Preparing the Church for a Third Mission to the West…
Is another reformation possible? The West—Europe and North America—has for some time been aptly described as post-Christian. Can there be a rebirth of vision and mission that will substantially impact the West with the Gospel?
Focusing more specifically on the US, evangelicals have swung between two false extremes. A hundred years ago, they retreated from the culture, developing a privatized faith that shunned the public arena. More recently, many evangelicals have entered the public arena with a politicized faith that gives precedence to politics over Gospel.
Os Guinness points out, in an interview with the Christian Post, that these false extremes—privatized or politicized—are neither faithful nor influential.
Sadly, when we look at many movements within evangelicalism today, the world and the spirit of the age are dominant, rather than the Word and Spirit.
The Christian church in the US is still strong numerically, but it has lost its decisive influence both in American public life and in American culture as a whole, especially in the major elite institutions of society.
In various talks given over the last couple years, Guinness has been making a case for a new Christian renaissance. The word “renaissance” was chosen because it means “rebirth,” a concept Guinness prefers because it is “thoroughly Christian.”
A new Christian renaissance would entail “a restoration of radical faithfulness to Jesus and His way of life, and a fresh flowering of entrepreneurial ventures in culture.” It would be the “third mission to the West,” as Guinness describes in a short online article the Kairos Journal. ***
The first mission to the West was the conversion of the Roman Empire, a three centuries-long movement under God that was a staggering accomplishment through which the faith of a bunch of provincial malcontents grew to replace the faith of mighty Rome herself. The second mission to the West was the conversion of the barbarian empires, a less known but equally staggering achievement through which the violent tribal peoples of Europe were “gentled” and the foundations were laid for what became Christendom. Today, as the legacy of those great and successful missions runs out, we face the challenge of giving up or setting out on a third mission to the West.
Winning back the West will not be the work of five minutes, five months, or five years. It may take a hundred years, for the hardest spheres of our society such as the universities are not going to be won without immense toil and perseverance. And our motive must not be to win back the West for the West’s sake (or for the sake of America or Europe, or even for democracy or civilization), but to win back the West for Christ’s sake—out of faithfulness to the Great Commission. In other words, our concern is the West, not because it is in any way superior and worth saving—we could easily argue the opposite—but because the West is our Jerusalem and our Judea, from which we must join hands with others around the world and reach out to bring the gospel also to Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth.
What would this “third mission to the West” look like? The answer is best provided by Os Guinness himself. A brief sketch is given in the interview with the Christian Post and in an article the Kairos Journal. A more extended version was presented in a talk at the Gospel & Culture Conference at Redeemer Presbyterian Church on April 17, 2011. The video of “Challenging the Darkness: Towards a New Christian Renaissance” is available below. Please take time to listen—and to take notes!!
*** The online Kairos Journal has a series of short articles by Os Guinness, one of which is entitled “Third Mission to the West.” Free registration is required for access.