Is the West Faltering ?
Ralph Winter's historical perspective gave him foresight that is even more relevant now, almost 20 years later. If he were still living, he would undoubtedly update this article in light of current political events taking place in China and the U.S. This excerpt from "The Kingdom Strikes Back," is from the 4th edition (1999) of the Reader, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement.
Unheralded, unnoticed, and all but forgotten in our day except for ill-informed criticism, Protestant missionary efforts [during the 1800–2000 time period] … led the way in establishing throughout the world the democratic apparatus of government, the schools, the hospitals, the universities, and the political foundations of the new nations. Rightly understood, Protestant missionaries, along with their Roman Catholic counterparts, are surely not less than the prime movers of the tremendous energy that is mushrooming in the Third World today. Take China, for example. Two of its greatest modern leaders, Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, were both Christians. Teng Hsiao-P’ing’s “Four Modernizations” were principal emphases of the Western mission move- ment in China. Missions had planted a university in every province of China, etc.
But, if the Western home base is now to falter and to fail as the tide is reversed through the rising power of its partially evangelized periphery (as is the pattern in the earlier periods), we can only refer to Dawson’s comment on the devastation wrought by the Vikings—that this will not be a “victory for paganism.”
The fall of the West will, in that case, be due in part to a decay of spirit. It will also be due to the pagan power in the non-Western world emboldened and strengthened by its first contact with Christian faith. It may come as a most drastic punishment to a Western world that has always spent more on cosmetics than it has on foreign missions—and lately ten times as much.
From a secular or even nationalistic point of view, the next years may be a very dark period for the Western world. The normal hopes and aspirations of Christian people for their own country may find only a very slight basis for optimism. But if the past is any guide at all, even this will have to be darkness before the dawn. The entire Western world in its present political form may be radically altered. We may not even be sure about the survival of our own country. But we have every reason to suppose from past experience that the Christian, biblical faith will clearly survive in one form or another.
We can readily calculate that during the 20th century, Westerners dropped from 18% to 8% of the world population. But we cannot ultimately be pessimistic. Beyond the agony of Rome was the winning of the Barbarians. Beyond the agony of the Barbarians was the winning of the Vikings. Beyond the agony of the Western world we can only pray that there will be the defeat of Satan’s power holding millions of people hostage in thousands of peoples—peoples which have too long “sat in darkness” and who “shall see a great light” (Matt 4:16). And we can know that there is no basis in the past or in the present for assuming that things are out of the control of the Living God.
If we in the West insist on keeping our blessing instead of sharing it, then we will, like other nations before us, have to lose our blessing for the remaining nations to receive it. God has not changed His plan in the last 4,000 years. But how much better not to focus on how to retain but to strive intentionally to extend that marvelous “blessing”! That way “in you and in your descendants all of the peoples of the world will be blessed.” This is the only way we can continue in God’s blessing. The expanding Kingdom is not going to stop with us (although it may leave us behind). “This Gospel of the Kingdom must be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all peoples, and then shall the end come” (Matt 24:14). God can raise up others if we falter. Indeed, the rest of this book indicates that is already happening.