Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Mission's Changing Landscape: Global Flows and Christian Movements

Academic journal article International Review of Mission

Mission's Changing Landscape: Global Flows and Christian Movements

Article excerpt


Since Christianity is a world religion, changes in worldwide Christianity both reflect and affect global affairs and transnational issues. From its inception the IRM has demonstrated this in its holistic approach and global scope. In its pages are developments in the global landscape over the last one hundred years, although with significant shifts in the contributors. These developments include the breakdown of imperial Christendom and the rise of the present world order, how the people of the world are described and relate to one another, and the configuration of religions. Three trends in world Christianity impinge on contemporary mission: the rise of independent Christian movements and the migration of Christians result in an ever-increasing plurality of Christian expression. In view of this, this article argues that mission should be contextual, mission theology expressed in pneumatological terms, and the church understood as a dynamic movement.


Christianity is and always has been a world religion--globally widespread, locally rooted and interconnected. (1) Changes in worldwide Christianity, therefore, are often closely related to global affairs and transnational issues. The Christian movement sometimes follows and sometimes leads world developments but it is never separable from them. The IRM, by its nature as a world missionary journal, represents the interrelation of the Christian movement with global affairs. Preceding Edinburgh 1910 was a thorough research project, based on reports from all over the world, which described missionary activity and responses to it. It considered not only the numbers converting to Christianity and church life but also wider social changes and political trends. Over the last one hundred years the IRM has continued this holistic approach and global scope.

Global developments 1910-2010

Around the centenary of the World Missionary Conference, the IRM carried preparatory articles related to a new study process, Edinburgh 2010, which produced a great deal of material relating to Christian mission around the world. (2) It is helpful to compare and contrast these two moments, 1910 and 2010, in order to highlight three changes in the landscape. We then will examine some contemporary trends in world Christianity, and consider their interrelationship with Christian mission.

An important shift to notice is in those describing the landscape and recording their thinking. Edinburgh 1910 was overwhelmingly a gathering of Western missionaries, who looked at the world as divided into Christendom and the non-Western world. (3) However, a few representative "natives from mission lands" were also invited and given a platform. Although these made up less than two percent of the delegates, they made a significant impact on the conference. (4) Their inclusion signalled a trend toward recognition of the autonomy--and eventually equality--of the so-called "younger churches" and the breakdown of the Christendom paradigm. The Edinburgh 2010 project aimed to hear the voices of Christians from all over the world. The conference brought together representatives of 75 nations from all the continents of the world, and the study process was even more diverse. (5)

The IRM has evolved in a similar way to be inclusive of people from all regions of the world. What was once largely the mouthpiece of Western missionaries, expressing their perspectives on the rest of the world, has now become an organ of global Christian perspectives. Contributors from around the world are free to comment, not only on their own context but on any other part of the globe. As a journal of the World Council of Churches (WCC), since the integration in 1961 of the International Missionary Council (IMC) and the WCC, the IRM has become more diverse in other ways, too. For example, contributors previously were mostly, although never exclusively, representatives of mission organisations, but now they are more likely to identify themselves as members of churches: Orthodox, (6) Catholic (7) and Pentecostal (see below) as well as Protestant and Evangelical. …

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