This is an article from the January-February 1995 issue: The Frozen Church

Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment

This issue throbs with the drumbeat of mobilization I will propose to identify a Prime Mover in mobilization--namely, that the "frozen church" unfreezes when God kindles a fire in the hearts of at least one family and that family actually goes to the field.

Also, you'll find in-depth reporting on one of the most amazing global mobilization meetings ever held--the final huddle (in Colorado Springs Nov. 28-Dec. 3) of AD2000 leaders prior to the huge mass meeting in Korea May 17-26 (the Global Consultation on World Evangelization/GCOWE).

One more "Never before meeting?" The profound visionary, Thomas Wang, born in China, and the consummate manager, Luis Bush, born in Argentina, have, under God, done a marvelous thing.

I have said before: never in history has there been a more truly global, evenly representative network of believers from every region of the world working together consciously from more different Christian backgrounds toward completing the specifically missionary challenge of gaining a beachhead in every remaining human population by the year 2000.

God has set in motion a "Symphony of Effort" God's symphony of effort (see diagram across the page) involves thousands of mobilizers from all parts of the world, promoting and supporting specific kinds of work on at least seven levels of field strategy as you see them in this diagram.

Mission mobilization activity is more crucial than field missionary activity

How can I make that claim?

Could that be true? Suppose I had a THOUSAND college seniors in front of me who asked me where they ought to go to make a maximum contribution to Christ's global cause. What would I tell them?

I would tell them all to stay home and mobilize. ALL of them.

Puzzled? Well, if I were talking to TWO THOUSAND college seniors under the same circumstances I would say only ONE THOUSAND of them ought to stay home.

Could it ever be a mistake to become a missionary? Could you make a mistake by becoming a missionary? Yes--according to us.

How in the world can this major mission center in Pasadena--with a straight face--try to talk people into NOT BECOMING MISSIONARIES?

We do it all the time. It's nothing new. 1. Haven't we claimed all along that it is a mistake to be a missionary if mobilization efforts are critically lagging? 2. Wouldn't it be better to awaken a 100 sleeping firemen than to hopelessly throw your own little bucket of water on a huge fire yourself?

There are TWO untapped pools of 100,000 potential fulltime mission workers (missionaries or mobilizers) in the U.S.A.

This will be spelled out on page six. But that exciting pair of strategies hinges on one basic idea: that the most crucial mobilization for missions consists of (somehow) moving individuals out of positions in everyday life into career service in the bloodstream of the global mission cause. We'll talk about the "somehow" on page six (and then on pages 44-46), but the crucial concept is:

The "frozen church" unfreezes when God kindles a fire in the hearts of at least one family and that family actually goes to the field. Somehow, each and every congregation must have at least one of its number "out there" exposed to danger for the sake of the Gospel. Now, the 200,000.

All aspects of local church mobilization come into focus when one family in a congregation gives up what it is doing for what God is doing across the world. The church that does not actually send some of its own people is unlikely to be very serious about any other kind of mission program. It is the electric human TIE between a church and the field that keeps excitement, support, and vision alive.

The 1st "Invisible" 100,000 No less than 100,000 sincere, envisioned people write to one or another of the various mission agencies in this country asking for information about possible service under that agency. This would seem to be the most hopeful group to give some special help in getting to the field or into full-time mobilization.

Here at our Center in Pasadena, California, we have one very big gun that has been blasting off in every direction. It has by now decisively touched the lives of at least 22,000 in this country alone, and at least as large a number in other countries in both English and other languages.

I speak of what we call the Perspectives Study Program, a course which is set up in about 80 places each year operating one night a week for 15 weeks. In the U.S. alone this program reaches over 2,000 people each year--people in every walk of life, at every level in the local congregation and on school campuses. The impact of this one course on the lives of those who take it has been phenomenal.

This course carries both graduate and undergraduate credit from regionally accredited schools. It does not assume students will become missionaries but produces mobilizers as well as missionaries-- in the thousands. It does not train people to be missionaries; it gives them a very solid Biblical, historical, cross-cultural and strategic foundation on which they can make a much more intelligent decision.

Knowing what we now know about the impact of this course, it is without doubt that if even 10% of the 100,000 who write in each year could be steered in the direction of a local Perspectives course, at least one or two out of ten would likely go on into career missions (as missionary or mobilizer) who might not otherwise.

If we can double the 1% of people who follow through on a missionary decision it will be a veritable explosion in mobilization!

The marvelous thing about this is that we know of no mission agency that would not be willing to put a leaflet into the mail about Perspectives in response to those who write in for information! All we need to do is to keep the agencies supplied with leaflets (1/3 of a page "envelope stuffers").

Already we invite our students to select an agency under which they might be interested in working and we routinely forward those names to the agencies.

With the approach outlined here, the agencies will not need to send us any names but merely send to the people (who write to them) our name and let them get in touch with us for a list of locations at which Perspectives will be taught in the coming year.

A big agency like Wycliffe Bible Translators gets about 1,200 letters a month from such people. An agency like TEAM (with 1,000 people on the field) gets about 400 letters a month. If you were to total those numbers for all U. S. agencies it would amount to anywhere from ten to fifteen thousand per month, which is between 120,000 and 180,000 letters per year.

Without slacking off on what we are already doing, in 1995 we are going to try to take aim with this "big gun"--this 150-hour study program--at a new, more specific target. Ten percent of 100,000 will add about 10,000 students to our network. We have 400 people out in the field who are trained to set up this course. They can handle it. We will need more professors (we have less than 500 who work with us now) but I believe by working more closely with the agencies, using missionaries on furlough, etc., that we can handle that part of it too.

If the number of people who follow through on a basic missionary decision ought to be "exploded" from 1% to 2%, there is another source of 100,000 that can be "exploded" from 0% to 5%. These two mobilization efforts can produce 30,000 more missionaries and "unfreeze" 15,000 more churches.

The 2nd "invisible" 100,000 Here is another, different group of 100,000 people. They are not writing in to mission agencies about potential service. They made their decision years earlier but for various reasons did not finish college. These are both further from being full-time Christian workers and also closer. I'd say this is an even higher quality group to tap.

The 2nd "invisible" 100,000 Many people in their youth feel led into high-minded goals and aspirations but the rigors of reality keep them from even finishing college. And that alone keeps them from a career in missions.

In the United States there are 40 million people who have only two years of college. Ten million, at least, are Evangelicals.

Within that group of ten million about one out of fifty made a "missionary decision" at some time in the past and were seriously interested in missions. Many are still active in local church mission education programs, etc. But for the lack of a college degree most agencies (and most potentially supporting churches) don't feel they can get behind them.

One out of fifty of ten million is 200,000 people. Let us assume that 100,00 are still serious.

Let's stop and think how these people, called to missions, can be assisted to get there. Here are some factors:

  1. These dear dedicated people not only need to get their college degree, they need to get some serious Biblical and theological training for cross-cultural missionary efforts.
  2. This cannot be accomplished in state universities or secular colleges.
  3. However, if the enrollment of all Christian colleges together is less than 100,000, how in the world can you ADD another 100,000 students?
  4. The recent "degree completion movement" has already demonstrated that the Christian colleges of this country could in fact enroll another 100,000 students off-campus without building a single additional building. Many are already involved in this, and many of them have more off-campus students than on campus students!
  5. But, the cost of setting all this up, and the specialized curriculum? Isn't it true that these new off-campus "Degree Completion" programs involve profound institutional changes and often cost $400,000 to establish?
  6. Yes, but those initial costs are returned in no time flat as additional income flows in. As for the specialized curriculum, a new essentially "seminary" type curriculum for upper division (last two years of college) is now in development, actually in use by more than one accredited institution. It is called the World Christian Foundations Curriculum. See Dr. Hesselgrave's assessment in the next two pages.

Wait a minute! You are describing a staggeringly complex undertaking. True. But it is already working. The world's largest mission agency-- Wycliffe Bible Translators--has already decided to try to tap the 100,000 lacking a college degree. They will guide such people to those colleges which will offer this new "seminary" content curriculum on an off-campus basis, allowing people to go to the field and get busy but at the same time to complete their college degree within two years.

It is hard to believe, perhaps, in the very existence of a vast, heretofore "invisible" reservoir of 100,000 potential candidates, ranging in ages from 25 to 50. Even harder to believe is the possibility of enough Christian colleges shifting gears to accommodate a huge new category of off-campus students.

But it is not unthinkable that by the end of 1995 there could be 5,000 more U.S. missionaries on the field--from this source alone. Think of the mobilization impact that would have! By the end of 1996 the ranks of new missionaries from this category could swell to 20,000.

Some of these people will go as pioneer missionaries to unreached peoples. Others will go as mobilizers to existing mission fields, assisting those national churches to get involved in mission outreach to truly unreached groups (not just to new people to swell the ranks of their churches).

Still others, we seriously hope, will be able to exercise the even more unusual faith to stay back from the field and assist this entire U.S.A. mobilization process to succeed.

In all the years of our emphasis upon mobilization as the highest priority, we have persuaded very few people to undertake this even more difficult kind of assignment. Churches find it hard to understand the rationale for mission mobilizers. My home church actually threatened a member of our USCWM staff: "We will not support you unless you work overseas." This past week that person finally left our team to go "overseas"!


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