Church history as taught in American seminaries and church colleges often portrays Christianity as a largely Western religion, which did not become a global faith until the modern missionary movement. "Thus, it appears that it took nineteen hundred years for the Great Commission to be realized," says New York Theological Seminary professor Dale Irvin.
But recently, church scholars and missiologists have more fully realized that the history of the modern missionary movement has largely been told from the perspective of the Western sending churches, which was never the whole story.
In April, 40 scholars and church leaders met at Fuller Theological Seminary in part to recover the hidden histories of Christianity worldwide at the "Christian History in Global Perspective" consultation.
MODERN-DAY PARALLELS: Andrew Walls, former missionary to Sierra Leone and professor emeritus at the University of Edinburgh, says Christianity in its early centuries spread into Europe, Asia, and Africa. Even as a new faith, Christianity had a global reach.
Today, at the brink of a new millennium, Christianity's identity as a Western religion is being challenged and changed as never before. Due to the growth of Christians in the developing world, the church's demographic center of gravity has shifted from the north and west to the south and east: Latin America, Africa, and Asia (CT, May 19, 1997, p. 38). This shift happened quickly, and the church in the West has hardly begun to grasp this reality, Walls says.
One implication of this reversal is the growing need for new historical perspectives on church growth and missions. Younger churches outside the West are sparking greater interest in a non-Western view of mission history.
Philip Yuen-Sang Leung, ...1