Imagine a football team playing every game on its home field. Since home teams win about 80 percent of their games, the team would have an immense advantage. It would have winning seasons year after year.

During the “Christendom” era (from Constantine’s conversion to the Renaissance), the Western church scored for a thousand years like a football team with home-field advantage. The church defined the game, announced the rules, and briefed the referees. The church’s team always had the crowd behind it.

All of that has changed. If the church plays today, it plays on opposition turf. Indeed, the very “map” of Christianity has changed. Once the countries and peoples of Europe and North America were “Christian,” and the countries and peoples of the Third World were “mission fields.” The picture today is starkly different. Today a higher percentage of Angolans than Americans are active, professing Christians, a higher percentage of Koreans than Canadians, a higher percentage in Fiji than in any country in Europe. The United States has become the largest mission field in the Western Hemisphere. For the church in America to carry on its evangelistic mission, we must know what we are up against and how the rules of the game are changing.

How Did We Get Where We Are?

One reason for the changed map is heartening: early efforts to take the message beyond the borders of the Western world bore fruit. The other cause, however, is less encouraging: the secularization of the West. Six watershed events, spanning several centuries, have largely placed Western life and thought beyond the automatic influence of the church:

• The Renaissance rediscovered ancient Greek philosophy and ...

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