- The rise of optimism in the modern age. The wonders of science, technology, democracy, Western culture, and the Christian social gospel, and the progress and spread of all of these, would surely (it seemed) save us from all ills.
- The gradual disestablishment of Christianity as the "official" religion of Western societies (aka the end of "Christendom"), accompanied by the adaptation of Christian theology to harmonize it with modern rationalism. This lead directly to the polarization of Christian thought into "fundamentalist" and "liberal" extremes.
- The creation of the categories of "mission" and "evangelism" as programs of the church as Western culture encountered other cultures and sought to bring them the Gospel - along with Western culture itself.
- The emergence of "mission", as in the missio Dei or "mission of God", as a major topic of theological inquiry, after the terrible atrocities of the 20th century ushered in the failure of modern optimism and the dawn of the postmodern era. If Christian "mission" was not merely the export of glorious Western Christian culture, what was God's mission?
- The growing awareness of "evangelism" as being, biblically, at the heart of mission, and also at the heart of Christian discipleship itself.
If the Christian community is to carry out its mission of gospel witness, then its evangelization will be directed both to itself as well as to the world into which it is sent. We need to free our language and our thinking from the idea that evangelistic ministry is only directed to nonbelievers. The New Testament is...addressed to believers from beginning to end, and it evangelizes at every turning. Evangelizing churches are churches that are being evangelized. For the sake of its evangelistic vocation, the continuing conversion of the church is essential.So where does Guder go from here? Tune in next time....