by Leslie T. Lyall, Editor
The world is a big place. Its population increases fantastically. By the end of the century six thousand million people will be living in the five continents, though the greatest number by far will be living in Asia. In forty years’ time communications will have been improved so that even the most remote areas will be within access. Illiteracy will have been largely conquered. Public health will have made great strides. Independence and freedom from external control will be the lot of every nation.
But will the world have been evangelized? Will the Gospel have been made known to every person?
The task may have seemed impossible to the eleven apostles when they heard it originally from the risen Lord Himself. But the terms of that task were clear: they were to make disciples of all nations. The people who were to undertake that task can easily be deduced: not the eleven alone, but the whole Body of Christ as represented by them, the entire church as represented by every local assembly of Christians and every individual Christian. The duration of the task was plain: the whole Christian era until Christ’s return to earth. It was to be a task continuing in every generation. It is clear that the evangelization of the world in every generation has been the command of God, according to the commission delivered to the church immediately before Christ’s ascension and the promise of His return in glory.
But how was this stupendous task to be accomplished? Clearly no haphazard activity could meet the challenge. No disconnected, unrelated individual efforts could attain the goal. And because the efforts of Christians in every generation have been so fragmented uncoordinated, and lacking in strategy, the goal of world evangelization has never been achieved. The church has gradually reached out over the centuries, extending its physical presence but never has it totally evangelized the living generation. Is there any chance that in this generation the task can be accomplished and the way prepared for the King’s return?
It would not seem possible at the present rate of progress and with present methods. The present lack of adequate strategy and the scattered, often feeble efforts of small and inadequately equipped groups render the attainment of the goal, humanly considered, impossible. But what strategy are we to adopt that will be effective? The answer surely is that ours must be a strategy based on divine strategy. Only that can succeed. The terms of the commission did not merely present an ideal unattainable in reality. Our Lord’s program is practical and attainable provided the correct strategy is adopted. We shall attempt to discover what this strategy is.
THE OLD TESTAMENT PURPOSE
"God be merciful unto us, and bless us . . . that thy way may be known upon the earth, thy saving health among all nations." The psalmist, speaking as an Israelite, was aware that divine blessing on his nation was to lead to blessing for the world. He knew what God bad said to Abraham: "In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Whatever narrower views later generations of Jews had, the psalmist knew of God’s concern for the world, for Gentiles as well as Jews. He was aware of the world mission of the Jewish race. Hadn’t God chosen this people from among the nations to be His own, a holy people, a witness to His character among other nations? Theirs was an election of grace, but not for their own gratification and satisfaction. It was election for a purpose: "The heathen shall know that I am the Lord . . . when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes."
THE FAILURE OF ISRAEL
Nevertheless, the witness of Israel was largely a failure. The nations were not impressed. Converts to the faith were few and the name of God was blasphemed among the heathen. Why? The answer seems to be that Israel never grasped the reason for her high privileges; the peoplewereproud of their position as the elect nation, but they forgot or ignored their purpose: to be a light to the Gentiles. Forgetting this, they became slack in their witness to God’s holy character. Proud of their privileges and their revealed Scriptures, they fell into the immoral ways of the heathen, into compromise, and so they misrepresented the character of the God they worshiped.
THE NEW TESTAMENT PURPOSE
In the New Testament, we discover that God has made a new election of grace, the church. He has rejected Israel for her failure and chosen the church in Israel’s place. To the church He says: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation . . . that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." God’s purpose for the world is now to be fulfilled through His church, which He has chosen to witness among all nations to His truth and character. As the result of the incarnation, His truth and character were now more clearlv seen. "The word was made flesh . . . and we beheld his glory . . . full of grace and truth." Recognizing Jesus for what He was, Simeon sang: "Mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel."
The principle of world evangelization was enunciated both by the Lord and His apostles. "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek." And then Paul proceeded to prove that all men, Jews and Gentiles cultured and ignorant, deists and idolaters, were guilty before God and lost unless the Gospel reached them savingly. The Gospel was for the world, for sinners everywhere.
THE FAILURE OF THE CHURCH
But has the church been any less a failure in its time than the nation of Israel was in Old Testament times? The church certainly had initial, amazing success. The early disciples "turned the world upside down." The Gospel sped from nation to nation. Rome was shaken by its power. North Africa and Spain were reached. Europe was soon the scene of exciting progress. Gospel emissaries were found in Persia and even in India, if tradition is to be believed, within the apostles’ lifetime. But then, apparently, the vision was lost. Under the Emperor Constantine, the church’s success became its downfall. Instead of being an instrument in God’s hands for world evangelization, it became an institution in the hands of the state or even controlled the state, but in either case it was bent on its own aggrandizement. The church lost its missionarv character and was not to recover it, except in isolated instances, until the eighteenth century. Much has been crowded into the last 150 years, but so much ground had been lost as the result of the neglect and failure of centuries that the task has been slow and uphill.
THE DIVINE STRATEGY
In spite of human failure, it is possible to discern the divine strategy in God’s unfolding plan throughout the Scriptures. He has begun with a chosen people and to them He has committed the task of witnessing in widening circles until the whole world has been reached. To this end He has provided the Scriptures and the sacraments. He has selected strategically situated bases and afforded linguistic and communications facilities for all engaged in the task. Most important of all, Ile has provided the Holy Spirit to guide and empower His church in fulfilling her task.
The renewed missionary activity of the past 150 years demands examination. Historically, the era corresponds with the, colonizing and empire building activity inAsiaand Africa of the great European nations. The search for raw materials needed in an industrial age and for the natural wealth of the tropics drove European empire builders on to discovery and to extending their empires ever more widely. Exploitation of the natural resources of the areas explored and discovered was
normally the main aim. But it was thought good to introduce a measure of orderly, government and civilized ways at the same time. The material needs of the world’s backward peoples became the "white man’s burden," and the European, wherever he went, was treated with reverence and respect. He represented superior culture. He represented political power. Ile represented wealth. The white man enjoyed prestige all over the world and he basked in it, while often abusing its responsibilities. Colonialism was definitely for the greater advantage of the colonial power, although the benefits of colonialism for subject people have been great. Colonial administrators were white men and the subject people were seldom given anything more than subordinate positions in ruling their country. They were commonly believed to be incapable of more.
MISSIONARIES AND COLONIALISM
Missionaries were among the first to follow the flag, and, in some cases (e.g., Livingstone), they preceded the flag. In China when the opium trading of the East India Company caused a war, and when peace terms allowed free travel in the interior for foreigners, the first to take advantage of that treaty were missionaries. They were "the spearhead of imperialist aggression." Everywhere the missionary shared the prestige of the white man. He was a member of the ruling class. Ile was a man of superior wisdom. He lived in superior style and gave the appearance of being a man of great wealth. He administered the mission station where the natives were given only a subsidiary role in church life.
THE END OF COLONIALISM
But colonialism and imperialism undoubtedly brought greater prosperity and better education. A new era of social, economic and political change opened. Population started to grow rapidly. Liberal ideals began to be discussed wherever educated people met, ideals often introduced by the missionary and as a result of the Bible. The first world war caused the initial feeling of disillusionment with the West and elicited the first queries about the peaceful character of Christianity. The war ended in the Russian revolution and the beginning of the Communist movement. Communism encouraged the liberal movement of ideas and continued to discredit colonialism and exploitation. The second world war completed the disillusionment with the so-called Chriatisn West and led to a demand for political freedom and the end of colonial rule by any and every European or American power. By 1963 colonial rule had ended almost everywhere, except for a few scattered relics.
COLONIAL-STYLE MISSIONARY PATTERN
But "missionary imperialism" does not die so easily. The habits and traditions in missionary work for 150 years have not been forcibly changed by revolution and political action as government has been. Many mission stations are still as colonial as colonial government was in pre-world war I days. The missionary rules and the people submit. The whole character of the mission station is foreign, missionary-centered, and it is hard to see how it can become otherwise. The strategy of missionary work seems to have been, consciously or unconsciously, based on the strategy of the colonial government. A place would be chosen, often quite arbitrarily, on which to construct a mission station. Subsequently, out-stations like the "dak" bungalows of the traveling administrators would be built. Thus the missionary could superintend the schools, clinics, and churches in his area. He was the paymaster of a considerable number of employees: pastors, evangelists, Bible women, teachers, cleaners, gardeners, etc. There was muchactivityand much to show for it. And yet the national had little independence, freedom and autonomy, little room for initiative or leadership. The missionary dominated every situation with greater skill, knowledge, ability and experience, and was unwilling to let go his authority and power.
Roman Catholic missions were equally guilty. Indeed their nature seemed to make them even more authoritative and institutional. Their strict discipline and the authority of the foreign priest placed all nationals in an inferior and subordinate position. And even more than with Protestants, money for the conduct of the work came from abroad and was often used to induce people to become Christians. Roman Catholics, too, have used the bait of material gain in order to win converts.
The colonial era was preeminently the era of mission institutions. Colonial governments were willing to subsidize schools and hospitals if the missions would run them. This seemed a satisfactory way of fulfilling the colonial government’s obligation to provide educational and medical facilities, and it enabled the missions to recruit men and women, and to support them even when support from Christian sources was inadequate. It may be argued that education and medicine are both a "must" for Christian missions, but on the other hand it could be argued that except in the initial stages and in countries where the government has not caught up with its responsibilities, education and public health are the prerogative of the government and not the responsibility of foreigners. Indeed, independent governments will scarcely tolerate indefinitely the education of their children by foreigners. They will be sensitive as well about foreigners caring for the health of their people because they have failed to do so themselves. In short, such institutions will certainly be taken over gradually from missions by the national governments.
It could scarcely be denied, too, that a large proportion of mission money has been devoted to schools and hospitals and that a large proportion of the available personnel has been absorbed by these institutions. The question is not easily answered as to whether the financial outlay and use of manpower has been justified by the results. In terms of direct conversions, the answer in most countries would certainly be no. But indirect benefits accrue to the church and the state from Christian education, and the good will created by these institutions is much greater than can be estimated in terms of conversions and additions to the church.
Institutions were an essential part of the colonial pattern in Africa. Hospitals and schools were virtually a joint mission and government enterprise, because they were largely financed by government subsidies. In the eyes of the critical outsider, this firmly allied the Christian church to colonial government and gave grounds to the Communist to tar the church with the brush of imperialism and to call all who were in the employ of the foreign missionary "running dogs of the imperialists."
Consequently the church bears a heavy burden from the legacy of colonialism. It will be a long time before it can become dissociated in the eyes of the outsider from imperialism, and national Christians will long have to bear the stigma of having accepted a foreign white man’s religion in preference to some native variety. To what extent a national church should identify itself with, or dissociate itself from, political nationalism and with the national government is a problem about which much difference of opinion exists.
GROWTH OF NATIONALISM AND COMMUNISM
Since 1917 the world has undergone profound change. The doctrines of Karl Marx have become so popular that the circulation of his writings and those of his friend Friedrich Engels have exceeded the Bible-for so long the world’s best seller in circulation. Over one third of the population of the worldlives underthe rule of Communist governments. Other countries have large Communist parties and may well fall under communism in the near future. Since the second world war, the changes have been more dramatic and the speed of change greater. Communism has encouraged nationalism, sponsored independence and posed as the friend of newly independent nations. These nations, having rejected Western colonialism and the culture associated with them, are tending to look to the Communist world for their inspiration. The Chinese have coined a phrase: "The East wind is prevailing over the West wind." Political, social and economic changes are profound. Western Europe with her vaunted culture is in retreat. Christianity, as the religion of the discredited colonial powers, is itself discredited. Native religions are resurging as an expression of national cultures. In Africa, nationalism is not necessarily allied with communism, but it frequently lays itself open to Communist exploitation.
Literacy is booming. The Communists recognize the power of the printed word and are flooding the world with propaganda. It is said that missionaries taught the masses to read but Communists are providing the reading material. Christian missionaries no longer face ignorance or a vacuum ready to receive Christian truth, but antagonism, suspicion, and minds filled with anti-Christian ideas. Everywhere there is a vastly increased student population. The youth of the nations mill around in concrete jungles seeking employment in industry or a better education. Universities and colleges proliferate, and are both an opportunity and threat for the Christian church.
RESURGENCE OF OLD RELIGIONS
Pro-Communist sympathies, anti-white feeling, and the complexities of the cold war are an ever-present threat to the continuance of missionary work. What happened to missions in China could happen elsewhere. Even Islam and Buddhism are less tolerant than formerly. They are national religions with new awareness of their character, and to propagate Chris tianity is often considered an insult. (To exchange Buddhism for a foreign religion is certainly regarded as a virtual renunciation of nationality.)
But along with the threat of closed doors, there is unparalleled opportunity for all forms of missionary work. Never were the opportunities greater or the need more urgent.
What is the strategy of the Christian church to be? One encouraging sign is that people are now thinking more biblically; they are getting back to first principles and reconsidering the implications of the Book of Acts. They are realizing that we can no longer follow tradition or continue in our predecessors’ patterns. And this is not necessarily a reflection on them or their methods. It is a recognition of a changed situation and a possibly limited future for unfettered missionarv work.
It is important to see priorities among all that is worth while. We must ask ourselves about the main aim of missions; and in light of it we must review all forms of missionary work to see if they are contributing adequately toward the attainment of our aim.
"MISSION STATION APPROACH"
In the past, missionary phraseology was almost entirely concerned with "mission station" organization. In China, one mission station became a hereditary kingdom over which three generations of missionaries ruled! The mission station, as its name suggests, was the domain of the missionary and his activities. It was a permanent base of operations and often consisted of a complex of buildings, foreign in style and expensive in upkeep. Missionaries were rooted to the station. A static mentality seemed to be fostered by the mission station concept. Among the station’s many activities the church was only one-and sometimes the least prosperous and least important. The lowest paid mission employee might well be the evangelist or pastor, as he was sometimes thepooresteducated. The church was scarcely central to anyone’s thinking.
CENTRALITY OF THE LOCAL CHURCH
But if one truth has emerged from the confusion and turmoil of recent years it is this: the only permanent thing in any situation is the local church. Missionaries may suddenly be forced to leave. Schools and hospitals may be taken over or forced to close. If the schools and hospitals have overshadowed the local community of believers, if the congregation has consisted largely of patients, staff and school children, no one may be left even to form the Sunday congregation once these institutions close. Such a situation would indicate failure in the main objective of missionary work: to have a strong local assembly of believers, autonomous and independent, with its own leadership and responsible for its own support. Any other situation justifies the criticism that the church is a foreign accretion, and when the parent disappears the dependent child disappears as well. Future strategy must set out to reverse such situations and thus refute these allegations. All missionary work must be geared to establishing a strong local church community under wise and experienced leadership, prepared to survive vigorously when missionary activity is gone. According to Romans 15:19, a region can be said to be evangelized when strategically-placed, live, local churches as evangelizing agencies have been planted throughout it. Everything that contributes to this goal must be pursued; anything which does not must be purged. In the long run this is the only thing that matters. More than one church in a town or locality is possible; even probable, but this is not undesirable provided that they manifest unity of the Spirit and non-rivalry.
CHRISTIANS AND THE COMMUNITY
However, the local church has a wider context. It is the focal point of Christian life in the community. The Gospel is a Gospel for the whole man. The local church must reach out in social action through individual Christians who play their part in community life and thus spread Christian ideals. The national church may well have some responsibility for education and public welfare and health. If the schools and hospital are nationally owned, as distinct from being mission institutions then Christians have an important part to play in them. With this end in view, even mission institutions must have a managing committee of which the majority should be nationals, who might be able to carry on the institution after the departure of the missionary. Operated by nationals they would qualify for government grants. For, after all, education and public health are primarily the responsibilities of national governments.
CHURCH LOCAL AND UNIVERSAL
The local church has another context-the world church. While the world church comes into focus only in the local church, local believers must be kept aware that they are part of the world-wide Body of Christ. But there can be no strong national church without strong local assemblies. No central organization, however impressive and well led, can substitute for strong local’ churches under good leadership. Thus the entire weight of future missionary activity must be directed towards planting and strengthening local churches.
THE CHURCH AND WORLD EVANGELIZATION
The Acts and epistles make it clear that world evangelism was not the task of the apostles, but of the local churches. Initial evangelism was undertaken by teams led by the Apostle Paul (as in Thessalonica and Ephesus), but the continuing, widespread evangelism was carried on by the local church. This is the only way the world can be evangelized: not by a corps of foreign missionaries but by the entire membership of the Christian church. Where there is no local church, it is the responsibility of missionaries, foreign and national, to plant them and to nourish them until they can be left on their own with adequate leadership as well as understanding theirobligations tobe a base for evangelism among the surrounding community. In others words the operational objectives in the overall strategy are local churches.
This objective will end the static concept of the mission station, because the missionary will never think of himself as a permanent feature of any situation. He will usually be in a place for a limited time and with the clear objective of establishing a church as soon as possible and then leaving. Mobility is essential in the present missionary emphasis.
CHURCH AND MISSION
The integration of the International Missionary Council in the World Council of Churches has highlighted a debatable idea, namely, that it is always right for missionaries working in connection with a local church to join that church as full members and to exercise their gifts within the life of the local body of Christ. But there are strong arguments for foreign missionaries to withdraw from a given local church in order to encourage its growth and single-minded dependence on God. Full integration of mission and church on a local level might merely perpetuate the dependent mentality and lead to breakdown when the missionary element is removed.
Missions in the New Testament are not churches but arc distinct from them. They exist to minister to the whole church. Initially they plant churches and subsequently minister to those churches in various ways. St. Paul had experience in both camps, first as a teaching elder in the local church in Antioch and later as a missionary. As a missionary he never settled down to govern a local church but was available to help various scattered churches as the need arose. The Roman Catholic Church has always maintained this distinction. Missionary orders have no authority in local parishes but rather they minister to converts in parishes everywhere, without geographical distinction. This is thoroughly Pauline and has been most effective. Among Protestants there are missionary societies which have a world-wide ministrv to the church and so to the whole Body of Christ.
"Mission" when it remains mission is more effective than if it integrates with "church." When "mission" loses its identity as "church" it ceases to be effective. St. Paul never attempted it. Mission must be free to stand aside, look at the whole body, see areas of weakness, and intervene to make whatever contribution is needed to bring healing, new life, and growth. Once the immediate end has been achieved, mission can again withdraw, leaving the local church to resume local responsibility. In short, mission must never get bogged down and localized but must have the whole body in mind.
It would be ideal if missionary societies could get away from the idea of self-contained spheres of work exclusive to each society. Bases are needed from which missionaries with the requisite gifts can be sent to meet situations as they arise, in any church, denomination, or society.
But basic to this concept is the necessity for insuring a well-instructed lay membership and an adequate lay and ordained leadership. For this, literacy is the first essential. Every member must be able to read the Bible. But second, he must also have a Bible to read-and so Bible translation is of first importance where no translation exists. Every local church must be provided with as much of the Scriptures as possible. Third, the ordinary membership (men, women, and children) must be instructed in the Scriptures through systematic Bible teaching. Bible classes, Sunday schools, and short-term Bible schools are a fundamental part of this program. But to train the more gifted leadership requires higher education and biblical and theological courses. Bible schools and theological colleges are vital to the creation of strong local and national churches. They must be indigenous in character, not imitations of British or American institutions. It should be themissionary’s aim to trainmen and women to take his place, to do his work in every sphere: teaching, translating, administration, literature production and distribution, broadcasting, etc. In other words, the missionary will endeavor to train others to do the work rather than do it himself. This alone will insure the future of the church in that area of the world. In all this a clear recognition of the varying gifts among missionaries is essential. Square pegs in round holes nullify effective missionary work.
Mention must also be made of the possible contribution of the Christian abroad who is not a missionary, e.g., the university teacher. Experience shows that such servants of the Lord have done great work and it is certain that the future has a significant place for them. Some might be able to remain in countries from which missionaries have been evacuated, though it is doubtful whether they would then be wise to have anything to do with local churches, being foreigners. Their sphere is the large cities where their work normally lies. Their communication will normally be in English and their field of operations among those who speak English, especially students. The importance of student work cannot be overestimated, though even they can best be reached by those who speak their own language fluently. These non-missionary Christian witnesses thus have an important part to play, though they can rarely take the place or do the work of the full-time missionary.
Finally, as far as work overseas is concerned, local churches must be increasingly provided with good Christian literature. Literate Christians must have books to read as well as the Bible. They should have Christian radio programs to listen to, and hence broadcasting and receiving facilities must be improved. The Christian church must make the best possible use of all communications media.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS AT HOME
Nor should the strategic possibilities of the situation at home be overlooked in emphasizing the strategic character of the work overseas. Newly independent nations are sending their best material to the West for training. Many of these students are the product of Christian schools, though often they lack faith. They may all be said to be key personnel destined for influential positions in their countries. Thus, this is a mission field of great importance for the formation of Christian leadership overseas in years to come.
Strategic planning is not common among evangelicals and seems impossible without voluntary cooperation. At present any formulation of general strategy is out of the question, but within limited areas something can be done. Evangelism-in-Depth has pointed the way in Latin America. The Congo has witnessed some strategic planning. In Japan, on the other hand, the complex situation renders any strategy for the whole country impossible.
Strategy must not be dictated by political or social change. Nor must it be based on individual concepts that can be overthrown by a successor. Such "strategy" leads to anarchy. All strategy must be based on Scripture and agreed upon as a permanent guide by both missionaries and nationals. This is not to suggest that in the New Testament there is a precise blueprint for every phase of mission activity and church life. But it does provide a number of principles that can be applied to any age and culture. Mission and church activities described in the New Testament are merely examples of these principles in action in one culture and at a former time.
This article is restricted to principles, to overall strategy as distinct from tactics. It emphasizes that post-colonial strategy on the world’s mission f