan, Paul and Barnabas on their journeys, St. Patrick to Ireland, William Carey and Hudson Taylor)
-Involuntary going (Joseph to Egypt, Jonah to Ninevah, Hebrew captives to Babylon, Christians captured by Vikings)
-Voluntary coming (Queen of Sheba to Solomon’s court, Ruth to Moab, Greeks to Jesus, Goths invade Christian Rome, international visitors into Christian West)
-Involuntary coming (Gentiles settled in Israel by Cyrus the Great, slaves brought from Africa to America, refugees from communism)
Okay that’s it for today, but we’re not done with history yet, we’ll have a more in depth study of eras in missions and modern missionaries and their approaches coming up soon when I’m ready to tackle history again.