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The Bridges of God



Donald Anderson McGavran, was born December 15, 1897, in Damoh, India, the son and grandson of missionaries. Returned with parents to the United States in 1910, grew up in Michigan, Oklahoma and Indiana. He died July 10, 1990, in Altadena, California, of cancer. His parents are John Grafton McGavran and Helen (Anderson) McGavran, missionaries in India with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He wrote many books on missions and Church growth and he is the father and founder of Church Growth Movement.


In this book, Donald A. McGavran discussed many basic issues related with Christianity and Strategy of Missions. Actually this book is based on the presupposition of partnership between the older and younger churches in carrying out the Great Commission. Its message is not for Westerners alone, but for other nationals also. All concerned with carrying out our Lord’s command should know great deal more about the process by which peoples become Christian. This book is written in the hope that it will shed light on that process and help direct the attention of those who love the Lord to the highways of the Spirit along which His redemptive Church can advance. He asks how clans, tribes, castes, in short how Peoples become Christian. Every nation is made up of various layers or strata of society. In many nations each stratum is clearly separated from every other. The individuals in each stratum intermarry chiefly, if not solely, with each other. Their intimate life is therefore limited to their own society, that is, to their own people. They may work with others, they may buy from and sell to the individuals of other societies, but their intimate life is wrapped up with the individuals of their own people.

There is no other religion or philosophy which by its extension could possibly unify the world. The world is in a period of cataclysmic change. Christian missions in the lands of Asia and Africa are coming to the end of an era. The entire conduct of missions must be thoroughly re-examined. In the minds of too many politically dependent peoples, becoming Christian has been associated with denationalization and with a distasteful dependence upon the dominant whites. How peoples accept Christ in independent countries must be most carefully considered if churches and missions are to meet God’s call to help build up these nations. It is of the utmost importance that the Church should understand how peoples, and not merely individuals, become Christian.

He continues discussed about the Unfamiliar in people movements. Individualistic Westerners cannot without special effort grasp how peoples become Christian. In the West Christianization was and is an extremely individualistic process. This is due to various causes. For one thing, Western nations are homogeneous and there are few exclusive sub-societies. Then too, because freedom of conscience exists, one member of a family can become Christian and live as Christian without being ostracized by the rest of the family. Furthermore, Christianity is regarded as true, even by many who do not profess it. It is considered a good thing to join the Church. A person is admired for taking a stand for Christ. A habit of independent decision was established. In the Christian churches this habit was further strengthened by the practice of revival meetings appealing for individual decisions to the accompaniment of great emotion. . In a true people individuals are bound together not merely by common social practices and religious beliefs but by common blood. True person is a social organism which, by virtue of the fact that its members intermarry very largely within its own confines, becomes a separate race in their minds. A change of religion involves a community change. Peoples become Christian as a wave of decision for Christ sweeps through the group mind, involving many individual decisions being far more than merely their sum. This may be called a chain reaction. We call this process a “People Movement.” “People” is a more universal word than “tribe,” “caste” or “clan.” It is more exact than “group”. It fits everywhere, therefore in this book we shall speak of People Movements to Christ. We do not use the term “mass movement”. This unfortunate term implies unthinking acceptance of Christ by great masses.

The New Testament records how large segments of one people, the Jews, became Christian and how from that new Christian society Christward movements in other peoples began. To think of the early churches as People Movement churches will be new to many. But our evidence is that of the New Testament itself. At the time of Christ the Jews had a very highly developed people-consciousness. They were full of “race prejudice.” They thought of themselves not merely as a people, but as the People of God, the chosen People. They strictly forbade any intermarriage with Gentiles. They had “no dealings with Samaritans”, even though the latter were a kindred people. The Lord Jesus Christ was thought of as a Jewish figure. He had lived as a Jew. The early Church was made up of Jews only. It was a one-people Church for some years. The early Church grew within Judaism. For at least a decade the Jews who were becoming Christians were not conscious at all of joining a non-Jewish religion. The conversion of Cornelius and the Italians with him not, as far as the record tells, start a People Movement. In the book he talked about that Paul lived for one consuming purpose, that of knowing Jesus Christ and bringing others into the redeemed fellowship. His intellectual achievements and his mystical awareness of God were both tremendous. Paul sought to bring them all into the existing Christian movement which started out by being Jewish and ended up with the conversion of the Roman world. In the providence of God, the early churches spread far and wide through the Jewish People Movement to Christ.  

He said the missionaries did indeed learn the languages of the country and learned them well. They served the people with love, taught their children, visited in their homes, went with them through famines and epidemics, ate with them, bought from them and sold to them, and, more than any other group of white men in the tropics were at one with them. Casual contacts may win a few individuals to a new faith, but unless these individuals are able to start a living movement within their own society, it does not start at all. Missionaries facing the gulf of separation built mission stations and gathered colonies of Christians. Together with building the station, the missionaries gathered converts. It was exceedingly difficult for those hearing the Good News for the first time, knowing nothing of Christians or of Christianity save that it was the religion of the invading white men, to accept the Christian religion. The many Mission Station Approach churches form a significant outreach of the Christian faith into non-Christian cultures. The great century of Christian Missions may well Churches. As the churches of Christ all round the globe, the older churches and the younger churches banded together, recognize the primacy of discipling those people who have been called of God. But from God’s point of view we are invited to march with Him down an ever-widening avenue to the hearts of the nations. 


In this Book, I learned many mission strategies to reach the people for God’s mission. I think Bridges of God are historic relational connections through which God leads us into new faith ventures. They are marked by the providential convergence of various factors indicating how the Holy Spirit has been preparing us, in advance of our willingness, to venture into a new calling. Bridges of God are discerned not so much through the efforts of human wisdom or elaborate studies by task forces. A church is led to its Bridges of God by prayerful consideration of how God has worked in its past. Especially important indicators are the historic relationships which a church has had within the larger Body of Christ in the world. Personal callings of current members of the local church are keys to confirm and to enter into avenues of opportunity discovered through these Bridges of God.


The Bridges of God, by Donald Anderson McGavran; Published in the United Kingdom by the “World Dominion Press”, 1955.

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