It used to be that the face of foreign missions was clearly delineated. Evangelical Christians would describe it as a composite portrait of Hudson Taylor, Mary Slessor, Adoniram Judson, David Livingstone, and the Auca martyrs against a background of hospitals and other philanthropic works among underprivileged masses of the primitive world.
It is a wonderfully colorful portrait, and, like an old photograph from the family album, it arouses nostalgic memories and even creates a little amusement. But it is not a picture of missions today.
What has changed? What is the portrait of modern missions?
In the background is a world in flux, a world made smaller by fast travel, radio, and television. People are more aware of political events, scientific achievements, and cultures other than their own. No country today lives to itself, and often the “natives” are more alert to modern world trends than are some of the missionaries who carry the everlasting Gospel to them. Young and sometimes immature churches will not take mission leadership for granted and will certainly, and perhaps rightly, resist mission control; adolescent churches, like young people, are restless and sometimes even irresponsible.
But if the changing world brings problems it also offers unprecedented opportunities. Throughout the Far East, for example, eager Chinese young people, many of whom speak English fluently, are open to the Christian message. The Japanese web society, which has for years made missionary work difficult, is losing its grip on the younger generation. Young people are flooding the highly developed and industrialized cities of modern Japan, where it is much easier to reach them. The vast student world, in Manila alone numbering about half a million, ...1
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