Since the time of the Apostle Paul, trade routes have always been highways for missions, taking missionaries from the Old World to the New, and from the West to the East.
Church of the West: World Changers With Mixed Reviews
Before the U.S. emerged as the pre-eminent superpower after WWII, Europe had been dominating the world for 500 years. Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, England and France were the major powers that explored, traded, and colonized many parts of Asia, Africa and the Americas.
During those 500 years, missions and trade were associated with colonial expansion, resulting in criticism from historians and anthropologists.
During the first millennium, the spread of Christianity by the Church of the East started from major trading centers that were cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural communities. With the coexistence and confluence of languages, ideas and religions, people were more open- minded, less tied to any set of traditions or beliefs.
Along the ancient Silk Road, everyone needed a socially understandable identity to not only travel but settle down. As now so then, merchants could go anywhere and be welcomed. Furthermore, trade funded their travels.
China's One Belt One Road (OBOR) vision promises to revive the Ancient Silk Road with a vast network of trade routes linking China with Central Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, serving as a conduit for diplomacy and economic expansion.
To what extent and how quickly OBOR will achieve its objectives is unknown. Regardless, this Titanic of the Chinese Dream has sailed. The July 2016 Economist devoted three pages to discuss its geopolitical and economic significance.
As we review how trade and missions reached the ancient world, we need to discern how God may work in our time as China’s One Belt One Road initiative impacts the countries and peoples in this vast region of the world that is the heart of the 10/40 Window. In the June 2016 issue of Great Commission Bi-monthly, Dr. Kim Kwong Chan outlined the OBOR missiological implications.