In this book, Martin Robinson sets out to explore the history of mission to discover how to reverse the recent decline in Christianity in the West. At first this seems disproportionate, but as he journeys through the Church’s history and the travels of Christianity, Robinson brings out repeated themes that apply equally today.
Robinson begins by reminding his readers that the church was born into a world with gods for every facet of life. Pluralism and persecution has always been part of the church’s experience. Robinson discusses the struggles church and culture: trying to make connections to the community without obscuring the gospel.
Robinson notes the important contribution of The Edinburgh Missionary conference of 1910 was a huge step forward. But in a repetition of events from previous centuries, differences of doctrine led to renewed separations.
Among the positive stories, where missionaries made the effort to train local leaders, and allowed them to develop their own strategy, astounding growth resulted. (In another book review I recounted a similar experience from MAF.)
Robinson notes the dominance of secular world-views during the 20th Century which returned the West to its first century status as a mission field for evangelists from the East.
But Robinson believes the tide is turning as people are searching for meaning and real community. In our fragmented society, churches which foster good relationships AND bring the gospel are growing rapidly and having an impact around them.
A couple of chapters near the end of the book offer key advice in finding and using opportunities to connect into communities with the gospel.
Winning hearts, changing minds is an update to the earlier book To win the West. In an introduction to the new edition, Robinson lists five key areas in which he sees hope and possibilities. These effectively preview and sum up his message from the book:
- The importance of being
- A new paradigm for leadership
- Relational evangelism.
- ‘Go structures’.
- A lay movement.
Robinson quote Tom Wright, who believes that the church needs to get out there where the people are and begin “planting flags in hostile territory” Winning hearts, changing minds is a concise but thorough review of the history of missions from the first to the twenty-first centuries. It draws on the lessons of the past to offer helpful guidance for success in the present.