The 1910 World Missionary Conference was a watershed moment for Protestantism. Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, the assembled 1,200 Protestants believed that Christianity was on the cusp of spreading to every corner of the world, and that Christ would come again once every ear had heard the good news of salvation. Their master plan for missions would hasten his return.
But Edinburgh 2010, the centenary conference that concluded last month, drew only about a quarter of the crowd and received attention only from a few Christian publications. The modern master plan was less ambitious as well: a call to global missions and “to witness and evangelism in such a way that we are a living demonstration of the love, righteousness and justice that God intends for the whole world.”
This dramatic change was summed up at a small gathering of academics and missions professionals at Fuller Theological Seminary in late May. “At (1910) Edinburgh, people thought they were going to take over the world,” said C. Douglas McConnell, dean of Fuller’s School of Intercultural Studies in his opening remarks. “And now many of our students wonder if they should even try.”