Centenary of World Missions Conference of 1910

At the closing session,  June 6th, the delegates at Edinburgh issued a renewed committment to the world missionary task of the Church of Jesus Christ of this generation.  In contrast to the Conference of 1910, the delegates represented a much greater and diverse presence of the nations and peoples of the world.

And yet, never was the Christian faith more on display as the same “ancient-future” faith established by Jesus Christ for the whole world as at the 2010 Missionary Conference. It serves as a statement to anyone in doubt, that the missionary calling is at the very heart of the Biblical faith.

One of my favorite resources of how this developed in the 20th century, following the first conference in 1910, is a book written by Hendrik Kraemer in 1938,” The Christian Message in a non-Christian world”. It was written at the request of the International Missionary Council in order to serve as material for the World Missionary Conference in 1938. For that Conference the general plan was for five main themes and this book was to address the second one:”The Witness of the Church”.

Here is a quote for Dr.Kraemer in the chapter entitled, “The Non-Christian systems of Life and Thought”,p.145.

“The search for supreme religious experience is utterly foreign to Biblical realism , because the emphasis falls exclusively on what God does and reveals, and the correlate religious experience is secondary in the strongest  sense possible. Far from being necessarily “supreme”, we can learn from the great prophets that they seldom experience God’s revealing activity as a blissful immanence of the divine, never as the supreme moment of deification, but often as a being overpowered by God’s imperative claim on the whole of life”.

After all the interuptions, including World War II, the Korean War, and the War in Viet Nam, the Church of Jesus Christ has continued to grow and expand among the peoples of the earth. It is very refreshing and quite illuminating to see how we have come through all the challenges with a resolve stronger than ever to take the witness to what God has done in Christ to the non-Christian world.

 I encourage you to read and download the “Common Call” pdf.

The Open Secret of the Unity Vision.

The last century witnessed a monumental effort on the part of Christian leaders to promote the vision of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It grew out of , among other things, The Student Volunteer Movement which embraced the watchword, “The evangelization of the world in our generation”. This movement saw a vision of one mission incumbent on the whole Church of Jesus Christ and took serious and deliberate action to realize that vision. Their hearts were captive to a greater loyalty. The movement formally began in 1886 and according to at least one researcher, Michael Parker, had ended by 1926. (see The Kingdom of Character, American Society of Missiology, 1998).

The SVM movement

This movement is just one part of what led to the first World Conference on Christian missions at Edinburgh, 1910. Out of this conference developed the missionary thrust of the twentieth century and the ecumenical movement that became The World Council of Churches. Now thanks to the age of the internet, this same vision is entering not only a new millennium, but most definitely an important new chapter- one my friend John Armstrong calls, missional-ecumenism.

In his new book, “Your Church is Too Small“, an enormous amount of detail is made available for those that consider themselves loyal to the same vision and actively pray for and work at promoting this same vision for the whole church. Will it advance beyond what those of the twentieth century were able to take it? That will depend on the church in every place obediently becoming the church in both word and deed. The future of the church will certainly look different than the past two thousand years. But it cannot and must not forget what has gone before-certainly not the efforts, gains, and victories of the twentieth century both in terms of practicing her oneness and sacrificing herself for her mission to the world.

I cannot realistically hope that the churches will research the documents that I have over the last forty plus years. Missiology is a highly specialized discipline along with many others in the area of Christology and Ecclesiology. But with the age of the internet, ignorance of how the churches of the twentieth century saw the essence of their calling and how they went about fulfilling that calling must now be apart of any serious attempt to celebrate and promote the oneness of the world-wide church. The information is at our finger-tips for us to get up to speed on every part of the body of Christ. Just one of the beautiful things this means is that no part of the church is insignificant. In a whole new way every tradition within Christianity is reduced to a level playing field regardless of their size.

In my post tomorrow, I will introduce you to just one very important stream that we all surely need to know about. The Mennonite churches. So what about you? Are you content to just surf this web, or does it have something to do with what you have chosen to be loyal to; what you have given your heart to?

Listen to John’s introduction and see if you don’t hear this “Greater Loyalty”!


I’ve been having a great time posting on the “Year of St.Paul” and responding to the invitation of Pope Benedict to study afresh with the Catholic Church the contribution this Apostle makes to Christianity.

I have learned many things not only from the Biblical texts but have also learned of the Apostle’s influence on the Catholic renewal that has been going on for some time and is especially seen in the council known as Vatican II. But June 29 is coming around soon and I am hoping to choose another theme that will keep me busy.

EDINBURGH 1910-2010  appears to be a very good candidate. Click here to see the intended outcomes.

In 1910 the first world conference on Protestant Missions was held and this remarkable event led to much of the activity in the 20th century churches not only for world-wide expansion but for the related emphasis on the Biblical theme of UNITY. In fact this conference led directly to the eventual founding of the World Council of Churches. It was a very significant event coming as it did as the build-up for World War I was already underway by many of the same countries that the delegates came from. There is much to review about the first conference and what has happened in Protestant mission since.

Preparations for the Cenntenial celebrations are already far along with four major conferences planned around the world. The excitement is building among the churches and it has caught me in its wave. If you want to inform yourself of some of the things we will have to blog about check-out EDINBURGH 2010:Remembering the past, redefining the future.