Christian mission has passed through several stages:
First millennium: During the first millennium, Christians evangelized all the tribes of Europe and Eastern Christians took the gospel across Asia as far as China.
Catholic missionary orders: As Eastern Christianity was eclipsed, Catholic missionary orders like the Franciscans and Jesuits became the main bearers of mission vision for several centuries, both before and after the birth of Protestantism in the sixteenth century.
The mission agency: The concept of a mission agency was established at the end of the eighteenth century, a structure to recruit and manage Protestant missionaries. It became very effective at mobilizing a new wave of missions.
Inland: From the 1850s a new generation of Protestant pioneers took the gospel beyond coastal footholds like Hong Kong or Kolkata into inland regions.
Unreached peoples and a new mission force: In the second half of the twentieth century, it became clear that many people were still isolated from the gospel by cultural barriers, even though Christians were present in every country. Work progressed to identify every ‘unreached people’ and take the gospel to them. At the same time, many newer churches around the world became significant missionary senders.
Polycentric mission: Today we see:
- The former pioneer areas like South Korea, Nigeria, India, Brazil and the Philippines sending the majority of the world’s missionaries.
- Local churches have cross-cultural opportunities on their doorstep.
- Multiple paths to serving Christ cross-culturally have opened up: bivocational, part-time, temporary, home-based.
- Networking between groups is vital.
- Praise God for the astonishing growth of cross-cultural ministry opportunities and resources .
- Pray that Christians everywhere will rise to the challenge to take the gospel to the whole world.