Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (Perspectives) is a fifteen week course about the global purpose of Christians, designed around four vantage points or “perspectives” – Biblical, Historical, Cultural and Strategic. The course has the objective of opening the eyes of Christians to the vision that God has a “world-size” role for every believer in His global mission. The point of this course is to simply show practical examples of how missions can be done wisely and well, against the background that God will fulfill His promises.
Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! (Psalm 96:3).
I have embarked on the Independent Study Online format of the Perspectives study program and will periodically share a perspective on different lessons.
Lesson 7 – Eras of Mission History: Looks over the last 200 years of Protestant Mission advancement. I saw an incredible spread of the faith and devotion by those involved. This lesson also gives tools for understanding how to share cross culturally.
Transition between the three Protestant Mission Eras – The lesson presents three Eras of Protestant mission: first, second and third. Each Era is said to have four progressive stages of development: (1) pioneer, (2) parental, (3) partnership and (4) participation. There were transitional periods between the first & second, and the second & third Eras. Successive eras started before the proceeding era ended. This means that the partnership and participation stages of, say, the first Era would coincide with the pioneer and parental stages of the second Era. While the first/second Eras work were still underway the second/third Eras respectively were calling for fresh, new efforts. These overlaps in the Eras caused confusion and tension regarding the mission task, appropriate strategies and the need for the services of missionaries in both Eras.
The “E-Scale” – Has four levels used as a reference tool for describing and comparing evangelistic difficulties and needs:
E-0: Evangelism of non-Christians within the church family
E-1: Evangelism of non-Christians within the same culture as the evangelist.
E-2: Evangelism of non-Christians within cultures that are similar to the culture, including the same language, as of the missionary
E-3: Evangelism of non-Christians within cultures, including languages that are very different from the culture of the missionary.
Ralph Winter (author in Perspectives on World Christian Movement) posits that E-1 is the most powerful because people are more likely to understand what is being communicated in ways that they can pass on to others like themselves. Winter considers E-2 and E-3 the highest priority from a strategic viewpoint. He argues that Christians developing cross-cultural knowledge and sensitivities is vital to the spreading of the gospel to all peoples of the world. It is clear then that until every tribe and tongue has a strong, powerfully evangelizing church with E-1 witness in it, E-2 and E-3 efforts are still essential and highly urgent. Today here seems to be an overemphasis on E-1 at the expense of E-2 and E-3. There needs to be a balance.
The Mission Station Approach – The missionaries would acquire land and build residences, church, schools, hospitals and orphanages etc and gathered Christians in a colony. It was the home of the missionaries and all the activities of the mission. Donald McGavran (author in Perspectives on World Christian Movement) describes the Mission Station Approach churches as comprising of greatly transformed and educated individuals, with memberships proud of being Christians. They believe that with their experience they feel they has gained tremendously by belonging to the Christian fellowship. They are good permanent church buildings, served by qualified pastors and ministers and engage in regular church services. A small tight and supportive community.
However Mission station churches lacks the qualities needed for growth and spread as movements throughout whole peoples. For this to happen the Christians must be discipled, empowered and sent out to integrate with the people of their wider society. Then to go even further to other cultures. The Christians in the Mission Station were individual converts, many of whom were rescued form bad situations. These converts and rescued persons have usually been disowned and received bad treatment from their non-Christian relatives. Aftger being converted they would feel superior to their own unconverted relatives with no motivation to bring Christ to them. They stayed away from relatives and as generation passes that marry to other Christians in the Mission station church and stay away from their non-Christian family, developing their own separate community. Also with limited employment in the Mission Station and hence limited resources, cases have occurred where persons were discouraged from becoming Christians and joining the Mission Station church.
A strong emphasis of the church should be TRAINING and DISCIPLESHIP to empower all Christian to play a part in bringing Christ to the world. This requires forgiveness and humility.
In our eyes, all our effort may not bring the result we are looking for but we just need to keep focused and remember it is God’s mission. The “E-Scale” has been very helpful in planning strategies for world evangelism. Though the Missionary Approach was not very productive in spreading the gospel and the overlaps in the Eras caused confusion and tension regarding the mission task there were many more activities taking place that were effective in spreading the gospel. The pace of growth is accelerating so quickly that more people have followed Christ in the last 100 years than in all of the previous centuries combined. And there are more people alive today who call themselves Christians than all of the previous generations put together. Christianity has become a truly global movement.
– Garfield Miller, Missionary Society (Jamaica)