Innovation in Missions

This issue is focused on innovation that brings about the breakthrough of Jesus’ kingdom. You will see articles that discuss innovation in multi-cultural settings, innovation related to alongsiders and how Jesus-centered innovation can bring change to ministries and even social contexts as a part of kingdom transformation. The focus of Mission Frontiers is the frontiers of mission. That is also where we want to see innovation happen. The themed articles that make up this edition can be divided into three categories of innovation in mission. Each expresses a different focus: alongsiding innovation toward localized gospel expressions, societal transformation and ministry design. May God bless you as you read!

This Month's Articles

The Person Not the Method 24:14 Update
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The Person Not the Method

An Essential Ingredient for Catalyzing a Movement

Over a period of three years, I conducted empirical research among effective movement catalysts to discover the traits and competencies possessed by pioneers effective in catalyzing a movement among a Muslim people group, and which traits they considered to have contributed to their catalyzing of a movement. This resulted in a profile of an effective movement catalyst, including eleven traits and competencies self-reported as exhibited by all participating effective catalysts...


Innovation Grounded in the Spirituality of Frontier Mission Feature

Innovation Grounded in the Spirituality of Frontier Mission

Guest Editorial by Paul Dzubinski and Steven Spicer

From big business to the laboratory to tech companies, everyone is talking about innovation and how to make the next incredible new thing. And we think about the amazing innovators of the past like Madam Curie (who discovered radioactivity and won Nobel Peace prizes in two fields), Thomas Edison and his light bulb, the Wright Brothers (who gave us flight), and Dr. Shirley Jackson (who completed research that led to solar cells, fiber optic cables, portable fax machines, touch-tone telephones and caller ID.) These are amazing people and quite honestly, we are grateful to God for the innovations that they discovered, but we are not talking about that kind of thing in this edition of Mission Frontiers.

Tags: innovation

Transformation in Community: Discerning Innovative Ways Forward in Missions Feature

Transformation in Community: Discerning Innovative Ways Forward in Missions

Innovation often springs from a need or opportunity. There is a problem, a challenge or an issue that needs to be addressed, or changing circumstances that present new possibilities. That’s also true for missions innovation. When people think about innovation in missions, they often think about technological innovations, the use of web apps like TikTok, new ways to do translation work like Katie Kuykendall outlines in her MF article from 2018 called “There’s an App for that,”1 or ways to get the gospel into closed countries through media.


Doing Contextualization in Cambodia: Communities of Dialogical Practice Feature

Doing Contextualization in Cambodia: Communities of Dialogical Practice

The Gap Between Theory and Practice Contextualization, especially in highly pluralistic Asia, is needed more than ever in the 21st century. The rise of Asia is unfortunately accompanied by a disenchantment with the West and its religion—Christianity. The pandemic is precipitating reverse globalization and intensifying ethnocentric and nationalistic sentiments. However, contextualization is a project in malaise. It is an old topic, originally conceptualized in the 1970s. Fifty years on, the gulf between talk and practice has not significantly closed. At three separate forums in early 2021, Asian thought leaders were still appealing to Christians to do contextualization. The question that begs to be answered is, “Why isn’t contextualization implemented?”


Wordly Collective: Building a Collaborative Ecosystem for Minority Language Community Flourishing Feature

Wordly Collective: Building a Collaborative Ecosystem for Minority Language Community Flourishing

New ways forward in mission often emerge by making connections between people who are able to collaborate together to address a challenge. In other words, relationships are at the heart of social innovation in mission. This rings particularly true when it comes to serving and working among minority language communities (MLCs) who lack access to important information, resources and opportunities due to language barriers. Mission organizations have long been at work among these communities from the angle of Bible translation and gospel witness. However, there are also incredible opportunities to express the gospel in innovative and holistic ways through the formation of collaborative relationships at the nexus of language translation and community development.


Rich Soil for Spiritual Innovation Feature

Rich Soil for Spiritual Innovation

Imagine the scene: we’re at the final interview for an Executive Director role of a 100-year-old ministry. The Board has just offered the position to us, but the Board Chair shared a caveat, “Do not say yes to this position unless you are 100% sure you’ve heard from God that He wants you to accept this role.”


‘Little Drops, Mighty Ocean’: An African Case Study in Partnership Feature

‘Little Drops, Mighty Ocean’: An African Case Study in Partnership

It was a long road trip from Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, to Latana, a rural settlement located in Billiri Local Government of Gombe State, in the northwest region of the country. The rainy season was regressing, and the dry weather was just setting in. The cool harmattan wind and the towering mango tree above us did a lot to cushion the impact of the African sun, making our outdoor meeting an entirely refreshing experience. I was in the village to meet with the members of the Latana Chapter of the Missions Supporters League (MSL). They were pleasantly surprised at my visit. It sounded unbelievable that the International Director of MSL would travel a distance of almost seven hours to meet with “unschooled people.” Indeed, uneducated, elderly women made up a large percentage of their membership, and they reasoned that their chapter was way down the pecking order, compared to other chapters of means. Such gestures and relationship building are an integral part of who we are in MSL. Humility and servant leadership are highly prized among us. Our membership is drawn from all strata of society, and we strive to give everyone a sense of belonging.


Design Thinking: Designed for Missions Feature

Design Thinking: Designed for Missions

In 2018, as headlines in the global press became captivated by the daily increasing influx of migrants and refugees to Europe—to Germany, Italy and then Spain—a group of ministry practitioners gathered in southern Spain. As Spain’s shores and airports together became the largest receiver of a cornucopia of least-reached people groups fleeing their homelands, this group saw a vast open door.


Accelerating Transformation Feature

Accelerating Transformation

I like to root for the underdogs. There’s something special about seeing a group of people overcome obstacles and achieve that which many thought impossible. This might just be part of the reason that Romania captivated my heart at such a young age. Romania is an underdog country. As one of the poorest countries in the European Union, Romania is still overcoming the devastation of 40+ years of Communism. Problems like brain drain, human trafficking, corruption and social injustices can leave the average person feeling hopeless. Many people have chosen to leave the country in hopes of a better life.


The Discipline of Innovation: Approaching Planning Differently Feature

The Discipline of Innovation: Approaching Planning Differently

World mission is not immune to the massive changes that are happening in our world today. In response to those changes, we see local churches engaging in mission overseas, bypassing mission agencies in the process. Churches (knowingly or unknowingly) recognized the gap between those massive changes and what is happening in missions today and simply stepped in. Most every mission leader I know admits to feeling that new pressures are emerging.


Is This China’s Final Solution for the Uyghurs? Other

Is This China’s Final Solution for the Uyghurs?

Gulbahar Haitiwaji (not her real name) was a Uyghur exile in France who returned to China to sign important papers. Chinese government officials had a photo of her daughter attending a Uyghur cultural event in France where the Uyghur flag was displayed. For this reason, Mrs. Haitiwaji was regarded as a terrorist and sent to a re-education camp for two years. Such reports keep pouring in from credible publications like BBC News and The Diplomat.


Toward the Edges: Innovation in a Multi-cultural Setting Toward the Edges

Toward the Edges: Innovation in a Multi-cultural Setting

I have had that conversation in various ways off and on for about 25 years, meaning I have talked about these things with believers within what would be considered Unreached People Groups. I have talked about the meaning of people groups, what the lists mean and how mission organizations view it all. I have listened to the feedback, too. I have seen the different ways that people in those groups see themselves and their people. I have learned a lot about how some people groups on the lists see other people groups on the list.


HUP Further Reflections


A little more than ten years ago, I was rummaging around the library at Fuller Seminary. The seminary had graciously given me “visiting scholar” status, so I could access resources for my dissertation on Ralph D. Winter through the University of Wales. As many PhD researchers do, when I found the specific book I was looking for, I poked around on the shelf nearby to see if anything else under that subject would contribute to my research. You never know what rabbit trails that might lead to—sometimes very fruitful ones. (And more footnotes are always impressive!)