Rapid change in Eastern Europe and South Africa brought with it major implications for the mission of the church.

Those who have maintained that history got sidetracked by such realities as communism and apartheid have long argued that the demise of both was inevitable and the only question was when. The past year left little doubt: that time is now.

The virtual collapse of Marxism-Leninism throughout Eastern Europe has been thoroughly documented. Christians, like everyone else, filled their lungs with the air of freedom. This year Billy Graham preached at the Berlin Wall, and Luis Palau conducted the first open-air crusade in Romania in more than half a century.

But the air of freedom was not without pollution, as a host of unorthodox groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons, was unleashed on societies whose powers of discernment have not caught up with their newfound privileges.

The highly developed art of tacit, underground evangelism in Eastern Europe has faded into irrelevancy. Instead, Christian leaders are trying to keep their parishioners away from X-rated movies. And materialism is fast replacing communism as a major obstacle to church growth.

Into these new environments, well-meaning Western groups (along with some who are not so well meaning) have arrived as self-announced saviors. But in many cases, they have little or no knowledge about the people and cultures they are trying to help. The greatest need, some have argued, is to slow down, to take stock of resources and needs in order to prepare for a more thoughtful Christian impact on the new society.

The World Scene

Many have also called for a more deliberate approach to the Persian Gulf crisis. At press time, the U.S.’s dual objectives ...

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