Historical Overview of Missions
Ages, Stages and People
By Dr. Stan Granberg
Themes
• Key people
– God uses people to interject His power
– Critical individuals in each era
• Key Ideas
– New ways to think about God, his work,
worship, spiritual gifts, etc.
– Provide kernels of spiritual power ingested
for renewed vigor and strength
• Key Institutions or contexts
– New ways of organizing which fit the times
– Institutions and strategies growing out of
the needs of the context form powerful tools
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Overview
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Apostolic, AD 33-100
Post-Apostolic, AD 100-500
Medieval, AD 500-1350
Destruction, AD 1350-1500
Reformation, AD 1500-1792
Modern, AD 1792-present
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Coastlands
Inlands
Unreached peoples
Peoples within
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Apostolic, AD 33-100
• NT Expansion
– Jewish expansion (Acts 1-12)
– Gentile expansion (Acts 13-28)
• Key Person: Paul
• Key Idea: crossing cultures
• Key Institution: the apostolic band
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Patterns in Paul’s work
1. Synagogue
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Rom. 1:16, Jews first
Gentile God-fearers, cultural bridges
2. Apostolic band (team)
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From the beginning (Acts 13:2)
Cross-cultural witness established
Continuing pattern (Rom. 16)
3. Church planting
–
New Christians need other Christians
4. Local leaders
–
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Time frames are short
Paul’s Travels
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Characteristics
• Use of homes
• Oral witness through preaching
and personal testimony
• Personal conduct at trials and
martyrdom
• Social service: alms, burial,
disaster relief, employment,
hospitality (Harnack, 1, 153)
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Apostolic
•
Results
1. Crossed cultural carriers, moving
from an eastern, Jewish cultrual
foundation to a western, GreekRoman foundation
2. Urban permeation (Terry, 167; Meeks)
3. Extension across the
Mediterranean basin
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Post-Apostolic, AD 100-500
• Roman Christianity
– Iconic (formulaic, conventional)
– Cerebral
• Eastern Christianity
– Vernacular
– Mystic
• Celtic Christianity
– Natural
– Community oriented
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Key Ideas/Institutions
• Martyrdom
– Persecution was irregular, but fairly
constant
– Convictions for the uncompromising faith of
Christianity made heroes
– Gibbs, p. 28
• Missionary bishops
– Lone, highly motivated and ascetic
– Converted kings and sovereigns
– Focused on foreign lands
• Translation of scripture into vernaculars
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Key People
• Constantine
– Milvian bridge of cultural accomodation
– Swung the weight of political power towards
Christianity
– Gibbs, p. 30
• Patrick, mission to the Irish
– Slave at 16, learned the people
– At 48 heard a call to go back to Ireland
– Became bishop if Ireland
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Key People
• Ulfilas, b. 311
– Bishop of the Goths, north of Danube
– Translated scripture, perhaps first
missionary translation
• Gregory the Illuminator
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–
–
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Armenian aristocracy
Converted in Caesarea while in exile
Won over king Tradt or Tiridates II
monk Mesrob translated Bible into
Armenian
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Expansion
• AD 100-313, a minority sect of Judaism
– Active in all Roman provinces
• Tertullian, “We have filled every placed belonging
to you, cities, islands, castles, towns,
assemblies, your very camp, your tribes,
companies, palace, senate, forum! We leave you
your temples only (Terry, 169)
– Christianity was a persecuted religion in a
hostile environment
• AD 313-500, Constantinian church
– Dominant religion
– Cohabitation with the State
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Critical Thinking: Connect
• Who are our “Christian” heros and
why?
• Do our leaders effect the decisions
and life we lead?
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Medieval, 500-1350
• Situation
– Empire was falling into the hands of
barbarians
• Some tribes were of a Christian veneer
under an Arian influence
• Other tribes were fully pagan
• Which would prove more difficult?
– AD 570 Mohammed is born
• By 670 Constantinople is under siege
• By 690 north Africa is converted to Islam
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Key Instituion:
Monastic community
• Monasticism
– Roman: solitude or
communal, withdrawal
from life, protest and
escape from material
– Celtic: monastic
communities, outposts of
Christianity among pagan
peoples, used as
evangelistic tool
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Early Irish
monastic community
The Celts
• Celtic Christianity: reaching pagans
– Community oriented approach to Christian
living (Murray, 92)
– Developed a folk Christianity which dealt
with the daily needs of life
– Indigeneity (full hair vs. tonsure)
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Celtic Monasticism
• Celtic themes (Gibbs, 138)
– Evangelizing by teams
– Monastic community
• Anamchara, soul friend
• Common life
• Witness to pre-Christians
– Imaginative prayer
– Hospitality
– Conversion model
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Celtic Prayer
• Spirit of life
ALL: Fill our emptiness with your
fullness
Spirit of power
ALL: Stir our hearts afresh
Spirit of love
ALL: Touch us, and through us, our
neighbour
Spirit of Creativity
ALL: Enable and empower the gifts
you
have given
Spirit of Eternity
ALL: Draw us ever deeper into your
Kingdom
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Key Idea:
Conversion Models
• Celtic
– Establish
community
– Engage in
conversation
– Invite
commitment
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• Roman
– Present the
message
– Invite
commitment
– Welcome into
fellowship
Conversion
Track
Information
Faith
Conversion
Community
Community
Faith
Conversion
Information
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Key People
• Gregory, bishop of Rome (540-604)
– Warded off the barbarian threats
– Sent Augustine to Britain
– Employed functional substitution
• Thangbrand of Iceland
– Power encounter through force of arms
• Columba (521-597)
– Apostolic bands of 12 monks
– Built monastic communities
• Boniface (680-754)
– Most visibly succesful medieval missionary
– Divine power encounter at the oak of Thor
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Eastern Church
• The Nestorians
– “the most mission-oriented church the world
has ever seen” John Stewart (Tucker, p. 47)
– Moved from Persia into centrall Asia, India,
Afghanistan and Tibet. Then to China,
Korea, Japan and southeast Asia
– In China by 13th century had 27 patriarchs
and 200 bishops
– Asian gains wiped out by Genghis Khan
• The new paradigm of non-orthodox
Christianity displayed great zeal and
power
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Roman Contributions
• Mendicant Orders
– Franciscans
• St. Francis of Assisi
• Poverty and preaching
• Helping the poor
– Dominicans
• Poverty and study
• Train ignorant minds
• Both orders were urban based and paid
attention to the poor and pagan
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Expansion
• Celtic apostolic bands converted
the tribes of northern Europe
• Nestorian church established
Christian communities throughout
the near east (50% of pop of Syria
and Iraq) and far east
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Response
• Glasser argues that the apostolic band
is a missional structure equally valid to
that of the local church, challenging the
idea that “the local assembly is the
mediating and authoritative sending
body of the New Testament missionary.”
• Here we see the Celtic apostolic bands
and the Catholic orders as the focal
points for missions.
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Confusion and Corruption,
1350-1500
• Natural disaster
– Bubonic plague kills 35% of Europe
• Political disaster
– Genghis Kahn destroys the Nestorian
church in China
– Islam invades Europe
• Religious disaster
– Feudalism was in demise
– Internal corruption of the church led to a
moribund church
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Key Ideas
• Revival of morality
• Use of vernacular languages
revived
• Bible translation
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Key People
• Raymond Lull (1232-1315)
– Focus on Muslim peoples
– Employed Arabic
• John Wyclif
– Denied papal authority
– Translated Bible into English
• Savanarola (1452-1498)
– Ethical revival in Florence
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Reform: 1500-1792
• Reformation in Europe
• Expansion of Roman
Christianity
– New world
– Eastern world
• Encompassed the
Agricultural and Industrial
Revolutions
– Growing urbanism
– Increasing
transportation/
communication
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Guttenberg’s Press, 1456
Catholic/Protestant
• Protestant missions were almost nonexistent
– Theological preoccupations: imminent
return of Christ, doctrine of election
– Struggle to survive Catholic opposition
– Lack of mission structures
• Catholic missions
– The “two swords” colonial expansion:
gospel and government
– Ignatius Loyola founds the Society of Jesus
(Jesuits), the marines of the counterreformation
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Key Ideas and People
• Key idea: Indigeneity
• Key people
– Francis Xavier (1506-1552)
• Missionary to Japan
• Learned Japanese
– Matteo Ricci (1552-1610)
• Passport skills applied
• Used Confucianism to
communicate Christianity
• Adopted Chinese dress
• Chinese rites controversy
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Matteo Ricci
Response
• Winter argues that modalities and
sodalities are both biblically legitimate
and practically necessary for the sake
of the world Christian movement
• Walls asserts that the task of overseas
missions, and other evangelizing tasks
of the kingdom, cannot be
accomplished through the usual
machinery of the local or
denominational structure of the church.
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The Moravians
• Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf
established the village of Herrnhut
• Focus on personal piety and presence
of the Holy Spirit
– 100 years of 24 hr. prayer
• Missionaries
– Trained as evangelists
– Self-supporting artisans and trades
– Evangelism their one focus
• Movement failed from a growing
mysticism and economic failure
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Modern, AD 1792-present
•
•
•
•
Coastlands
Inlands
Unreached peoples
Peoples within
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Key Ideas
•
•
•
•
Mission Societies (Carey)
Indigeneity (Nevius)
Unreached peoples (Winters)
Redemptive analogies
(Richardson)
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Key Institutions
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•
•
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Mission Societies (Carey)
Student Volunteer Movement (Mott)
Wycliffe Bible Translators (Townsdend)
Church Growth Movement and Fuller
School of World Mission (McGavran)
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Key People
• William Carey (1761-1834)
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Shoe cobbler in England
An Enquiry
Baptist Missionary Society
India and the Serampore trio
• J. Hudson Taylor (1832-1905)
– 1865 China Inland Mission
– Methods
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•
•
•
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Low formal education for missionaries
Mission directed from the field
Indigeneity
Faith mission for support
Mission Societies
• 1795 London Missionary Society
• 1796 Edinburgh Missionary Society; Scottish
Missionary Society; Glasgow Missionary
Society
• 1797 Netherlands Missionary Society
• 1804 German Bible Society; British and
Foreign Bible Society
• 1810 Russian Bible Society; American Board
of Commissioners for Foreign Missions
• 1816 American Bible Society
• 1818 Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society
• 1832 American Baptist Home Missionary
Society
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• 1865 China Inland Mission
Key People
• John Nevius (1829-1893)
– Presbyterian missionary to China
– Set out the Nevius plan for Korea
• Keep converts in their normal life
• Appoint indigenous leaders, paid and overseen by the
local churches
• Churches built by the people
• New churches planted by existing ones
• John R. Mott (1865-1955)
– Influenced by the Cambridge 7 in China
– Began the Student Volunteer Movement “the
evangelization of the world in this generation”
– Edinburgh Missionary Conference of 1910
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Key People
• Donald McGavran (1897-1990)
– Born in India, 30 years administrative mission work
– 1961, established Institute of Growth at Northwest
Christian College in Eugene, moved to Fuller in
1965
– Father of the church growth movement
• William Cameron Townsend (1896-1982)
– Worked in jungles of Guatemala, translated Bible
into their language
– Established Summer Institute of Linguistics (1934)
and Wycliffe Bible Translators (1942)
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Reflection
• History provides a resource of
ideas adaptable to new situations,
what ideas have grabbed you?
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Resources
• Adolf Harnack. The Mission and Expansion of
Christianity in the First Three Centuries, G.P. Putnam’s
Sons, 1908.
• Bernard de Vaulx, History of the Missions, Hawthorn,
1961.
• John Mark Terry, Ebbie Smith and Justice Anderson:
Missiology: An Introducxtion to the Foundations, History,
and Strategies of World Missions. Broadman & Holman,
1998.
• Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of
Christianity, Harper & Brothers, 1937.
• Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya. Zondervan,
2004.
• Stephen Neill, A Hsitory of Christian Missions. Penguin,
1964.
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