Quote by Peter Beyerhaus (b. 1929) summarizing Walter Freytag (1899-1959) view of Protestant Missions in 4 waves.
In Pietist mission the Kingdom of God was narrowed to a
purely individualist-ethical outlook. They concentrated on the salvation of individuals… Second, came those who held that the goal was not so much individual converts but self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating churches. These missiologists did not teach the churches must be identical with the Kingdom of God, but acted as though they were… Third, philanthropic missions, mainly with Anglo-American background, conceived of the Kingdom in terms of bettered social conditions in the world. This view, which today is celebrating an unexpected comeback, Freytag called the idealistic and socio-ethical . contraction… Finally, the fourth wave, in sharp contrast to the former three, which held that the kingdom was already present in this world, believed that the Kingdom is yet to come. The apocalypitc evangelists, men like Frederik Franson and Grattan Guiness, believed the Kingdom to be an eschatological phenomenon and located it in the totally transcendent realm. The only object of mission, they said, is to speed up the second coming of the Lord and the consequent establishment of the apocalypitcal Kingdom.
<Quote from Mission, Humanization, and the Kingdom, 1972, p. 55. Quoted by Eun Hong Kim, “Peter Beyerhaus’s Missiological and Theological Thought”, Asia Pacific Journal of Intercultural Studies, Jan 2006, p. 35-36>
So Beyerhaus looks at Protestant mission history in terms of the view of the Kingdom of God.
Wave 1. The Kingdom of God is individual lives
Wave 2. The Kingdom of God is The Church
Wave 3. The Kingdom of God is Society
Wave 4. The Kingdom of God is the future transcendant kingdom.
The first 3 waves at least make sense because they are focused on human lives. The Kingdom of God is about a recreated individual, in an purified Church, in a transformed society. The fourth wave, to me, is a bit questionable, not because there is not some truth about it, but that the focus is wrong. Beyerhaus did believe that the last wave had value in that the coming of the Kingdom of God should “speed up” our evangelistic fervor. Personally, I think it should motivate us to faithfulness, not trying to be “quick” but I suppose that is a matter of opinion. Some in the 4th Wave believe that we can get Christ to come back sooner through evangelism (The Lausanne Covenant seems to suggest this). This appears to be a regrettable interpretation of Matthew 24.
Regardless, all four waves have problems because of their limited scope. God’s Kingdom is not simply centered on God, not simply centered in people (or groups of people), and not centered in a specific period of time.