A Church for Every People by the Year 2000 - Dream or Reality?
This article was given as a speech at the Adopt-A-People Consultation II in Colorado Springs, April 25-27, 1993. Selected portions of this message are presented here.
The dream of Joseph becomes a reality
For years God's people have had dreams that have become realities. The word dream appears 77 times in your New International Version, almost half of those in the first book of the Bible, the book of Genesis, the book of beginnings. Most of the dreams of God's people in the Bible became realities right on the pages of Scripture.
Take Joseph, sometimes called the dreamer. Joseph dreamed of stars and sheaves on the field, bowing down to him. But when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. Even his father rebuked him and said, "What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?" But the dream did come true.
Later when Joseph was asked by Pharaoh to interpret his dream Joseph replied: "The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon." And he did.
The dream of Joseph to wed Mary becomes a reality
Some 2000 years later and from our vantage point almost two thousand years ago his namesake in the New Testament Joseph had a dream that Mary, whom he was about to marry, had conceived by the Holy Spirit. And it was so that born out of this dream and supernatural union of Mary and the Holy Spirit was the one who himself makes the dreams of God's people come true--Jesus, the fulfillment of the dreams of so many.
The dream of William Carey becomes a reality
200 years ago another of God's people had a dream. William Carey dreamed of reaching the unreached. He penned this dream in his book, written despite extreme skepticism of established Christian leaders, which he called: "An Inquiry into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means in the Conversion of the Heathen." In the process God used him to launch the modern era of missions.
The dream of Christians around the world of a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000
Today, thousands of God's servants are joining in a chorus from all over the world expressing the dream: "A church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000." The dream is not eschatological closure at the year 2000. The dream is not that Christ is coming again at the year 2000. The dream is a church for every people and the gospel for every person in the Caribbean by the year 2000. The dream is a church for every people and the gospel for every person in all of Europe by the year 2000. The dream is a church for every people and the gospel for every person in all of Latin America by the year 2000, and so on for every region of the world.
Can the dream of a church for every people by the year 2000 become a reality? It is my conviction that it can become a reality for the following reasons:
1. God is opening hearts
God is superintending global events in our time in such a manner that the hearts of people around the world are increasingly open to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
People are more and more recognizing that there is a God-shaped vacuum in their heart that only God can fill. In fact, even the secular world is telling us that. In Time Magazine, on March 30, 1992 there was a four page essay titled: "The Year 2000: Is it the end or just the beginning?" This article was written from an entirely secular perspective. The author was Henry Grunwald, a former U.S. ambassador to Austria, the heart of secular humanistic Western Europe, and former editor-in chief of Time Magazine. The article was punctuated with photos of individuals representing some major ideologies of our time as we approach the year 2000: There is Lenin, Khomeini, Pope Paul II, JFK, and Neil Armstrong on the moon. Grunwald summarizes the article in the introduction when he says: "People feel as if the hand of God were turning a page in human fate. We have a sense of things ending and others beginning." He mentions three things:
First, he says, of course, we are witnessing the end of communism.
Perhaps nowhere in the world is this more evident right now than in the former USSR. A collection of sixteen republics with some 300 million people who are wide open to God's word. Unprecedented financial and personnel and mission resources have been deployed to those parts of the world. Hundreds of mission agencies, thousands of short and long term missionaries and millions upon millions upon millions of dollars have been sent to this part of the world. This is a new initiative of the church around the world, in response to the sovereign working of God superintending the events of our time.
- Second, we are witnessing the end of nationalism as we have known it and beginning to look for new international arrangements;
- And third, we are witnessing the end, or at least the decline, of the age of unbelief and the beginning of what may be a new age of faith.
This last point is the major thesis of the article and he clarifies his understanding of faith... concluding by saying: "Many people seem to want a faith that is rigorous or demanding, or else more personal... Throughout the Third World, Christian churches especially the Evangelicals are gaining more converts than ever before."
We're undoubtedly living in a "kairos" moment in church history. Even the secular world acknowledges that God is on the move.
2. The Promises of God's Word
The dream of a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000 can become a reality because of the promises of the Word of God.
The Word of God does indicate that the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). In fact the text reinforces the prophetical word by saying: "For the revelation awaits an appointed time; ... Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay."
The revealed Word of God makes very clear that there will be Christians from every tongue and language and people who are saved as pictured in Revelation 7:9. "After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: 'Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.'"(Rev. 7:9-10)
And again as Jesus spoke to his disciples of the end times he said: "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come" (Mat 24:14).
Therefore, it is not a matter of whether these things will happen, they will happen as surely as every other statement of fact in the Scripture has become reality. The question is only: "by when...and who will help carry the message?"
3. Explosive Growth in the Two-thirds World Church
We have much to rejoice about when we compare the state of Christianity with that of Carey's Day. In his Inquiry Into the Obligation of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen, Carey estimated that fewer than one third of the countries of the world had any gospel witness. Today we are not only talking about every country but also every ethnolinguistic people group in every country of the world.
When A.T. Pierson and D.L. Moody were encouraging world evangelization by the year 1900, not only was there a lowervratio of Bible-believing Christians to world population, but they were almost entirely located within one geographical sphere and culture(95%). Today, an estimated 80% of Bible-believing Christians live outside of the western world, in multiple cultures across the globe. Church growth expert Peter Wagner says: "We will see the revival..."
In Asia, the church is growing phenomenally in China. David Wang of Asian Outreach and collaborating with the AD 2000 prayer track for N. E. Asia says that from the 25,000 decisions per day the estimate is that in China the number of decisions each day has increased to 30,000.
In Brazil the growth of the evangelical church has been staggering. The government has been taken aback. According to official census figures, in 1980 there was 12 million Protestant believers; in 1992 the number is up to 35 million. One Protestant church has the second largest communication network in Brazil. In the headlines of a major newspaper the AD 2000 target of just one denomination headlined: fifty million by 2000.
Following evaluation of where the church in Africa was at the AD 2000 church growth conference held in Nigeria in August of 1992, the expectation was expressed in the declaration that Africa, south of the Sahara would be majority Christian by the year 2000.
4. Increasing Missionaries from Every Culture
The dream of a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000 can become a reality because of the rapidly increasing growth of missionaries from every culture.
Missiologists and historians such as Paul Pierson, have said that: "Cross cultural missions from the Two-thirds World is the great new fact of our time." Larry Pate in a study prepared for Lausanne II in Manila in 1989, concluded that the mission force in the Two-thirds World, currently over 50,000 is growing at 12% per year and will soon overtake the western mission force. For example, in Brazil, in the last five years the missions force has grown 150% from less than 1,000 to 2,500 cross-cultural missionaries.
Not only are these Two-thirds World missions many in number, they are innovative in their methodologies and effective in their development of resources. They are not limited to any one geographical sector but represent a global phenomenon. Already there are more Two-thirds World missionaries in the 10/40 window than western missionaries. What he means is that the people groups to be reached are closer linguistically, culturally, and geographically to the people being sent.
5. The Growing Awareness of Unreached Peoples
The dream of a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000 can become a reality because of the growing awareness of the unreached peoples.
When Donald McGavran reviewed the responsiveness of the People Movements in the Punjab with Fred and Margaret Stock who wrote the book by that name, he developed the need to focus on people groups in his book The Bridges of God. Simultaneously in Guatemala, Cameron Townsend was confronted by the Indian who said: "If your God is so great why can't he speak my language." Consequently, Wycliffe Bible Translators was started to translate the Word of God in the language of each people.
A watershed of the concept of unreached people groups was at Lausanne I in 1974 when Ralph Winter spoke on the subject of cross-cultural evangelism. He made the statement "...there are still 2.4 billion people beyond the range of present efforts of any existing church or mission." At the closing session of the 1974 gathering --which Time Magazine called the most formidable forum of Christians ever to gather together--Billy Graham picked up on Ralph's concern when he said: "It is not enough that we witness to our near neighbors, we must cross cultural and linguistic barriers with the Gospel."
All these years the U.S. Center for World Mission has maintained a consistent focus on the unreached peoples which has significantly influenced the way we look at missions. In his capacity as Chairman of the Strategy Working Group of Lausanne and Director of MARC of World Vision, Ed Dayton continued a strong emphasis on the unreached peoples, incorporating practical strategies in the book Planning Strategies for World Evangelization. David Barrett has contributed significantly with his strong emphasis on the unreached peoples and the least evangelized world.
John Robb of MARC, World Vision has published materials such as People Group Thinking and traveled extensively throughout the world giving seminars and encouraging God's people to focus on unreached peoples, increasing awareness in nations around the world. Frank Kaleb Jansen has poured his heart into the Unreached Peoples Map, causing many to think about the unreached peoples.
When Jack Frizen, executive director of IFMA for 28 years, was asked to identify the most significant trend in missions during the last twenty years for the Evangelical Missions Quarterly on its twentieth anniversary, he answered: "My choice is the renewed focus on unreached people groups and penetrating the frontiers still remaining."
6. Growing Momentum Toward the Year 2000
The dream of a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000 can become a reality because of the growing momentum of initiatives to the year 2000.
From the time that Dr. Thomas Wang, founder and International Board Chairman of the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement, wrote an article titled, "The Year 2000, Is God Trying to Tell Us Something?" national initiatives of Christian leaders have been increasing around the world.
I have just returned from the Caribbean. Gerry Seale, appointee as General Secretary of the Evangelical Association of the Caribbean and regional coordinator of the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement wrote in the press release of the meetings: "... the Caribbean is moving rapidly to implement these strategies and to challenge evangelical leaders to become involved in ensuring there is a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000."
The declaration drafted by Rev. Peter Garth, President of the Jamaica Association of Evangelicals and affirmed by evangelical Christian leaders of nine countries in the Caribbean read in part: "We commit ourselves to be used by the Lord to bring about revival in our region, not as a catchword but as a reality, in light of AD 2000-- revitalizing, reawakening, renewing, and rekindling the Evangelical Church through:
- Prayer, communication, and information
- A new appreciation of our resources, and
- A new inner burning for the things of God.
We commit ourselves to the goal of a Church for every people and the Gospel for every person by the year 2000. We commit ourselves to follow-up on this AD 2000 & Beyond Meeting with a view to establishing prayer committees, task forces, research teams, mobilization teams, goal setting, consultation and cooperation programs. We commit ourselves to network other Christian leaders within the Caribbean with the same vision for world evangelization by AD 2000."
Following up from the African continent-wide AD 2000 consultation in August last year, Zaire held a national consultation in the midst of a national crisis of enormous proportions this January. A single banana costs one million zaires. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are "dead" days when no one would work and there is no public transportation. Despite the upheaval about 350 delegates attended, mostly leaders in Zaire's 63 denominations of the national AD 2000 consultation, led by Every Home for Christ national leader Diafwila. Their vision called: "All for Christ" seeks to mobilize God's people at the grass roots for participation in prayer, outreach, discipling and church planting. Of the 350 delegates, 133 had earlier been named to ...tracks which they call "branches." Veteran missionary Willys Braun who was present reported what goes on to observe the value of the "branches." "As I compare this national diversification of leadership focus with the old idea that the brain of the denominational president alone must contain and closely control every aspect of ministry in the life of the churches, I see great possibilities for the spiritual enrichment of the Church in the next eight years." Lorry Lutz has just returned from a consultation for women of the South Pacific in cooperation with the Lausanne Committee. That followed on the heals of a meeting of 100 women from 24 denominations in Nigeria to focus on the AD 2000 vision. This week there is an AD 2000 consultation for women throughout Eastern and western Europe coordinated by Elizabeth Mittelstadt. We should not forget that women represent 60% of the active members of the Body of Christ and 80% of our prayer warriors.
Like the women's resource networks, AD 2000 National and regional consultations by the ten resource networks are going on in many parts of the world this year.
Results are also becoming more and more evident. In the Philippines in 1974, with the encouragement of Jim Montgomery of DAWN Ministries, they set a goal of going from 5,000 to 50,000 local churches by the year 2000. As of December 1992 they were on track toward the target with over 31,000 local churches accounted for so far.
Momentum is increasing. The process is moving from vision and awareness to major prayer initiatives to mobilization.
7. Mobilization of Prayer for the Unreached
The dream of a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000 can become a reality because of prayer mobilization focused on the unreached
At the international consultation on the unreached with some 350 people sponsored last year by Regent Univers- ity, serious thought was given to reaching the unreached peoples with tracks on Islam, Hinduism and Tribals. Experts in these areas provided historical and present perspectives, models and strategies of reaching these unreached people groups. The concluding resolution was stated as follows:
"We need to continue building on previous foundations in reaching the unreached because we recognize that the real battle for world evangelization is against the principalities and powers which can only be overcome by united prayer and the use of spiritual weapons and because the Great Commission can best be accomplished by the total involvement of the Body of Christ.
We therefore resolve with all evangelical movements to commit ourselves to personal and corporate prayer, to fast, to plan and to mobilize for a joint spiritual effort in October, 1993 together with an expected one million Christians from around the world for the loosening of strongholds and spiritual breakthroughs among the unreached."
Observing what God did with Marxism and recognizing that it will take more than sending a few more missionaries, there is a growing mood of prayer involvement by churches around the world to penetrate the strongholds of the 10/40 Window.
The 10/40 Window refers to the imaginary belt between 10 degrees and 40 degrees north of the equator, and extending from Western Africa across the Middle East to Asia.
In a count of the populations of unreached people groups in the list of 2000 unreached people groups of the World Evangelization Data Base, it was found that over 80% of the individuals living in these people groups live in the 10/40 Window.
"Every Home for Christ has already contacted our 70 global offices encouraging their involvement in helping alert EHC's estimated 250,000 global prayer partners to not only fast at least one day per week during that month, but to help form thousands of small prayer groups who'll meet at least once a week during October, 1993, to specifically target the 10/40 Window."
"I am excited to see the almost 500,000 women identified with Women's Aglow International in 2500 chapters scattered across 105 nations become involved with this bold campaign to focus prayer on the 10/40 Window." Jane Hansen, vice-chairperson of Praying Through the Window. In fact as she met with almost 5000 from Women Aglow across the United States a few months ago, there was a lengthy time of prayer and consecration. They committed to mobilize one million women around the world for this initiative and took an offering on the spot for $40,000 for the prayer initiative through Women Aglow.
A letter and prayer package was sent in February to 20,000 ministers in Africa encouraging each one to mobilize 100 members of their congregations for the October prayer through the window. Throughout the world, Christians are joining in to the global prayer initiative.
Already over 71 local church and mission agency teams have indicated they will be traveling for one week for on-site prayer and fasting in one of the 62 countries in the 10/40 Window in October [125 teams as of May 23, 1993]. One intercessory team alone is planning on one hundred intercessors. Over 40 of the countries have been adopted for prayer.
8. Growing Networks
The dream of a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000 can become a reality because of growing cooperation and partnership with networks of different kinds being established around the world by interest areas.
Over lunch we asked Peter Nanfelt, international vice president of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the question about the changes with respect to the U.S. churches in world evangelization. He answered something interesting: "There is more expectation that world evangelization is actually possible." It has moved within the realm of possibility.
There is a sense today of the doability of the task. One hundred years ago there was a similar vision for the evangelization of the world by the end of the century. However, in 1895, it was AT Pierson who said: "We despaired of hope." The two primary reasons he gave, were, first, because we did not mobilize prayer and second because we did not cooperate. Both of those factors appear to be strongly on the increase today.
Christian mission has always faced a future demanding constant adaptation to change. But the contemporary communication revolution has brought unprecedented challenges to the church around the world. Many church and mission leaders now believe that genuine partnerships is the only way to take advantage of the opportunities presented by this last decade of the century and millennium, as we move into a new century and millennium. This was the conclusion of a working consultation on Partnership in World Mission that was held at the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, May, 1991 cosponsored by the EFMA.
Another major partnership consultation was held at the World Evangelical Fellowship Missions Commission gathering last year, coordinated by Bill Taylor. Bill Waldrop and ACMC took partnership as its primary theme last year. Both the discussion and the reality of Christian partnership and cooperation in world evangelization has taken enormous strides in the U.S., marking another change in the role of the church in the U.S. in world evangelization.
Phill Butler of Interdev has had many years of experience in developing 12 operating strategic level partnerships among the most unreached peoples of the world. In seeing the growing interest in partnership, Interdev is transferring that expertise in training sessions to potential multinational facilitators of future strategic level partnerships, particularly in the 10/40 Window. The specific goal Phil has established in the Partnership Task Force of the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement is to have a partnership going in every one of the major unreached people groups by the year 2000.
Then there is the former Soviet Union. Public school officials and others have invited Christian ministries to fill the spiritual vacuum left by seventy years of Marxist tyranny. The opportunity here, with the invitation given--enter the CoMission, now representing over 80 Christian organizations and millions of dollars for on-site training and assistance.
Again, the opportunity here, with the invitation given--enter CBN with remarkable numbers of decisions, an estimated 30 million according to surveys, 5 million written inquiries, 1000 requests for correspondence courses per day. CBN in conjunction with Regent University and AIMS offered to partner with any evangelical mission working in the former USSR. They even offered sharing the decision cards. Now they are in the process of holding 40 major church planting rallies across the former USSR.
The opportunity here, the invitation given--enter AD 2000 with a consultation with national Christian leaders from the former USSR. Out of it comes a commitment to plant the church throughout the land so that there will be a church for every people and the gospel available to every person by the year 2000. Out of it comes a Master Alliance of more than thirty six Christian church planting organizations and a budget of some 20 million dollars.
Dan Scribner, information manager for the AD 2000 & Beyond Movement has informed me that already there are some 4500 Christian leaders in more than 150 countries that have been recommended to link with the global networks. Each of the ten AD 2000 related networks have an average of some 100 countries of the world that are being networked together along that interest area, or "branch of the vine," as our friends from Zaire would suggest.
9. Peoples Information Network
The dream of a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000 can become a reality because of the peoples information network with its commitment to assessment
A major contribution for that is the completion of the Registry of Peoples and Languages (also called ROPAL) by SIL.
The registry provides a crucial link in the understanding of the task of a church for every people:
- By giving a standard means of comparison between the various names given to peoples and languages in a variety of databases.
- By establishing agreed codes which will facilitate the exchange of information between databases.
- By developing means of pointing to other types of information, such as bibliographic sources.
- By providing a list of peoples and languages with codes, so that the creation of any new databases related to peoples and/or languages can be compatible with existing information sources.
In addition, following several years of evaluation, the development of several independent information bases, and months of preparation, an Ad Hoc Group committed to providing the information and information tools on peoples and people groups around the world to serve the Body of Christ in the task of world evangelization began meeting in the Fall of 1992.
Coordinated by Ron Rowland, the group seeks to lay the foundation for an ongoing information system about peoples, their languages and habitats to; 1). Provide the information and information tools on peoples around the world to serve the Body of Christ in the task of world evangelization, and 2). to monitor the goal of a church for every people by the year 2000.
The dream of a church for every people and the gospel for every person by the year 2000 can become a reality because of the work of mission agencies and the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse in producing a List Of Unreached And Adoptable People Groups.
The Adopt-a-People Clearinghouse was established in March 1989 on the campus of William Carey International University in a gathering of leaders of 48 mission agencies who recognized the need for an independent clearinghouse that would have an exclusive focus on the unreached peoples. The Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse has continued to grow to over 75 agencies today. With the active participation of the mission agencies supplying over 3000 names of people groups considered to be unreached and other entities that participated in the validation and assessment process they are about to fulfill the first of its threefold commission: to compile a global database of unreached peoples to track which peoples are unreached. More than 125 documents representing 182 countries were sent back in response to the first draft of the listing. Since then continual efforts have gone in to validating the list of unreached and adoptable peoples. They have a proper name and a location. Thank God for the persevering efforts of Kaleb Jansen; with the support of Terry Riley and Dan Scribner we have a significant working document in our hands today.
Ron Rowland of SIL and Clark Scanlon of the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention with their respective staffs have reviewed every one of the 6500 or so people groups. The remarkable World Evangelization Database produced by David Barrett under the FMB of the SBC has served as a verifier of the list of unreached peoples. In addition, the recently completed SIL production of the Registry of Peoples and Languages has greatly enabled the validation process of a list of unreached peoples. You will see a ROPAL code on most of the people groups in the listing.
This constitutes a major breakthrough into a new era of world missions. We have never had this before. It provides a specific prayer target and deployment target for missionaries. We have had guesses before; now we have knowledge, even though still imperfect. It makes a church for every people by the year 2000 become a measurable goal.
As Rick Wood, the managing editor of Mission Frontiers Magazine of the U.S. Center for World Mission, wrote recently to Kaleb Jansen in relation to the special adopt-a-people issue of Mission Frontiers : "For many years now the evangelical church has been offered various numbers when it comes to estimates of the total number of unreached people groups in the world. The first estimate was 16,750 which was rounded to 17,000 to dispell the confusion that a specific list of identified unreached peoples existed. The estimate was then lowered to 12,000 and now 11,000. Many have inferred from this that great progress was being made and that a specific list of unreached peoples existed from which groups were removed as they were reached. But this kind of measurable progress has little to do with the changing of numbers. The numbers changed as missiologists changed their estimates. "
Today, however, we do have a working list of almost 5,300. And this includes a more detailed breakdown of people groups by state in India. If India were held consistently with the rest of the book it would be closer to 4,500. If you were to ask Patrick Johnstone, who has perhaps done more research on the work among the unreached people groups he will say there are only 700. Kaleb Jansen agrees with that estimate, calling these "untouched."
Now, even though still a working document and imperfect, we now have for the first time a target list by which we can actually assess the progress of a church for every people by the year 2000.
A dream was born articulated by Chairman, Sir Culling Eardley Smith at the inaugural meeting of what developed into the World Evangelical Fellowship back in August 1846 when he said: "It is the first experiment which has been made to combine together the interest of truth and love." It was a dream that, while faltering, never died as the book by David Howard on the birth and growth of the World Evangelical Fellowship was titled: "The dream that would not die."
So today, the dream of a church for every people by the year 2000 has never been brighter since first it became a resounding cry out of the global frontier missions conference in 1980. We might ask along with Henry Grunwald in his article in Time Magazine on "The Year 2000: Is it the end or the beginning," "Where will all this lead...? Just possibly to a real new age of faith."
In July of 1989, 3,000 representatives from 170 countries came together. In the Manila Manifesto resulting from that meeting, the question was posed, "Can we commit ourselves to evangelize the world during the last decade of the millennium?" That is the question before us in this crucial consultation.