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Opening a Market for Missions

American Evangelicals and the Re-Christianization of Europe, 1945-1985

Hans Krabbendam

Pages 153 - 175


In the mid-1940s the newly revitalized evangelicals in the United States fostered great plans to evangelize the world. They felt that their efforts were thwarted by two monopolistic arrangements. The first monopoly was the result of the official position of the more liberal World Council of Churches. Because this global organization had strong backing from the established churches in the United States and presented itself as the official spokesperson for global Protestantism, evangelicals felt locked out of prospective missionary opportunities in Europe and its colonies. In order to open these religious markets, the evangelical leadership launched an alternative organization, the World Evangelical Fellowship, and simultaneously embarked on a re-Christianization campaign. The second monopoly became visible once American missionaries landed in Europe. They encountered restrictions caused by nation states and established churches. Their efforts to overcome both obstacles moved through five stages. In the late 1940s, they defined Europe as a mission field. In the next decade they launched a great number of mission programs. This resulted in the formation of an alternative evangelical subculture in Europe in the 1960s, which diversified in the 1970s, and fragmented in the 1980s, with the new media revolution in TV and satellite. Halfway through this process, in the 1960s, evangelicals had found viable ways to displace monopolistic exclusion by religious pluralism. This not only led to the incorporation of Europe in global evangelicalism, but also opened opportunities for new and surprising joint ventures with competitors.


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