Renewal and expansion happen when the historical and contextual conditions are right. Thus, a key element in new movements of renewal and expansion is the historical context. There appear to be certain times when the contextual conditions are right for something to happen. For example, the emerging middle classes in the Middle Ages in Europe set the stage for greater mobility and the establishment of the Mendicant Orders. Or again, the social conditions of eighteenth century England were crying out for George Whitefield and John Wesley.
It is important to note of major political and contextual events that affect the expansion of the church. Examples would include:
• Persecutions of the early church under Decian, Valerian and Diocletian
• The act of toleration under Constantine.
• The rise of feudalism.
• The rise of the nation-states from the fifteenth century on.
• The colonial expansion.
• The frontier expansion in America.
• Western relations with China.
• Independence trend since WWII.
• Liberalising trends behind the Iron Curtain.
Major world trends today would include:
• The economic transfer of power and influence to the Pacific Rim, through Multi-nationals.
• The development of technology and communication systems in the digital age.
• The shift in the centre of world Christianity from north to south.
• The effects of urbanisation and secularisation.
• The new and changing roles of women in many parts of the world.
• The universal pluralism.
• The rise of non-western mission agencies.
• The growth of Islamic fundamentalism and the analogous trends in other religions.
• The population explosion and the spectra of poverty.