Roland Allen, in Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours, finds the secret of Paul’s missionary strategy on the human side in his concern for “strategic centres.” Every city in which Paul did major work was a center of Roman administration, Greek civilization, Jewish influence, and world commerce. From these centers the Christian witness radiated outward until it permeated the nations.
In projecting his essay on biblical missionary principles and practices, in the 20th Century, F. Dale Bruner nominates these as “the great cities of our time … eminent centers of government, culture, religion and business”:
★ Tokyo: The Japanese are Asia’s imperialists—in the precise sense of the word. A land area equivalent to Montana embraces nearly 100 million people packed together like dynamite. The fuse is Tokyo, world’s largest city. In this capital metropolis are all but one of Japan’s top universities, most of its preparatory schools, 90 per cent of the nation’s publishing houses, and 60 per cent of the business headquarters.
★ Seoul: In the battered capital city of Korea, 160 Presbyterian church spires rise like praying hands. Surrounded by stronger and politically more formidable nations, it nonetheless represents a site where God has chosen to fructify his seed and build his church as nowhere else in East Asia, with the exception of New Guinea. Perhaps Korea is destined to be spiritually what she is geographically, an appendix of Asia which will erupt and spread through all the East the beneficent bacteria of God’s Word.
★ Peking: Red China’s 650 million people represent the equivalent of three Russias or four Americas, and the population is said to be increasing at the incredible rate of more than 15 million a year. At the heart of the empire lies the stolid, mysterious capital city of Peking—the city forbidden to all but God.
★ Singapore: The key to Southeast Asia, Singapore lies on the principal trade route between the harbors of the Far and Middle East. It is three-fourths Chinese, dynamic, and growing so rapidly that it is estimated that by 1980 half of its population will be teen-age and under. Capital of one of mankind’s great races, this youthful city sitting at the crossroads of the new Asia cannot be ignored.
It is unfortunate that we must skip over so many cities of significance. One is Hong Kong, precarious and swollen parasite clinging to the Chinese mainland. Another is Djakarta, capital of Indonesia, whose 88 million make it the world’s sixth largest nation.
★ Delhi: Seat of power and government in the world’s second largest nation, Delhi presides over great possibilities—and great hunger. More than 80 million in India chronically starve, and look to Delhi for relief. If soundly evangelized and established with a living Church, the city could become the hope capital of the world. Indian Christians say that India’s greatest blight is not hunger, but hunger’s chief causes, inertia and pessimistic fatalism. They are moods that feed on the husks of Indian caste religion.
Our next great city must be somewhere in the Middle East, or perhaps in the Arab world which stretches from the Atlantic seaboard along the northern rim of Africa to the eastern borders of Iran. The vast majority of some 80 million Arabs live in poverty and suspicion of one another. They share a common language (Arabic); a common religion (Islam); a common race (Hamitic); and a common hatred (Israel).
★ Tel Aviv: A few years ago Tel Aviv would have been hard to find on the map. Today it is in the eyes of the world. Whatever one’s prophetic convictions, there seems to be little doubt that Tel Aviv will assume more prominence in the years to come.
The importance of Israel should not be underestimated. The three great revolutions of our time, as has often been remarked, are the products of Jewish minds. Behind the current scientific revolution is the brain of Albert Einstein; behind the political and economic revolution of communism is Karl Marx; and behind the modern psychological revolution is Sigmund Freud. A most challenging, difficult, and demanding mission in the world today is the mission to the Jew—our own spiritual ancestor—from whose heritage we have taken the Torah and Scriptures, and, most beneficially, their Messiah and our Lord.
The strategic city for Africa does not appear at this time. One might have suggested Cairo, but Cairo may be more part of the Middle East than of Africa. Perhaps Leopoldville, or Johannesburg. The most vigorous current leadership in Africa is apparently being exercised by Nkrumah of Ghana and Mboya of Kenya, but their leadership seems to flow more from personal power than from geographical advantage.
★ Moscow: Nerve-center of international communism, Moscow has come to be a living symbol to one-third the world’s land surface and one-half its population.
★ Berlin: Divided Berlin speaks for a divided nation which perhaps more than any other stands at the crossroads of our century. Einstein, Marx, and Freud, to whom reference has been made, were of Germanic origin as well as Jewish. The direction Germany takes in the last half of the twentieth century may be as portentous for the world as the direction she took in the first half. What the Germans do, they tend to do with extreme thoroughness. Could that great zeal be harnessed for Christ, Germany might well lead the world in spiritual awakening.
★ Paris: Recently a leading U.S. publisher declared that Paris is still the fashion-setter of the world—setting the pattern in everything from wearing apparel to morals. Many believe that the rise of Charles de Gaulle may have been the harbinger of a new “vogue of virtue” throughout France, in place of the vogue of the sensual. In this enigmatic city where the intellect is worshiped and the body is served, it may be too much to hope that Christ could ever become the fashion, but Paris remains one of the world’s key cities.
★ Rome: The center of loyalty of a score of countries is Rome, crucial because it is the site of the Holy See of the Roman Catholic church. The responsible missionary statesmen of our time must study Romanism as assiduously as he studies communism, for a mixture of reasons. There are segments of Romanism where a true witness to the Saviour is borne, yet the authentic Gospel is often overlaid with so many accretions of Roman tradition and practice that the Gospel is scarcely discernible. There remains the possibility that the seeds of primitive and pure truth can be revived and the church recalled to its ancient task by faithful witnesses without and within.
★ London: Great Britain, shrinking in population and in world-wide influence, is no longer mistress of the seas nor queen of a far-flung empire. Yet deposits of diplomatic wisdom and international skill are not lost in a generation. London is still at the heart of the Christian world mission. Great Britain has been the home of many of the greatest of missionary pioneers and statesmen: William Carey, Alexander Duff, Robert Morrison, Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, Mary Slessor.
★ São Paulo: In 34 years the population of São Paulo has gone from 750,000 to more than 3 million. United Nations experts have marked Brazil as the one nation in our time with the potential of graduating into the great power status. A recent estimate shows the rate of growth of evangelical Christianity in Brazil as three times the rate of growth of the population as a whole. A century ago there was in Brazil one Protestant for every 250,000 Roman Catholics. Today there is one Protestant for every 39 Roman Catholics. If the industrial key city of Brazil could be won for Christ, all Latin America would feel the effect.
★ New York: Here is Wall Street, the wallet of the world. Here is Madison Avenue, one of the three or four opinion-setting centers. Here is America’s largest airport and the world’s largest seaport. Here is the seat of the United Nations Organization. Here is the world’s melting pot and the world’s second largest population. As someone has said, New York may not be a capital city—of either a state or a nation—but she is well on her way to becoming the capital of the world.
Here are the high potential centers of the modern world. The goal of modern missionary strategy is to occupy and inform these cities with churches and Christian leadership in key places. If from such cities the manifold gifts of God, as seen in Japanese dynamite, Korean grit, Chinese wisdom, Indian spirituality, Jewish genius, Russian virility, German industry, Roman organization, British statesmanship, Latin zeal, and American ingenuity, could all be marshalled in the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit, there would be evident in our own day a surging, genuinely ecumenical movement in and through the nations.
Whatever method of evangelism may be employed, the message itself cannot be altered. I have preached this message on every continent, under almost every conceivable circumstance. A quiet hush has come over almost every audience when I expound the cross and the resurrection.… There are many factors that contribute to these crusades but the underlying factor is the content of the message.—Evangelist Billy Graham, to the WCC Consultation on Evangelism in Geneva, Switzerland.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more
More from this Issue
Read These Next
- TrendingDied: Pat Robertson, Broadcast Pioneer Who Brought Christian TV to the MainstreamWith CBN, “The 700 Club,” Regent, the Christian Coalition, and a run for president, he changed evangelicals’ place in public life.FrançaisIndonesianрусскийУкраїнська
- From the MagazineOur Worship Is Turning Praise into Secular ProfitWith corporate consolidation in worship music, more entities are invested in the songs sung on Sunday mornings. How will their financial incentives shape the church?español
- Editor's PickPCA’s 50th Anniversary Comes During a Season of GriefPresbyterians expect less fight and more fatigue as they gather following the Covenant shooting and the deaths of Harry Reeder and Tim Keller.