Tag Archives: missions

Business as Mission (BAM) – 12 key facets


Business as Mission Global Think Tank logo

If you’re interested in the new global movement of “Business as Mission,” Mats Tunehag is your guy. He is Senior Associate on Business as Mission for both the Lausanne Movement and for the World Evangelical Alliance Mission Commission, and founder and co-leader of the first global think tank on Business as Mission (now in its second multi-year session). Recently on his blog, and re-posted on the Bam Think Tank blog, Mats gave us a pithy but penetrating run-down of 12 dimensions of BAM.

In case you haven’t run across the term before, before I share a summary of Tunehag’s piece, here is how BAM is defined at http://www.businessasmission.com: Continue reading

Islam’s steady expansion and Christianity’s ebb and flow: A reflection


Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock

Jerusalem, Dome of the Rock

Baptist theology professor Mark Farnham reflects on Scottish historian Andrew Walls’s work relating to the Incarnational mission of Christianity and how it has resulted in a different sort of expansion than that of Islam:

Nineteenth-century Christian missions exploded across the globe with the general expectation that the gospel would penetrate the whole world, and that the evangelism of the world would conceivably be completed within a century or so. That sense of optimism is not so prevalent today, probably in part because of the decline of Christianity in parts of the world that were at one time the fountainhead of Christian faith. A review of the past century reveals that regions in which Christianity had at one time taken root have not always remained Christian for long (think Europe). In contrast, Islam’s progress has tended to be more stable, rarely giving up territory once it has been claimed.

In his book, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History (T&T Clark, 2002), Scottish historian Andrew Walls explains the difference between the expansions of the two major religions:

Islam can point to a steady geographical progression from its birthplace and from its earliest years. And over all these years it has hitherto not had many territorial losses to record. Whereas the Jerusalem of the apostles has fallen, the Mecca of the prophet remains inviolate. When it comes to sustaining congregations of the faithful, Christianity does not appear to possess the same resilience as Islam. Continue reading

Reflections on new openings in world missions, from an African perspective


Today is the annual Collegiality Day of the Minnesota Consortium of  Theological Schools. Luther Seminary‘s Paul S. Chung will present a reflection on changes in missions since the Edinburgh conference a century ago (“Mission today in light of the 1910 Edinburgh Conference.”) A number of folks will respond, including me. Though it will likely be trimmed a bit, my response will look something like this:

The successive “openings” of mission since Edinburgh

I hear in Dr. Chung’s paper a series of “openings” of world missions activity and thought since Mott and the 1910 meeting at Edinburgh. I want to review these briefly and then, as I am a historian, to illustrate them with a brief story from recent Christian history in the global south.

By the time of the 1952 Willingen missions conference, Karl Barth had sparked an opening or broadening from Edinburgh’s “pragmatic, purposeful, activist, impatient, self-confident, single-minded, and triumphalist” accent—in other words, its accent on human initiative—to a theological insistence that mission comes at the initiative of the Trinity. It is God who sends, and we who follow. Continue reading

The Western scientist-missionary allowed entry to China’s Forbidden City: Matteo Ricci


Matteo Ricci "Painted in 1610 by the Chin...

One of my all-time favorite gospel-translating saints is the 16th-century Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci. By “gospel-translating,” I mean the apologetic and missionary move of entering a culture and finding the best points of connection to the gospel, thereby the better to present the gospel in a compelling way.

Here’s an excerpt from a sketch of Ricci that highlights this “translating” aspect of his ministry. Many thanks to Msgr. David Q. Liptak:

Father Ricci is especially significant because, as Pope Benedict explains, he represents in a missionary “a unique case of a felicitous synthesis between the proclamation of the Gospel and the Dialogue with the culture of the people to whom he brought it.” Moreover, he constitutes “an example of balance between doctrinal clarity and prudent pastoral action.”

Inculturation was his genius, therefore. Continue reading

Philip Jenkins on the fraught history of the Korean church


The entrance of Yoido Full Gospel Church.

Entrance of Yoido Full Gospel Church

Here’s a piece in Christian Century by global Christianity wallah Philip Jenkins on the massive and comparatively recent growth of Christianity in Korea:

Church growth, Korean style

by Philip Jenkins

When the World Missionary Conference gathered in Edinburgh in 1910, it would have taken real optimism to identify Korea as a prospect for major Christian growth. At that point, Christians made up perhaps 1 percent of the Korean people, and the nation was under the heavy-handed occupation of Japanese authorities, who looked dimly on Western cultural intrusions.

Through the 20th century, though, Christian growth in Korea has been astonishing. At least 30 percent of South Korea‘s 50 million people are Christians. Some of Seoul’s spectacular megachurches regularly appear in listings of the world’s largest congregations; they are virtually denominations in their own right. The best known is the (Pentecostal) Yoido Full Gospel Church, which claims 850,000 members. Continue reading

Zinzendorf’s lecture #7–On the Essential Character and Circumstances of the Life of a Christian


Here is a brief summary and commentary on the seventh lecture of Nicolaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf, Bishop of the Church of the Moravian Brethren, from Nine Public Lectures on Important Subjects in Religion, preached in Fetter Lane Chapel in London in the Year 1746.  Translated and Edited by George W. Forell, Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1973.

Again, this was from early in my graduate experience, 1994-1995, in Dr. Richard Lovelace’s class on the Pietist Renewal at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Lecture VII—On the Essential Character and Circumstances of the Life of a Christian

‘The seventh gives the essentials of a Christian inwardly and outwardly.’ (xxxii)

Text:  John 21:16.  “Do you love me?”

From the bit ‘Not of Paul, Cephas, Apollos, Christ’ (I Cor 1:12) Zinzendorf comes to the conclusion that a true Christian is ‘neither Lutheran nor Calvinist, neither this nor the other religious denomination, not even Christian.’ (He adds, ‘Paul excludes Christ himself . . . ‘) (Erb 311) [Note: it looks like the edition I was using for all of these lectures is found in the Paulist Press Classics of Spirituality series, the Pietist volume edited by Peter Erb] Continue reading

Zinzendorf’s lecture #3–”Concerning the Proper Purpose of the Preaching of the Gospel”


Here is a summary and commentary on the third lecture of Nicolaus Ludwig Count von Zinzendorf, Bishop of the Church of the Moravian Brethren, from Nine Public Lectures on Important Subjects in Religion, preached in Fetter Lane Chapel in London in the Year 1746.  Translated and Edited by George W. Forell, Iowa City, University of Iowa Press, 1973.

Again, this was from early in my graduate experience, from 94-95, in Dr. Richard Lovelace’s class on the Pietist Renewal at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

The second lecture may be found here.

Lecture III–Concerning the Proper Purpose of the Preaching of the Gospel

‘In the third lecture, I have said that the preaching of the Gospel is not necessary, properly speaking, for the sake of the elect bride of Jesus Christ and of those who belong to her.  Rather, the preaching is necessary for those whom we are to regard as guests and who, without such a call, either would not think of any marriage of the Lamb or would certainly not guess by themselves that they were also invited to it as guests.  And this is an idea which brings to its full light the difference (looked upon as essential by Dr. Luther) between the homilies addressed to a church of Jesus and the sermons to the multitude in general.’ (xxxii) Continue reading

“A religious genius.” “One of the most massive figures of the late 17th and early 18th centuries in Europe.” Ernst Stoeffler on August Francke


As far as I can tell, evangelicalism right now, here in America, could really use a re-infusion of the spirit of the 17th- and 18th-century German Pietists. And it is up to a school like Bethel University (truth in advertising: my employer), whose founding denomination is a Pietist one, to position itself under the fountain of historical Pietism and get a good, thorough soaking in that movement’s spirit. For though Pietism is our heritage, we don’t know what it was any more. That’s a sad loss.

Specifically, we stand to learn from such Pietist leaders as August Hermann Francke, the subject of this post, how to overhaul education, social action, and the Christian life along Pietist lines. If this sounds intriguing, then read on . . . Continue reading

Anatomy of an African explosion: How and why Christianity grew exponentially in 20th-century Africa


How and why did Christianity explode on the African continent in the 20th century? The following is an interview I did with the late Dr. Ogbu Kalu of McCormick Seminary for Christian History & Biography’s “African Apostles” issue:

Anatomy of an Explosion
It’s an indelible image: the white missionary venturing into deepset Africa. But the real story is what happened when African converts relayed the gospel message in their own words.
an interview with Dr. Ogbu Kalu

Taking a close look at the explosion of Christianity in twentieth-century Africa, we meet a remarkable group of colonial-era (roughly 1890 to World War II) apostles who were born, grew up, and ministered in sub-Saharan Africa. We have been inspired and challenged by their stories. We hope you will be, too.

While the story of Christianity’s spread in Africa is nothing less than awesome, it is also nothing more than the work of God, who always uses the foolish things of a sin-scarred world as the building material for his body.

Western missions in colonial Africa proceeded by slow, painful steps. The missionaries’ best efforts were often hindered by cultural misunderstandings, economic abuses, political agendas, and racist presuppositions. While missionaries were picking their tortuous way through the colonial period, indigenous African evangelists and teachers exploded onto the scene like dynamite. Yes, they worked on the same confused, conflicted landscape as the missionaries. Nonetheless, something happened when the gospel was proclaimed under African sponsorship. It revolutionized the continent. Continue reading

Monks too heavenly minded to be any earthly good? Hardly. Meet the globe-trotting, pagan-busting Boniface


So you think medieval monks just sat in their cloisters, doing without stuff and looking pious? Check out Boniface (680 – 754):

The Pagan-Buster
How a brilliant monk laid the groundwork for Christian Europe
By Chris Armstrong

“Irony” seems a concept invented for such a situation as this: The man historian Christopher Dawson once called the most influential Englishman who ever lived is the patron saint of … Germany.

And, as journalist Uwe Siemon-Netto has recently reminded us, the 60th anniversary of D-Day is also the 1250th anniversary of this man’s death.

There is one more layer of seeming irony in this story of the man who evangelized Germany and set the stage for Western Christendom: he was a monk. Continue reading