What steps am I to take in designing an eight-week Sunday school course on the history of the Christian mission, with two lessons covering the biblical and theological material and one focusing upon lessons learned from the Christian mission history, how do I break it up to make sense and answer these questions: what did the earlier missionaries do right and wrong and what lessons can be learned for the future?
This is an amazing topic. I have done a good amount of research on the history of missions. Here are eight topics. You can mix, match, add, and subtract to fit your needs.
First, I would start with the New Testament. The passages on the Great Commission is a good starting point.
Second, I would then go into Acts 1:8, where we see the program of the church, which starts in Jerusalem and goes from Samaria to the ends of the earth. The book of Acts is also worthy of exploration as a mission manual of the early church.
Third, I would explore a few letters of the apostle Paul, the missionary par excellence of Christian history.
Fourth, I would take a retrospective and examine the Old Testament. In particular, Genesis 12 is important. God blessed Abraham to be a blessing to the earth. Lots of theology here.
Fifth, I would explore the mission of the church during the Roman Empire with special emphasis on the growth of the church in Rome. You can mention the persecution of Christians under Nero, Diocletian, and the growth of Christianity during Constantine.
Sixth, I would then go into the growth of monasteries and how they helped not only to spread faith but also preserve classical learning.
Seventh, I would examine the modern mission movement.
Finally, I would then explore the mistakes of colonialism and lack of social sensitivity. Too often the imperial impulses of the West were tied to missions. As for important lessons, the most important lesson is probably the importance of contextualization. In other words, we need to ask how the gospel message fits into a culture. I wish you all the best.
I'd probably talk mainly about the life of Paul and how every time he was rejected from a city, he never gave up. many people do mission for 1-2 years and decide to retreat because they don't see the "fruit" they hoped for. They don't realize that it takes time for people to convert.